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Time management for leaders

Time Management for leaders | Mateusz Sobieraj | The Dev is in the Details #7

June 13, 2024

► In today’s episode:

  • The psychological pitfalls and cognitive biases that derail accurate time estimation.
  • Practical implementation of timeboxing and blocking techniques to boost productivity.
  • Real-life strategies and tips for IT entrepreneurs and developers to enhance project management.
  • Case studies demonstrating the effectiveness of disciplined time management.
  • Expert advice on maintaining health while achieving business goals.
  • Insights from industry leaders like Elon Musk and innovative practices at Google.


Mateusz Sobieraj: We're trying to manage work, not the opposite. 

M: If reality punches you in the face, you have it ready. 

Łukasz Łażewski: Wow, that's really controversial. 

Ł: Welcome to the dev is in the details show. Today, we host an entrepreneur who paid for business goals with his own health. That forced him to learn how to work differently, in a healthier and more efficient manner. He then grew his first company five times in size, built another three businesses and retired at the age of 35. He knows it's super hard to achieve business goals and stay healthy. That's why today he shares his knowledge with us as a high-performance advisor. Dear listeners, Mateusz Sobieraj is joining us today. Welcome.

M: Hi, thanks for the invitation. 

Ł: Awesome. So we're here today because you're an expert in productivity and one of the constant topics that is a failure of mine, but I also see this in the discussions with different CTOs. I see that what happens frequently is a failure to estimate how much time we need for a task and to do it accurately. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you think is the reason? 

M: Well, you know I think it's a pretty common thing, you know, almost everyone underestimate the time and cost which is needed, for example, to for some kind of specific big project, or when you are thinking about opening a company, startup, or even renovating your new apartment, right true so almost always, even if you know that you should add some buffer when it comes to times and cost, almost always you underestimate that resources. 

And so it's pretty common and basically the primary reason. It's well defined by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, also a Nobel Prize winner, and this phenomenon is called the planning fallacy. Planning fallacy tells that you always underestimate, or usually underestimate, the time, cost and risk of future actions and projects and you overestimate the benefits. So even if you have some previous experience, for example, in kind of similar projects, still you are still prone to underestimate the time and resources you need. 

 Ł: Got it. So you could say that, as human beings, we're overly positive on the matters of planning. 

M: Yeah, that's the second bias that might appear, the optimism bias, and it also tells us that usually we are a bit too much optimistic when it comes, bit too much optimistic when it comes to our plans and when it comes to thinking about what can you know go wrong and what's complicated? The task could be the project. So, we are usually a bit too optimistic. But from the other perspective, the external observer or expert, if you are thinking about someone else's project, you can be pretty okay with estimations, but when it comes to your stuff, you're almost always wrong. 

Ł: Fascinating. So you're saying that my personal involvement in the project makes it harder for me to estimate it correctly? 

M: Yeah, okay, you are more prone to be under this optimistic bias charm. 

Ł: I totally feel it, and at work as well. I remember some writing somewhere from the early stage of Agile Manifesto back in 2006 and 2007. But in the late 90s, 95% of projects and this was that the statistics came from IBM's research, and 95% of all projects were actually running over the budget and time. 

M: Because of you know planning miscalculations, let's call them what are you know best next steps to keep yourself aware that this may happen there is also one thing that it's worth to be aware, something which calls our keystones loud, and this law tells you that the work spreads to fill the whole available time to complete it. So if you have 90 minutes to finish this review presentation or the script or something, you will finish that in these 90 minutes. 

But if you have like five hours, it could take a bit longer because there is always something that you can improve, that you can look at again and so on. And if you have two or three weeks, you will probably procrastinate the whole task and start to do that one day before, and that's also quite normal. You can measure that also in your case, for example. This also explains why we are constantly overwhelmed by our work and duties. And if you think about that and check, for example, how many projects you had last quarter or last year, and it could be like damn, I had like half of this project like now, and I was overwhelmed as well. Now I have two times more, and I'm overwhelmed. Or the next quarter I will have like three times more and still definitely the same. So this is also something pretty natural, and it's worth understanding this effect. 

Ł: How unrealistic estimations can lead to stress, procrastination and cycle of unmet deadlines. 

M: Progress, procrastination and cycle of unmet deadlines. Well, I think that unrealistic estimations can really really have a cascade of negative consequences. First of all, the rush. I think when we consistently underestimate how long the task will take, we are forced to rush to meet deadlines and that leads to, you know, stress and anxiety and this also can result in a poor quality of work because you have to sacrifice the quality for the speed. And the second thing is that for sure it will impact your productivity. And what can be interesting? That generally we are pretty good when it comes to work under the stress and under depression. Even sometimes it can increase our productivity. 

