Tag Archives: time-blocking

When X Marks The Spot

It’s a general rule of thumb to break down big goals into smaller blocks.

  • Psychologically speaking, smaller blocks are easier for us to wrap our minds around, and make for easier mental digestion and responsive planning.
  • With this helpful breakdown, we can see the steps much more easily, and we’re able to adjust and improve our actions in carrying them out. This helps a lot in allocating time and labor accurately.
  • However small we make these blocks, each step we finish helps build momentum for the process, and we get to energize ourselves with the knowledge that we’re closing in on the target.


Positive brain hack:
Keeping a visible record of your micro-accomplishments — for example, a trailing word-count, a tally of calls made, a checklist of actions taken — keeps your brain engaged with frequent feel-good endorphin boosts at every small ‘win’ you make.


In working towards a goal you make incremental gains until the goal is met.
If the goal is time-bound and the time is scattered across days (or more) a good way to get it done at a sustainable rate is being methodical and, ahem, ‘metronomical.’

You make ready, and then make steady. Block out a time, and in that block pay attention to nothing else but that open action that needs closure. Between the required focused blocks, you can rest, attend to other matters and still get stuff done while paying steady action to this particular ‘string’ of finished blocks you’re building.

If the time-line to accomplish the goal is compacted, then doing the work without interruptions or spillage in the time you’ve got is necessary. When something important comes up our vision has a way of filtering out the less important issues until the main one gets solved.

It’s not the issue of bringing your A-game as it simply bringing yourself fully to the table. You choose to ignore worries and mental static from unrelated issues other than the one you tasked yourself to handle in this particular time block. You plant your tush in the chair, and you work on what’s in front of you. Even if it’s a B-minus game you’re doing, when you get the work done, then it’s A+.

Did you ever thing of ‘bonus’ work, though?
Continue reading When X Marks The Spot

Sweep Your Way to An Easier Workload Tomorrow

  • “Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today!
  • “First things first.”
  • “If you don’t have the time, make the time.”

What does time-pressure, GTD and prioritization have to do with house-cleaning? Stay with me.

Unless you’ve been raised completely unaware of one of the most basic of household chores, to get a really clean floor, you need to sweep before you mop. In this metaphorical scenario, sweeping is preparation, mopping is action, the clean floor is the finished, desired goal.

Get it? Not yet?

Okay, say you want really clean floors. Maybe your in-laws are coming to your new home, or you’re planning an open house to show it off to prospective buyers, whatever. You just want a really nice, clean floor. For purposes of this exercise, you don’t have carpets. For those, there are vacuums.

  • You get stuff that’s not supposed to be on the floor, off the floor. Clothes, books, gear, whatever. Off, back to their proper places, all of it off.
  • Then you get out the broom and start sweeping out from under chairs, tables, and sofas. You capture the small debris and the fuzz-bunnies.
  • You then work your way out from all the corners of the room, sweeping towards the center, and end up with a collection of dirt that you sweep up into a dustpan. You throw that stuff away into the garbage can.
  • You can prepare your preferred cleaning solution, diluted in water, to use with the mop.
  • Then you get out the damp mop to make sure you get the really small stuff off the floor — schmutz, ground-in dirt, dried-up spills, tracked-in street-crud etc.
  • You mop. If you’re the really, really picky sort, you mop with cleaning solution (twice) and do a final mop up with plain water.

Boom, clean, fresh-smelling floors.

Continue reading Sweep Your Way to An Easier Workload Tomorrow

Save Your Brain: Use Routines

19 April 2013, by A. Cedilla

It’s funny how hearing a little soundbite on the TV about presidential fashion can turn into an in-depth analysis on the power of routines.

I mean, President Obama always wears classic suits when he attends official functions, and yet I never really noticed they were always blue or gray. Intrigued, I looked it up online:”Obama, style, blue suits.”

The search lead to to a Vanity Fair article from where I take the following quote (with emphasis added):

“The president does pick out his own clothes. But the president tells Lewis he sticks to wearing blue, gray and black suits not out of a lack of style or adventure, but to save his mind for other decisions. The president laments the fact that his life no longer has any spontaneity, but says he’s adapted. “My wife makes fun of how routinized I’ve become,” he says. “It’s not my natural state.”

Here’s this one passage as well:

You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” Continue reading Save Your Brain: Use Routines

When You Spend Time Like Money

13 January 2013 by A.Cedilla

We of homo sapiens are a visual race. We evolved to be, and hardly anyone ever really notices we talk in images and metaphors, because that’s just how we were wired.

Here’s proof of what I mean:

When someone’s in trouble he can’t handle, he’s in over his head. When we’ve moved past a particular situation, we’re over it. Hot and cool mean the same thing when it comes to current trends in fashion and music;  either you’re in, or you’re out.

So when we think of someone spending money like it was water, we get a very definite image. Something like someone throwing his money away, or throwing good money after bad –and is there really such a thing as bad money? Aren’t those things sunk costs? Or maybe what’s being referred to are things not worth a plugged nickel?

So when we think of money and time being the same thing — resources and things to guard zealously, the natural thing is to think of the two in the same terms, when they’re not. One is a non-renewable resource, the other we can print more of (and drive everyone nuts.) Continue reading When You Spend Time Like Money

How’s Your Schedule?

