How to be a more productive Engineer 2: Manage your time

How to be a more productive Engineer 2: Manage your time
Image generated using RunwayML

In the modern world, where we find ditractions in every corner and time seems to slip through our fingers, building a good time management skill is critical for success. Time is the most valuable resource we have, and once it's gone, it's gone for good. That's why taking control of your time is so important.

In my own journey of productivity and efficiency, I've come to rely on two fundamental principles: intentionality and protection. These simple yet powerful rules have transformed the way I approach my days, helping me to make the most of every moment and achieve my goals with clarity and purpose.

So, let's dig deeper into these principles and explore how they can help you find your own approach to time management, unlocking greater productivity, fulfillment, and success along the way.

Be intentional with your time

Have you ever wondered how it is possible to deliver so much stuff at school or uni and why we’re not able to deliver as much at work?, the answer is, we had a routine, more or less. We knew every day we were going to have Calculus I from 10:00 to 12:30, then Algorithms II from 13:00 to 14:30, then 3 hours free, then back to classes from 18:00 to 19:45, it was predictable, we would use those 3 hours to study, work on a project, have lunch, socialize or a combination of those, every day was planned and we could schedule in advance what to do. At work it’s a bit more difficult, we have 8 hours of semi-random activities. When I realized this, I thought it makes sense to give some order to that chaos and make a routine for myself so that I could use my time in a more predictable manner.

One book that changed the way I think and reason about time is Master your time master your life by productivity coach Brian Tracy. In this book, Tracy mentions that there are multiple types of time in life and one needs to be able to identify what kind of time you have at the moment to know how you should use it as well as what kind of time a task requires in order to know when to do it.

If you’re taking nothing else from this blog post, take only this point, Be Intentional with your time, time is too limited and too precious to use it in a random way, be intentional.

Be defensive with time

Do you often find yourself attending more meetings than you feel you should?, or stuck in a meeting having no idea why you’re there?. Learning to say no is a skill you need to master, I had some hard time mastering this skill for many reasons, our inner nature is to help others, at least mine, I used to say no very rarely and as a result I was usually swamped with work, meetings and other commitments. Now, if I find a reason to say no, I say no. It’s usually for a reason. I have a limited amount of time every day and I have to use it wisely.

For meetings, if I have a clashing event, I directly reject the invitation. All my current commitments take precedence with respect to new requests. If the meeting doesn’t have a clear objective or agenda I ask for it to be added, if it’s not added, and I have no way to know what’s expected in the meeting, I let the organizer know I won’t attend. If the meetings are spilling, I call that into attention and leave if I have other things to do. This might seem rude as attending meetings is part of the job but so it organizing and running them, if a meeting has no information about what to expect, it means someone is not doing their job organizing it. If the meeting is spilling, it means someone is not doing their job running it effectively.

Remember, as an IC (Individual Contributor) your time is your most valued resource, don’t give it to everyone.