But this rule applies only to some specific tasks. Let's say quick operational tasks like emails, meeting calls, or just some quick operational tasks which do not require a lot of creativity and focus. Because when it comes to bigger, more complicated tasks, where you really really need a huge dose of concentration and creativity, stress can significantly impact and worsen the result of your work. And the third thing I think really often undervalue is that it could damage your reputation, you know, because if you don't meet the deadlines and your teams or clients or stakeholders cannot trust you because you always miss the deadline, it can also jeopardize your reputation and the success of the project and businesses. 

Totally yeah, and there's a bunch of things that you can do to, let's say, correct this biased effects and estimate time a bit better. Tell me, the two most powerful techniques would be timeboxing and time blocking, and I think it's worth telling what's the difference because they are different and a lot of people just mislead the core of the techniques. So time blocking is a technique where you schedule your tasks, like tasks in your job, but also you can schedule a morning routine, time for working, deep concentration for meetings, physical activity, time with your family even. You put all of this into the blocks and you put these blocks into your calendar. So this is time-blocking. You use specific blocks to, let's say, invest your time in the best possible way, okay? 

The second technique is time boxing. Time boxing is about estimating a specific amount of time for every task and for every block. Let's see how long it could take when it comes to presentation, review, meeting, and so on. And one that's important when it comes to time boxing is if you estimate like 60 minutes for a specific task and you're out of time, you, let's say, finish the task or stop doing the task without even finishing whatever. You finished or not finished the task. You should stop and then move and switch to another task. 

Ł: Wow, that's really controversial. I have this nagging feeling, and actually, I can say I have this nagging feeling that if something is incomplete, I can move forward. But let's go back to time blocking for a second before deep-diving into time boxing. This is really curious. So, if I got this right, you're saying we are templating a calendar page. For how long? For what kind of period of time is there? 

M: There are different approaches here. Let's say that you can use a few strategies. For example, you can start from your priorities for the next quarter. You are not doing the, let's say, very, very detailed time blocking for the whole quarter, of course, sure, but you can, you know, choose what's your priority and crucial projects for the next quarter. Got it? Because then you do the time blocking within the weekly and daily timeframes. Weekly and daily, yeah, but if you have like quarterly and monthly priorities, you know what you should put into the blocks in the next week or for the next day. But finally, you do time blocking for the day specifically. And you have two approaches here, also more detailed and more restricted and a bit less. 

Ł: Let's say, but then does that mean every week is the same from a schedule perspective and what I do on each day and each slot or so to say? 

M: Might be, but might be not as well. So, for example, you can dedicate it every Mondays to have all meetings meetings with team, meetings with board and so on only on Mondays, meetings with team, meetings with board and so on, only on Mondays, and, for example, with clients, and you do not start no deep work, blog or some strategic projects. Then Tuesday, wednesday and Thursday you have no meetings. For example, you have no headaches. For example, you are focusing on the, you know, doing the job, got it, the true job, let's say, and working in deep concentration. And, for example, friday is mostly for, let's say, last meeting, closing the week and planning the next week. 

Priorities you can also have like, for example, one day for full deep work, focus day, without any distractions, meetings and so on. And, for example, in my case now, I split the month to the four weeks time period and one week is for the let's say, operational work with my companies. One week I have holidays every month. Wow, yeah, that's the case when you, let's say, left operations in your companies and you can just supervise. So one week I work with my companies, one week I have holidays, one week I work and I do consultations, workshops and so on. And the fourth week for me is a really, really deep work when it comes to learning or researching on other topics for my podcast and for, let's say, to improving my knowledge about more complex topics. 

Ł: That's great. That's a great split, because I constantly suffer from lack of time, for example, to read books right, to actually grow as a person. But how realistic is this for one who is not in your position, to not be operationally involved in your business, to plan their week and not have this collapse on day two? Basically Because you said, for instance, on Monday I have all the meetings, but I cannot imagine a situation that if on Wednesday something urgent comes up with one of the key clients, that I wouldn't be answering the phone right Till next Monday when I schedule a slot for them. So how do you deal with the outliers like that? 

M: I would say not very restricting. Here, I mean you should start with something that you can really obey and go strictly to that. So, for example, if it's not possible to have four days without a meeting, it can be just one day during the week. 

Ł: Without meetings, for example, so in reverse. 

M: Yeah, or two days and you don't have meetings before noon and from, I don't know, 8 am until 12, it's just the time for you and to do really important stuff and work. So you use what's really really OK for you, and you can stick to that and then you can, let's say, go to more complicated things and save more time for what's important for you. Just think about it: If you have today or tomorrow, some really, really big project to deliver, and you have like three meetings in the morning and then you start work on that kind of project. Do you still have the energy for that?

