A first lecture on time management

By Charles Sutton on August 5, 2017

Several students have recently asked me for advice about time management. When people ask you a important and difficult question like this, usually the best thing is to think of someone else who can give a better answer than you. For time management, an obvious person to turn to is the late Randy Pausch, a noted computer scientist who became an internet sensation because of an inspirational lecture that he gave after he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Today I’d like to recommend a different, more practical, and excellent lecture that he gave on time management:

You should start by watching the lecture. I found it helpful to have the slides and bullet points in separate windows on screen as I watched.

If you need further encouragement to watch the lecture, I can say that what amazed me, as poor at time management as I may be, was the number of suggestions that I actually use day-to-day. I had entirely forgotten just how much I had learned the first time I saw this material. For example:

  • Find your most creative time of day and defend it ruthlessly. The most important tip that you can learn for creative work. (I was interested to learn later that your most creative time can actually change over the years.)

  • Turn off your email notification sound. Do it now!

  • Learn ways to say “no” gently. It makes saying “no” easier.

  • Don’t ever delete emails. Search instead.

  • Keep a todo list and calendar. My today-self says, “Well, duh.” But there was a time when I didn’t. You should start now!

  • Get a speakerphone so that you can get other things done while on hold with customer serve. Now, mobile phones or even Skype has a speakerphone option that works for this.

  • Professors should keep Kleenex in their office. Yes, we all need this.

  • Keeping a clock on the wall behind where your visitors sit. Much less obtrusive than a wristwatch.

  • Write down one-minute minutes. So helpful! Just the main takeaways and actions for next time.

  • Keep a time clock. A big topic that I hope to write more about later.

There’s also an equally long list of good advice that I had forgotten, but for that, you’ll need to watch the lecture yourself!