That Went Well

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Yesterday I mentioned that I needed some time management skills with our radio station’s manager, and she gave me some advice that I took to heart.

Her recommendation was to use an Android app that has, among other features, a 20/10 timer. When that’s activated, it will count down 20 minutes for you to do whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, and then it gives you a 10 minute time by which you take a break. You don’t finish what you’re doing, you stop right then and there and do something else for ten minutes. When the timer goes off at the end of those ten minutes, you’re back to work on whatever your project is. And the cycle repeats.

She also suggested I set aside blocks of my day dedicated to various tasks – part of the day for homework, in my case, part of the day for leisure (it’s important that you not neglect your own self-care), part of the day for doing chores, etc. On the days I’m in class, I set aside those days for going to class and learning, and leave the homework to the days I don’t have class. In my case, since I have two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, I would reserve a block of my day for homework on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for instance.

In the end, I decided against the timer, partially because I was planning to modify the 20/10 principle and partially because I didn’t want to pay for an app that I was only going to use a small portion of its features. I simply set alarms on my phone to tell me when to work and when to stop.

The modification that I was planning was to do a 40/20 hourly cycle rather than two 20/10 cycles an hour. I felt like taking a 10 minute break twice an hour didn’t really allow me to do much of anything during that time, but 20 minutes was more workable, and besides, 40 minutes isn’t that long to sit for a session of schoolwork.

I set my alarms for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, reserving Saturday as a day completely off from school, something that I feel is very important to help me maintain my sanity. The alarms start in the 9:00 am hour, take a break during the noontime hour, and finally end for the day at 3:00 pm. Each hour, the alarm to tell me to work goes off at the ten minute mark of the hour, and the alarm to tell me to take a break sounds at the fifty minute mark of every hour. That gives me a break during the last ten minutes of the hour and the first ten minutes of the following hour. I chose this time for a specific reason. Right now Secret World Legends is holding its Halloween event, which includes a repeatable raid that starts at two minutes past every hour. That gives me twelve minutes to stop schoolwork, go to the restroom, refill my drinks and grab a snack, and log into the game, and eight minutes to complete the raid. That’s plenty time time for this mission, as the fight is tough but fast. At the end of each run-through, I check my loot, park my character by the entrance to the raid, and log out to the character select screen. (In SWL the character select screen will remain active indefinitely, but at the end of a 15 minute timer in game your character is automatically logged out and your game client is shut down. It’s infinitely faster to stay on the character select screen than to start up the game client each hour.)

I recognize that right now my workload is very heavy and time-sensitive, since I have a major homework assignment due on Wednesday, and I’d barely gotten started on it, so I added alarms for the 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm hours, and added Saturday to the list of days they sound. And then I waited until today to try out the system and see how it works.

This morning when the first alarm went off at 9:10 am I spent a few minutes setting up the apartment for study time – brought up a Pandora station of quiet instrumental music, refilled my coffee and water, went to the restroom -before starting to study around 9:20. I kept my head down and didn’t check the time at all during that first session, and the alarm to take a break went off before I knew it.

During my break, I left the office we have set up in the second bedroom and came out to my main laptop set up in the kitchen and caught up on conversations that were transpiring while I was studying before logging in to do the hourly raid mission. Before I knew it, the raid was over, and the alarm to get back to work sounded. I dropped everything at that point and went back into the office for another session of homework.

The process continued through the 10:00 and 11:00 am hours. When the alarm for break time went off at 11:50 am, that was my cue to take the next hour off for lunch. This was designed to coincide with my wife’s lunch hours, so I can spend time with her either face to face if she comes home for lunch, or on the phone if she stays at the office. Today she came home and we had a nice, somewhat leisurely lunch together. It wasn’t long before she headed back to the office for the afternoon, and I busied myself with leisure activities from that point until the alarm to send me back into the office sounded.

The afternoon went much as the morning did. Some hours I got a lot done, some not so much at all. But I was making steady forward progress on the daily goal I’d set for myself when I laid out what had to be done and by when. It turned out that I needed both hours I added, plus a few minutes more, to be able to make my goal, but I did it. I’ve spent the rest of the evening spending time with my wife.

This system seems to be working very well. It’s only one day so far, but I felt very productive while following my alarms through the day and I hope that will be the case tomorrow as well.

Before I set this system up, I was starting to panic over all I had left to do. Now that it’s broken up into manageable 40 minute long chunks, it doesn’t seem so hard after all.

Should I have learned this years ago and implemented it much, much sooner? Most likely. There are a lot of areas in my life where something like this could have come in handy. I’m a little put out knowing that it took me to this point in life to learn this pretty basic life skill, but my life has hardly ever worked on the schedule that I expect it to. I’m just glad that I’m learning it this early in my educational career.

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