Ł: It's hard to say now. I probably am most productive in the late-night hours anyway. 

M: But it’s because you get used to being not distracted in the evening. 

Ł: Right, so it's a distraction-free setup. I got it. 

M: Yeah, but you can be tired and so on. The productivity is totally different after like two or three meetings and before that part. So, I usually do the hardest thing that will involve a huge level of concentration and deep focus in the morning. Okay, and then I allow myself to have a lot of meetings, emails and so on, because you don't need such amount of energy to complete this task. 

Ł: All right, but if I'm having a strategic discussion or debate, I don't know, with a board or something, and I need my 100 percent you know brain power, wouldn't it make sense still to do it in the morning? 

M: Yeah, if the meeting is really really crucial and important, sure. 

Ł: Do you since you mentioned that they should be time-boxed and they should be effective and efficient and all of that do you set KPIs that you measure against your meetings and then stakeholders can comment on how they felt the meeting was for them? Would it bring value? 

M: Yeah, I mean when it comes to time-blocking and boxing you do and use measuring to improve the process, but I think we can discuss that later. But, finishing the topic, when it comes to meetings, I always have agenda, that's for sure, and I always note that someone should prepare something or not. So I expect everyone will be well prepared. 

I'm okay if someone say, man, do I really have to be at this meeting or not Really you can just send me the summary and then I'm fine and I think you will not say you're not crucial here. So maybe it's OK, We'll just send you the note after. But the most important thing I will say is to have the expected result of the meeting. So, for example, with what kind of result we want to finish the meeting If we want to discuss timing for the next project or the goals for the next month or the NPS result, it's the, let's say, topic of the meeting. What's the result? And results could be, for example, the list of things we can do to improve net promoter score in the next project or next sprint. 

Ł: Okay, and then okay, come up with the topics and they're, at the end, distributed, in summary, to different stakeholders to act on them afterwards. 

M: Yes, of course as well. There's to do, let's say, and some obligations. 

Ł: Yeah, I like the strategy that you described because it means there are no useless meetings, that people don't know what they're there for. 

M: Yeah, yeah, because you know that, okay, we'll discuss about that and with what we want to finish, and they knew that before the meeting. You start the meeting with this and you finish the meeting with this. So, like, guys, okay, we are talking like one hour, we have 10 minutes more, so do we have these results that we expected to have? If not we should, let's say, be more focused on where we are going. If we have let's summarize it, and we have the next steps and the outcome. 

Ł: Okay, Mateusz, but I didn't get that part because it's 60 minutes later. We're having 10 minutes left in that meeting and then you're realizing all of you in the room, or maybe just some of the people are realizing okay, we're not there yet what happens there you reschedule for another time?

M: No, no, no. This is the solutions to not drop into that situation. You know like, for example, you knew what's the agenda right and who is presenting what and what's the expected result of the meeting, and if there's a lot of digressions and you see that the group is losing the focus, or just going you know, with some side topics, okay, you as a moderator, guys, our result is to have that list of like, say, I don't know corrects or risks, or I don't know scheduling. 

So we should narrow our focusing and finish the job for what we are here, and you do that before the time of the meeting will end. You know, I see To finish with the results that you want. Do not finish like okay, we were discussing about this, you know one hour and still we don't know what to do so we need another meeting. 

Ł: Okay, this is, I get it now, but walk me through what happens before. So some critical situation with the client, for example, if you want. Okay, good idea. So something happened and there's an ad hoc situation and you have an emergency meeting. 

M: Yeah, exactly. 

Ł: Then there is no time to prep for it properly or maybe even send people agenda to three days earlier because something just happened today now and we need to act on it. Yeah, exactly, let's discuss this please. 

M: Okay. So, for example, it looks like this the person who is the closest person to the client and who is involved into the case is referring the problem At the beginning of the meeting. We have like 20 minutes of referring the problem, what's the case, what's the problem, and the same person can present, for example, three potential solutions for the problem. 

Ł: Okay, themselves their own ideas. 

M: And then, for example, his supervisor and, I don't know, the CEO or the head of delivery client service, can have discussions about the situation and about which one of these three solutions is the best. Or maybe they will, you know, came up with another solution and they will pick like fourth version or something different, how to solve this problem, and then you finish with okay. So the expected results is to know the situation, what's about and to pick one solution, what we want to do with that and how we want to, you know, solve the problem of the client. I know, but it doesn't feel. 

