The golden rule of time management

Hamed Ahmadi, TMMBA Student (Class of 2012)

Most of us, the TMMBA students, have full time jobs; that is, at least 40 hours a week. Adding the time attending the classes and review sessions, and working on pre-class materials, assignments, projects and exams, we are easily booked up for 60 to 70 hours a week, which is almost 9 hours a day, 7 days a week! It is a lot of work, but I think well worth the time and effort.

When I tell this story, I always hear: “Wow, how do you manage that?”. I believe this is a question we already asked ourselves before signing up for this program, and most likely, we came up with different answers. The truth is there is no single magical solution to this problem that can make everybody happy. However, there is a golden rule: “find your style”.

One of the great advantages of the TMMBA program is that it helps you find your style. Although I just started this program, I’ve already gone through a similar experience. I found my style when I was a full time grad student and a full time employee for almost three years. That pressure made me recognize my two-word golden rule, which is driven by a well-known software development framework. This framework can be adopted by different people and customized for various uses. The words are “be agile”.

Let me elaborate the concept of agility in the context of time management.

If you’d agree with me, planning is the key principle of the time management. However, excessive planning may give the opposite result, and here is why: plans are made under assumptions about future and there are always variables involved in our assumptions that could change anytime (honestly, my degree of certainty about something in the future does not exceed %99!). So, the awesome plan we have in our hands right now may lead us to the wrong summit! In addition, people who put a lot of time and effort in the planning tend to strictly follow their plan and be less flexible about changes, even if necessary.

Now, you might ask how much planning is enough, or how far ahead we should plan, or when we know it is time to make a decision. Well, there is no right or wrong answer; it totally depends on your rule. In my agile world, I take advantage of a two-phase planning. In the first phase, I usually try to understand the overall picture so I roughly know where I am going. That means I have deadlines, important dates and events laid out. Then, I divide the whole period I am planning for into time-boxed iterations and set goals for each iteration, depending on what is going on in that time period. Nevertheless, the detailed plan of each iteration is going to be determined in the second phase, i.e. the beginning of the iteration. The short length of iterations enables me to plan with a high degree of certainty and also gives me the flexibility to try new things and adjust my routine from what I learnt in previous iterations.

In other words, I try to plan and make decisions in “the last responsible moment”! 

Good luck.