02 February 2011, by A. Cedilla

When someone asks you this, you:

a) Refer to your handy Crackberry, Google Calendar, or old-school pen-and-planner.
b) Burst into tears and run out of the room.
c) Say nothing, but a muscle starts to tic right under your eye.
d) Say you’re overloaded —pleasedon’taskmeforanyfavorsrightnowpleaseohplease.
e) “It’s fine, I’m on top of things.” (And then you get hit by lightning.)

Schedules came out of the need to coordinate resources and manpower in the industrial age.

During that time, the obsession with efficiency and productivity led scientists to analyze motion studies, breaking down each step a brick-layer took, for example, to see how it could be done faster, better. Time-tables showed how much work and how long each stage of the production line took.

Today that obsession has contributed heavily to an always-on, better-faster-more-NOW culture with a short attention span and a bottomless appetite. Continue reading How’s Your Schedule?

How To Break Down Big Projects

30 September 2010, by A. Cedilla

There are two steps to breaking down big projects. Just like in the most basic math, or beginning chemistry, the way to solve complicated equations — which big projects basically are — is by first reducing complex tasks to their most basic elements. The second step is to finish each stage before going onto the next, keeping on until the project is finished.

Break the big project into little projects. That’s how you tackle a big project: You break it down to its simplest elements, and you solve each combination of elements until you’re done.

Many times it’s not the project that seems big, but it’s you that feels small in comparison. The psychological barriers to attempting to tackle a big project is the distance between experience and expectations. In between this distance lies anticipation and fear.


Problem: High expectations coupled with little experience leads to disappointment.
Statement: “Your bark is bigger than your bite.” Continue reading How To Break Down Big Projects

Establish The Priorities of the Day

14 May 2010, by A. Cedilla

Have you ever thought about the meaning of your days?

Each day can have a symbolic meaning. For example, Wednesday may be Hump Day. It’s when the production reports go out and the new international orders for the past week get processed….one you get past Hump Day, the rest of the week is downhill.

Sunday means rest, or maybe Saturday. Friday is Date Night. Thursday is Laundry….It’s different for everybody. The day has about as much meaning as you put into it. So how do you make your days mean something?

You make them count by putting meaning into them. And to put meaning into them you have to know what you’re putting first on that day.

Establish the priorities of the day. Think of it as being handed a deck of cards and YOU are stacking them in your favor. It’s absolutely legal. You’re encouraged to do so, and it isn’t even cheating to do it. Deal out your best, most favorable hands each day by knowing what how you want to make the most out of that day.
Continue reading Establish The Priorities of the Day

Anchor Yourself In The Present

11 May 2010, by A. Cedilla

When you find yourself paralyzed with indecision, what can you do?

Anchor yourself in the present.

One definition of paralysis is “a loss of control, feeling or function.” And the most common scenario in which we find ourselves paralyzed is when we’re required to make a decision: there are too many details or not enough,and there’s not enough time to make a good choice. Where does it go wrong?

Control – Your control is affected when you can’t settle on a course of action, or you have no idea or clue what to do.

Sudden emergencies (as if there’s another kind), or too many demands and issues vying for your attention all at the same time and you freeze. You can’t think. There’s too much and it’s all at once. So what do you do?

Breathe, step back, and anchor yourself. Take the moment back for yourself, don’t give it away to panic.
Continue reading Anchor Yourself In The Present

Start Early

07 April 2010, by A. Cedilla

Time management is a big deal for most of us. It’s the most common source of stress today. What’s a good way to handle all the things we’re given in the time we have? Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

“Soonest begun, soonest done.”

Here’s an oddball collection of thoughts and tips on how starting early helps you manage your time.

Mise en place
For anyone who’ve ever been a follower of any cooking channel, you may have heard this phrase tossed around from time to time.

Literally translating to “putting in place”, cooks following this practice prepare everything ahead of time, before cooking starts in earnest.

This means having all ingredients prepped (washed — peeled, cut, chopped, etc.) and measured out in neatly arranged containers. Tools and equipment are standing by, much like a surgeon’s tools are set out in the OR.

Mise en place can help you in the way it helps the chef, similar to how prepping helps a surgeon or say, an orchestral conductor. Can you imagine the doctor or the maestro pausing in mid-movement to hunt for something they forgot?

Mise en place helps you by removing distractions, and ensuring a smooth, orderly work flow with the fewest interruptions possible. Why would you turn that down?
Continue reading Start Early

Building Buffers 2

31 August 2009, by A. Cedilla

Here are some more thoughts to get you thinking about the importance of having margins and buffers in our lives :

  • Perfectionism is a hopeless cause when attaining it is the only end-product. By its very nature, perfection – no more beyond–is not attainable in a changing world. It’s also boring. Once you’ve attained it, then what?
  • The insistence of 100% accuracy in human interaction is only an ideal. An an unrealistic one too.
  • Automation can just help you make mistakes faster.

Got that? Okay, let’s move on.

Think of it this way: Every day of your life you get a plate. That plate is a plate of a particular size. You can choose what goes on your plate. You can only handle what fits on your plate.

Again, you can only handle what fits on your plate. Your plate, not someone else’s plate, no matter how much you care for them or how important they are to you. They make their own choices, you make yours, and all of you deal with what’s on each of your respective plates.

If you keep dumping stuff on your plate without thinking, or without finishing (or let someone else dump their stuff on your plate) something is bound to slop off and hit the floor.

If it’s important, then it was your responsibility to have dealt with it, but you didn’t, so it was wasted. More so if it was of personal significance, since you didn’t deal with it as you meant to, when you meant to. The result? Continue reading Building Buffers 2