Ł: It doesn't feel that sounds perfectly reasonable. But what it's not clicking for me with this example is that I don't know if we need to come up with a communication to reply to, let's say, client coming up with some really hot potato to us. I want you to address this today and we need to have a communication back. I cannot imagine that structuring a meeting for one hour exactly would ever work in that case, because we're going to sit on that usually, you know, in deep into overtime that day to just have something that evening or morning for the client to be satisfied with. So how these two different things can coexist?

M: Do you mean that maybe you will not have enough time to even arrange the meeting?

Ł: No, no 

M: Because if you have time to arrange the meeting, the agenda is pretty simple. 

Ł: I know, but we don't know how long it's going to take us, right? Someone presents the problem, then there is a Q&A session and we're already deeply into one hour and I just scheduled, hypothetically, right, and I just scheduled one hour and ideally we wanted to have this communication summary, which is email or maybe a phone call from the specific person, but instead, after one hour, we're just all familiar with the situation because it took one hour to establish oh, what did you do there? What happened there? What was an actual course of action that led us to this moment? 

M: You can reverse the question and ask this person is it okay for you to explain us the problem in 15 minutes or in 20 minutes? No, it's not okay, guys, I need one hour to explain to you what happened and then you can say, okay, you have one hour. Or you can say record me the message, I will go into it this evening and tomorrow morning we have meeting to discuss it. Okay, and three people, or three persons, we will, you know, know the case before we will met. Or if it's like total emergency, you know, and you don't have time to arrange the meeting and you don't have time to do a specific agenda, the least thing you can do is to take a call with this person and expect that he will briefly say about the situation and proposing the solutions, and then you will think about what you can do next. You know, let's say emergency case, that you don't have time for, let's say, scheduling. 

Ł: And then the schedule is broken, and that's okay. 

M: Even if you do time blocking, let's say we have like two um approach to that. Let's say one Cal Newport's approach. This is the author of deep work book and concept and he is doing time blocking for the next day like really, really strictly and specific, like every 15 minutes is flat. But he's smart guy so he knows that usually you start with the plan but then everything just fall apart because some urgent things happened, so then you are backing to the time blocking two times per day and rescheduling what you did yesterday. 

So you know what's the case what any emergency topics happens and you can reschedule your day to handle the things the best as possible. My way is like you schedule your next day but let's say in more general blocks like, for example, morning routine, deep work and from 11 or 12, operational work until, for example, 5 pm, and in this operational work block you put everything like emails, phone calls, meetings or personal tasks. So if anything unusual appear you can also put it into this block and let's say it will not hurt your whole beautiful time blocking for this day, and you are okay with that because you know. There’s always something that will ruin your perfect plan. 

Ł: Yeah, for me, absolutely. For me, the main takeaway is when you said that I learned from the past day, so it's okay to fail that and it's okay to just reiterate a couple of times in planning next week or week after next week. Be slightly more accurate. 

M: Embrace the failure. It's normal when you try to do something. It's normal when you try to do something. You know, just don't allow that to work will manage your time you are trying to do to manage the work, not the opposite. 

Ł: Absolutely, um, you might turn the uh title of this episode into embrace the failure after this, really like it. Tell me more about time boxing, because we've been so. What does it mean exactly? Again, it's just a one sentence summary, because we diverted so much with the blocking one. And also, what are the techniques for managing this? I'm really curious. But I'm totally convinced with the blocking one now. 

M: Yeah, so when it comes to time boxing, like you remember, it's about estimating specific time needed to complete a specific task. So, for example, you have like three hours for this presentation, 60 minutes for this project, and so on, and, first of all, the thing that we mentioned, it's the times run out and you are stopping what you are doing and you're switching to another task. 

And this is yeah, it sounds totally counterintuitive, I would say, but it's important to do that. And there is at least three reasonable reasons to do that. First of all, how are you going to learn time boxing If you, you, every time when you estimate the time and then you allow yourself to, okay, I have like another 30 minutes, another hour? So you are, you know, teaching yourself and your brain totally opposite that you want to, but always you can, you know, a bit, prolong the task, put more amount of time to this task, and so on. So it's totally counterproductive when it comes to time boxing. 

Now the second thing the next time you will learn how to finish the work in the estimated time, even if the results are not satisfying you. And that's important because you know, I work with a bunch of CEOs and I saw that in my companies and in my case, that if you are a perfectionist, there is always something that can be improved. You know, right, right, and I could finish that in 60 minutes, but maybe I will spend more time and the results will be better. But if you stop, but you have you completed your task, you're not satisfied, but it's completed, it's finished, so it's okay, and you will give you one or two day break, you know, and then you are back to this task and you can look at it and it's OK, it's good enough. No, it could be better, but it's good enough. And this is how you learn in practice this idea that done is better than perfect. 

