We use SameTime instant messaging from IBM/Lotus in my organization. It’s tied into our corporate calendars, so it dynamically marks one as away during scheduled meetings. I make use of this and don’t think much about it.
I noticed that two of my peers are almost always in meetings according to their status, yet they have no more meetings and conference calls than I do. It’s an annoyance that they’re not always available in IM, but that usually means I’ll send them an email if it’s not urgent or call them on their cell phone if it is.
I was in a meeting with one of these two colleagues the other day. I can’t remember what topic we were on about but it came around to finding time for some testing. I think I said something like “I know you’ve got about as much free time for this as I do”. He said, “That’s okay. I’ll book it in my calendar”.
Scheduling certain work related things in one’s calendar is nothing new. But what my peer does is block out recurring blocks of time for certain activities. He’s in application development so finding time to test and squash bugs is really important. You need uninterrupted time, so this method is effective for him. He recommends to his team that they do the same.
My reaction was “my schedule is too hectic, too unpredictable. There’s no way I could do that”. The more I’ve thought about it the more I think that the dynamic nature of my schedule is exactly why I need to do this, too.
Back to the SameTime instant messenger, that is where this gets interesting. That tool sends the message that I don’t want interruptions but I’m around if needed when “in a meeting”. It delays low grade issues or general questions instead of me breaking focus on what does demand my attention and focus. Now all I have to do is find the blocks of time in my schedule and set them. I think I’ll start modestly, booking meetings with myself for two or three slices for email processing a day and a few more for project work a week.
I am thinking about doing something similar for my personal time, too.
This isn’t earth shattering stuff. Sometimes the effective things aren’t. They’re just new ways of using the tools you already have in a new way.
How do you manage your unstructured time? What tools to you use?
Update on posting this from my iPad: The typing experience wasn’t horrible but the corrections and edits were hard. The cursor doesn’t always go where you want it to. I also learned that the POP email integration with my WordPress doesn’t work.