Sunday, November 10, 2013

About time management

Time management is really crucial when working with EU projects; there are deliverables to be delivered on time, communication to take place at certain points, coordination of tasks and people/teams, and any other task to be completed on a specific time. This means that every minute counts and so you need to be sure where to allocate your every minute, every day.

One example is the time spent during the business trips. We tend to travel quite often and sometimes the trips take a lot of time; let alone the time in between flights. You cannot be online during the flights and sometimes there's no internet available at the airport (at least not free wifi). This means that only offline tasks can take place during this time.

- Preparing slides for the presentation you are going to make or going through the presentation for any last-minute revisions
- Reading deliverables, papers and notes taken during the previous days
- Replying to emails and have them ready to be delivered as soon as internet is available
- jot down notes about the ongoing tasks, organizing work and planning future activities/tasks

I find the use of a paper notebook very convenient during flights,where space is limited (sometimes even for my small netbook). It helps me put down my ideas, create To-Do lists, organize my tasks etc. I can even go through the notes taken during internal meetings and propose ideas. I have spent time during flights to revise deliverables by noting comments in the printed version or read interesting publications printed before I left office. In other cases I used my netbook to go through the slides of a presentation and make revisions. I have to admit that I still prefer reading from hardcopies over the digital form of a document using a tablet or the netbook.

Working during a Conference: Keeping notes, taking photos and keeping hydrated.
When online, you can download emails and send the outgoing ones, check for information online, download documents and material you need when offline. This is really useful when you have ongoing communication and you need to respond ASAP. In this case, an online break at an airport between connecting flights allows for being updated on the latest responses to a communication through email.

Another thing to take into consideration is the reliability of digital devices. Sometimes it's useful to have a hardcopy of digital documents (like deliverables or maps), as battery-based devices tend to fail when you most need them. I have found myself in situations where the table ran out of battery while I was trying to check the map for going to the meeting place while in another case the netbook shut down while I was revising my presentation. On top of that, it's always easier to take notes on a printed document compared to its digital format.

I find it really important to take advantage of travel time in order to go forward with my tasks; otherwise, they will require additional time at the office (which sometimes is not an option) and I will probably find myself lagging behind the tasks and deadlines. The better a trip is organized in advance, the less time you need for getting to your final destination (e.g. hotel room, meeting place etc.) so there's more time for working on other stuff. This will also save you from frustration.

Working during the flight; a case of combining digital devices and hard copies in a limited workspace

Of course, when travelling to new places sightseeing is also an option that I cannot resist, especially when I have a nice guide to help me see what I would like to see and save me from wasted time wandering around. I like to blend with local people (e.g. always use public transportation and avoid taxis), visit the traditional (and not always the touristic) part of the places I visit and be a part of it instead of being an external observer. This is a luxury that I still allow myself to try!