Ł: So I get that OK, but this is about not the task completeness it's completed, but it not might be as optimal. So here's what I mean. Imagine that I am one of the said CEOs and I am creating a pitch deck for an investor yeah, and there has to be 10 slides. So what you're saying is there is 10 slides and I have done 10 slides, but maybe they're not as pretty. Versus, okay, I did five slides and they're perfect and beautiful, but I'm still missing five slides and I'm still stopping. So scenario A is like done is better than perfect. Scenario B is like sorry, I'm not done at all. I can't show that to the investor. 

M: Yeah, the main idea is here. It's also a good example. I have to prepare the pitch deck for the potential investor. So let's, let's say, break that task into the smaller. So the first thing is to do the research right. The pitch deck should looks like, and so on, and so on. The next is, for example, write some ideas. What can I put into this presentation? And the third task is to prepare the presentation. 

Ł: You have three tasks and each of them is a different slot in the calendar. 

M: And each of them is a different slot. And, for example, for the research, you allocate like I don't know three hours. Then for, let's say, writing ideas, you can have like one week, because you don't have any specific time. You're just thinking about it and putting another idea and another idea. 

Ł: I see where you're getting with this. 

M: Yeah, and then you have like three hours to finish the presentation and the idea when it comes to completing the job is that you do what you have to do to complete the research in three hours. Yeah, and the secret sauce here is you are trying to do that a lot before the deadline. So if you have like three weeks deadline and you do the whole process, like you know, like two weeks before the deadline, so still you have two weeks until the deadline and it's finished. So you have always time to go back and to you know, improve something and so on. But if the case that the reality will punch you in the face and you will not have time at all, you have it ready and it could be pretty good enough. 

Ł: And it also will take from you a lot of stress and anxiety. You know I mean. For me, the biggest lesson in this one is that, okay, uh, I have a very single purpose for two, three hours to focus on and by the time I am in the last step, which is assemble on the 10 slides, I already know what their titles and content are, because I did it in the previous research task, even if it's not perfect, but they come, they are completed, right, the, the completeness of the task is there. So I have my 10 slides to eight slides. 

M: Otherwise, you know, and it's my case, when I do the research I can get involved, like I can do the research in three hours and I can do the research, you know, like two weeks because there is always more data, more resources, more books that you can go into. 

Ł: Yeah, the 80-20 rule. Right, like, yeah, 20% of time, you're going to do 80% of work, yeah and then just completing the topic. 

M: The third thing that will not allow you to leave the task unfinished for a long time is the Zeigarnik effect, and it tells that you are thinking about unclosed tasks really, really intensively. So you will do whatever you can to go back and finish this task. 

Ł: Okay. So the brain will not allow you, but that's finished completeness, not finished perfection. Yeah, which is polishing the ready product, I get it. 

M: It's like you all totally underestimate the time and it's the job is finishing in I don't know 50 percent, still you will do whatever you can to go back to the finish. But you have this effect, like I mentioned, that, ok, man, I did that wrong, I don't have enough time. I should stop and move to another task, because that will learn you that you can allow yourself to put more and more, more tasks and every time you will break your own blocks and your old time boxing. Yeah, so this is also very helpful and always, if you're afraid of that and the project is very, very crucial, you can add some time buffer, like the good practice is from 15 up to 20% of time you have estimated for the task. Okay, so if you think like something will take one hour, you add 15% or 20% more to that and this is the amount of time you should put here in this time boxing. 

And the other thing is that you put another block. It calls conditional block, between or after the block, which is really, really important. So, for example, you have this meeting, like you mentioned, or you have strategic planning, or you have some concept work and it's really really hard to estimate how long it'll take. And it is crucial. I mean you have to finish this work today or the day after tomorrow. That's max. So you put in the schedule one block, let's say one and a half hour, and then you put another block like 30 minutes, and this is a conditional block. So if you will missed the time, you will, uh, prolong your work to this conditional block block. Okay, if you are okay with the timing, you can use conditional drug to any another task you have on your list, right? 

Ł: So at any given point. It sounds very reasonable, but it also sounds like a lot of work to set this up. Yeah, you said conditional blocks and all of this. It means a lot of, I would say, deep work. First, to plan my week when should I do it? If the week I'm so busy that Obviously the idea is not to work extra on the weekend, right, or to plan all of that week forward in the weekend? 

