When you start work in the morning, do you dive straight into your work? Or do you spend some time checking your emails while you drink your coffee? If so, how much time do you spend on coffee and emails before you start working? 15 minutes? 30? 45?
As you know I’m a big fan of time blocking (so you know how much time you have to spend on each activity) and padding your schedule (to give yourself time to deal with the inevitable surprises that come up during the day). The next step in your scheduling process is to add transition time.
By transition time I mean the amount of time you take between activities, whether it’s the morning e-mail check, settling back into work after lunch, or returning to work after a meeting. These transitions can suck unexpected amounts of time. This results in feeling surprised and disappointed when it’s time to move on to the next activity or meeting, and you’re left wondering where the time went and why you didn’t get as much done as you expected.
Some people need longer transition times, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. I need longer than some people to shift gears and get into the right mindset for the task at hand. The key is to actually schedule this time into your day so you can accurately plan how much time you will have for your work tasks.
In the example above, say you get to work, get your cup of coffee, sit down at your computer and start going through your emails. You may or may not take the time to reply to all of the emails right away. Some emails will generate tasks that you might or might not do immediately. Time yourself while you are checking your emails and see how long it actually takes. Are you surprised?
Do this for a few days during all your transitional times until you have a realistic idea of how many minutes you spend transitioning each day. Then plan your time accordingly. If you have a two-hour block of time, and you know you’ll spend half an hour of that time transitioning, you’ll have a much better idea of how much work you’ll be able to get done.
How much time do you estimate you spend transitioning each day? Do you need more or less time to get settled into your work flow?