Jun 10, 2014

3 Time Management Tools From a Web Development Guru

Scott Hanselman is part of Microsoft’s Web Platform Team, working on Open Source for ASP.net and Azure Cloud. He’s worked for Corilian Corporation and as a consultant at STEP Technology. He has taught at Oregon Tech and created a Palm Pilot program for diabetes management.

Along with all of that, he blogs, podcasts, writes books and is learning to speak Amharic. So where does a guy like Hanselman, who is also married and has two children, find the time to pursue all of the things that make him happy?


One of Hanselman’s unofficial titles is “productivity guru.” He has given talks on his productivity strategies, starting back at WebStock 2012 and most recently at the 2014 SXSW. Whether you’re an independent worker like Hanselman or you’re looking to start your MBA so that you can soar in the corporate world (click here to look at programs), Hanselman’s philosophy on “scaling yourself” as well as his favorite time management tools will focus your time on the things that matter most.

RescueTime: Be Effective, Then Efficient

To use your time well, you need to understand the difference between effectiveness and efficiency at work. To be effective, Hanselman says, is to do the right things; efficiency means taking the shortest possible path toward those things. If you’re not spending time on the right things, then efficiency doesn’t matter. RescueTime is a tool that can help you both to understand and adjust how you spend your time.

RescueTime runs in the background of your computer or mobile device and tracks both the websites and the applications that you spend the most time using. You can set daily goals and track your progress, and each week, you receive an email report and a productivity score. Premium accounts, which currently cost $9 per month, allow you to track time away from your computer, such as time spent in meetings or on the phone. With RescueTime, you get an honest picture of how your time is spent so that you can honestly assess your effectiveness.

Pomodoro: Shutting Out Distractions

Hanselman has two important rules about email that should save you a lot of time. First, never check email in the morning or at the end of your workday. When you check email in the morning, Hanselman says, you initiate an email exchange that could consume a large part of your day. Then, when you check email before you leave for work, you end up staying late at the office. Second, develop a filter for all emails that are CC’d to you. If someone wants to communicate with you about an issue and if it’s worthy of your attention, then the person should email you directly.

Culling your email exchange rate is about clearing life’s distractions. For distraction-free work, Hanselman uses a tool invented by Francisco Cirillo called the Pomodoro Technique.

With the Pomodoro Technique, you work in 25-minute sprints that are separated by five-minute breaks. During those sprints, you focus only on your work and table other distractions, like email or social media. You also avoid the brain drain that comes from constant switching between tasks.


WorkFlowy: Busyness Is a Form of Laziness

When you don’t address your cluttered schedule, Hanselman says it’s just another way of being lazy. Hanselman suggests focusing on the “Big Three:” three things you want to accomplish today, this week, this month, this quarter, this year. In addition to setting aside time at the beginning of the week to plan the Big Three, you should take time on Friday to reflect on what you accomplished.

WorkFlowy is a list-making Web and mobile app that lets you make lists for to-dos, for brainstorming and for any other conceivable purpose. The lists are nested so that you’re only looking at the high points and not at every single line item, which may help you to feel less overwhelmed. Tasks are easy to mark as complete, and the app has plenty of keyboard shortcuts to make navigation easy.

Today’s world is flooded with stimuli. Communications like email and social media are ubiquitous, making it harder than ever to stay focused on what matters. Check out Hanselman’s productivity talk, and try out some of his recommended tools. They’ll make you more effective at work and more satisfied with life.

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