M: Well, yeah, it's kind of work I would say even, let's say, maintenance work, operational work, because it's not involve a lot of concentration, you know, and usually it should takes not more than 30 minutes per day and one and a half hour per week. I mean, at the end of the week, friday, when you plan the next uh, the next uh, whole uh week, of course, then you get into it and you have this habit to do that every day, every week. 

So it's getting faster or you can have like pretty, let's say, uh, the same blocks every week. 

So and it's also easier because you just reschedule not preparing the schedule from the scratch and when to use that. At the end of the day you are checking the next day, but at the end of the week you are using the technique which calls shutdown ritual. And it's a nice technique because it tells that you should close all of the tasks that you have not even, let's say, you don't have to finish them, but you have to plan what you will do with them in the next week and that will allow you to not think about the world during the weekend, because otherwise you will. You will miss think, still thinking that I should do that, I should do that, what I will do with that, and so on. But if you have a good plan for the next week, you will learn that okay, it's already planned. 

On Tuesday I will, let's say, encounter this thing On Wednesday, this thing, and so on. It will help you to be more relaxed during the weekend. And you plan the priorities of this shut down the week session. You are checking your calendar, your meetings, maybe something is needed to be rescheduled, and so on. You are planning the next week deep work sessions. 

What will be the topic of the deep session and what task you will take in this deep topic, deep focus blocks, yeah, and my advice is to finish the planning, the next week planning, with some nice routine that will split in a really, really good way the area of work and the area of weekend and the family, and that could be some activity which will engage your thoughts and also, maybe, body. But you have to be focused on something totally different. That could be, I don't know, cooking classes or some training with your friends, and I think that will make you, let's say, happy and you wait a whole week to do that, okay, and it will involve your thoughts, because otherwise you can still think about how much you have to do in the next week. 

Ł: Okay, so just a reset activity. Yeah, what about rolling tasks? Because if Friday ends, let's say it's the first week or the first month, whatever in some sort of calendar, and I have 10 tasks and I finished the week and the next week I finished the week with 12 tasks for the next week, and it keeps going. So by the week four or five, I have 20 tasks for the next week. So it doesn't get smaller, right? So it's runaway, runaway to-do list. So to say, right, it gets smaller. 

M: There's one thing you can do to, let's say, sleep better and stress less Totally, and at the end of the week you have all tasks. I mean you completed some of them. Some of them are not completed, and a new one just appeared on Friday, right just appeared in the Friday and at the end of the week you are planning from the scratch what you want to accomplish in the next week. So if you didn't accomplish something in this week and this is important, maybe okay, you want to reschedule that for another week. 

But if not, because maybe it's not as important as the other task. You are not putting that on your list of to-do for the next week. And when you have the to-do list or the list of priorities for the next week, you're looking at it and thinking is it really really possible to accomplish that? If not, you have to remove something from the list. If not, you have to remove something from the list and it you have to delete it, or you have to just, you know, freeze it and put it into the parking space and it has to wait for that other week. 

Because your time is limited, sure, and if you will do you know, like weekly review how you did in the last week. You will learn what's your real capacity, because really, really often, we took too much and we are thinking that, okay, I can do this, I can do this, no problem. On Wednesday I have one hour free, so why not? Let's have fun at the meeting. But when you are measuring that and you are reviewing that every week, you are now starting to know that, no, this is my max and maybe I want, maybe I really really want to do that, but it's not the case. I can't Got it. I really really know like essentially picking what's the most important thing. 

Ł: Every Friday. 

M: Every Friday.

Ł: And you're saying this entire routine takes one and a half hours per week. It should Okay. And the reason why I ask is because I, can, you know, dig myself into hours and hours of thinking, usually on Saturdays how do I plan my next week? And all of that because everything on the workdays is manageable directly with all the direct reportees and colleagues here who need my attention, need my time, so I just do that with them. I feel like for them as well, to support them in their activities, while Saturday or Sunday is when I plan the tasks, and then not only this is obviously stressful and at the expense of maybe some time with you know for myself or close ones, but also it doesn't take one and a half hours. 

M: You know. I would say also that if you will not save and protect your time, someone will do that for you and fulfill your karma for sure. So that's the case. And the case is to accept that there is always more things worth to do than you can do, and this is always the case. So if you embrace that and you are okay with that, it's easier for you to not to go, you know, over your limits and over your healthy limits. Let's say yeah. 

As well, and my advice is to try to stick to not do that more in 90 minutes, to not do that more in 90 minutes, but if it just takes longer, try to do that second time and the third time and every time a bit faster in this process, even if it's not perfect it's okay, Better done done, perfect, and you will learn how to do that in a pretty fast way. 

And even though if you say like man, I don't have one and a half hour just to plan my week, right, yeah, I would say like if you do not invest this one and a half hour, you will lose like five hours probably, or 15 hours next week. And that's the first case. And the second thing is okay. So invest like 30 minutes at the end of the day or at the end of the week, of the week. Whatever you can do, this 30 minutes is better than doing nothing. 

Ł: In the case of time blocking and boxing, got it okay, and if I were a fresh person, starting with this routine and this idea for the first time, what would be like? Top two, top three, suggestions that you could, or hints that you could, share with us? 

M: I think, where I would advise to start. Just look at your calendar and put there two blocks of deep work in the next week at 90 minutes, every for every block and just two blocks of deep work. So working deep concentration when you are working on a really, really complicated or or important task. Just two blocks for the next week, just like you know. One and a half hour and one and a half hour. It's not a big deal. You can start from that…

Ł: And everything is still chaos, but it's still better than nothing. 

M: And then if you're okay with that and you have like good track record, like three weeks, and every week you have this two blocks of deep work and you can, you know, stick to that, it's okay. Then you can go more and more, for example, plan like three blocks, four blocks, or start with planning the whole weekend or the whole next day. Okay, cool. 

Ł: In more details. Okay, so that's one. What else can be done as a starter? 

M: Cancel the half of the meetings.

Ł: Cancel the half of my meetings. OK

M: That will be the second thing. The third thing, what is really really crucial, I concentrate into the blogs also, things like emails, social media messaging and so on. It's also crucial, you know, and my default mode is every all notifications turn off. Every all notifications turn off, okay, permanently, yeah, and I check my email, or my, you know, slack, whatsapp and messenger two times per day and I do that, you know, between the blogs of, let's say, deep work on meetings and so on, and I have some specific time to do that, and it's nice because, first of all, it's not distracted you, you know, every five minutes when you're trying to focus on something really really important. And the second thing is that you are really really faster and more effective if the task is similar when it comes to context. So you will, you know, because you don't have this switching cost between different types of tasks. 

Ł: I totally get that. I totally get that from my past. You know when, when you work on a in a deep work mode with your brain on the coding activity and someone distracts you with a bug still coding right, but it's in a different area, different feature, different thing and then I am fixing that for them or discussing for 15 minutes. But realistically I'm realizing I lost an hour or two because now I lost my thought thread and I can't keep up and I don't remember where was I before I was distracted. And it's an hour or two before I regained that focus totally. At least 15 minutes. That's what the research says. 

M: You need 15 minutes to back again to this task and if you say I think there is also some nice statistic that we are disrupted in the office environment every five minutes, and you know? 

Ł: Exactly

M: Your colleagues, your boss, your investment clients they are also okay with that. You know, if you tell them guys, I'm just checking the box like two times per day and I will answer for sure. But like it's two type of blocks, if something is really really urgent, please call me. That's my case. I will pick up the phone, but all my environment knows that the phone is really really emergency way to approach me. 

Ł: But allowing people to call you means also completely disrupting your entire setup for your planning right, if they call? 

M: Yes, and you can use like two approaches here again. You can leave the phone and put flying mode, like I did now, and when it's something really important, I do that because what can be so important that can't wait like one and a half hour, right. But if you are not okay with that because you have this fear of missing out that maybe something important will happen, it's okay to tell everyone. If it's really really important, just call me and they will distract you but it's really really rare. Or you'll tell man it wasn't such important thing to call, for the future. 

Do not do that again, next time just write me a message, okay, and you will create the environment that will understand that you have to focus from time to time and you need the space to work in deep concentration.

Ł: Makes sense. Okay, all right, could you give us some real life examples of individuals or organizations, uh, which benefit actively from techniques and and some of those ideas? 

M: How do I split the month? Weekly themes and we keep planning when it comes to mondays, on the meetings, and you know, just planning and so on, tuesday, wednesday and thursday for, for the deep work and to to do the real work, fridays again, closing the weekend, planning the next week. But also you can, like we said, do not have meetings before noon every day, for example, and afternoon it's okay, but from morning to noon you have time to focus and to really work. Or, for example, pretty easy to use in the whole company one day per week without meetings, just one day per week without meetings, internal or external, without meetings. And what other techniques? For example, when you have a big project, it's good practice to decomposite the task and break down into the smaller tasks, like we discussed, you know, and estimate the time for every subtask, not the whole big project. And I also quite often use a tool which calls Team Alignment Map. Okay, we can also put links to that yeah. 

It's nice because you have goals, you identify the actions which will lead us to these goals, but you also identify the risks and the resources you need. Okay, and it's nice because this part of planning will show you, and will force you to think critically, what can go wrong. You know, know, and then you can reschedule your optimistic scenario. 

And the next thing, for example, is to prepare the whole project, the schedule and so on, and show that to the external expert and ask him for advice or ask him to evaluate it again and estimate the time, and he can just, you know, show you that, guys, it will really, really, I think, two times more time than you already that, than you expect. This thing it's also um, really nice tip and from, let's say, some examples from top world entrepreneurs, so famous Elon Musk potentially he even breaks the day into five minutes increments to maximize the productivity. Oh, wow, this is the level of details, right? Five minutes slots. I've also heard a lot and now use it a lot Instead of meetings. Just record me a video.

Ł: And just send me a video. 

M: It's much faster and it will learn you also to put together things you want to tell someone and to summarize and to have the essence because you have to prepare the recording. You know, and a lot of companies, for example Google, also allow and encourage employees to have focus time on their calendars, so they are allowed to put that focus time to the calendar and no one, also within the organization, can disrupt this time, because quite often the biggest disruptor is the boss. 

Ł: But I really like even the idea of time boxing. Those recordings is great, right? Because if you tell your colleagues, hey, you have two minutes to record anything you need from me in this 120 seconds it has to be the entire message. It's much more streamlining the conversation than being in the meeting where people feel like, oh, we have 60 minutes to talk about this, While in here, in this 120 seconds, you receive, so to say, meat on the bone. I like it a lot. 

M: And another also nice thing is to if you are thinking about something really important and how much time and resources it will take. It's good to prepare three scenarios Of course, best scenario, and this is usually what we stop, where we stop and, let's say, probable scenario. 

This worst case scenario will be this, let's say, which will happen in real, but still it's nice because it forces you to think about what can go wrong and you identify the risk and you identify in advance how you can prevent this risk when they appear. So, yeah, it's also a good case. Of course, it takes time, so I use that only if the project is worth it. 

Ł: Makes perfect sense. Yeah, Cool, and can you tell me how you post more than all of this, or how you do retro with yourself or with your team to improve on this kind of activities around work planning and work scheduling? 

M: Yeah. So first of all, you measure that and you have real time, and I like to say that facts, not beliefs. So it's not about how do you think was that okay? Or why we, let's say, underestimate our time or overestimate. You should have the data. So you should have the data that it should took one week and it took two weeks why, and you should measure that right. And then you just use the post-mortem analysis and you're thinking about what went wrong and what we could improve, and maybe there is a bunch of things that you can really really improve for the next projects. 

But maybe it's not maybe just it needs more time, you know. But still it's a good information for you because then in the future you know that you should allocate like two times more to that than you did that before. So it's also nice, but you have to measure your time. If not all time for all projects, just for the project which is really, really critical. So, for example, if I want to improve the time of preparing my podcast episode scenarios or presentations or code reviewing or something, I try to do that a few times. I measure the time, Then I try to do time boxing and then I'm again measuring and just looking. Is it okay or not? 

Ł: Yeah, did you miss it? Yeah, to just re-plan for the future. 

M: What kind of activity, but you know often it's like, okay, we would say, uh, underestimate, but we don't know how much. The best test. Firstly, answer to yourself how much time do you spend in social media weekly, but for work or for? Yeah no for the pride, for let's say that everyone will say that, yeah, but but this is mostly for work. No, just spend the time on social media weekly. Just think about it and write the number on the piece of paper. 

Ł: Okay, I'm a terrible example for this because it's zero for me. 

M: Do that and then check your phone and check the real data from the Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. 

Ł: Okay, for the time tracking to the Apple profile. 

M: Yeah, I tried that few times on my workshops and every, every time people was like pretty, pretty shocked that they spent like three, sometimes four, five times more time in social media than they thought that they spent. 

Ł: That's why we have to measure. 

M: It can't be like, just just a guess. 

Ł: Fascinating. Awesome, Mateusz, thank you for this. Those are great insights. I really enjoy this. I think I'm going to try most, if not all, of those techniques now in here, first with myself and then maybe some of my colleagues as well, if they will be interested in trying it, but definitely also educating them on not interrupting and having less meetings. 

M: If you have any questions or if you need any examples, good practice and so on, because it's hard to tell about it in the podcast team. I will send you some real examples or some best practice, how you can implement this in practice. 

Ł: This is fantastic. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you, cheers.

M: Thank you.

Ł: Thank you, Mateusz, for walking us through the nuances of time estimation, taking control of our personal schedule and achieving greater productivity. Dear listeners, looking ahead, we're excited to bring you more thought-provoking conversations on the world of technology. Be sure to follow us to stay updated and to catch our next insightful discussions. Thank you for tuning in. 

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