Linda Stone on time management

Linda Stone -- who coined the terms "continuous partial attention" and "email apnea" -- has a great column up today on HuffPo about time-management, based on her survey of successful, busy (and often powerful) people about their strategies for managing it all. She's boiled down a set of good principles, and is looking for your feedback for further refinements.
1. Each evening or morning before you start your day, make a short list of your intentions (the result and feeling of something you want) for the day and by each, write the related to do's for that day. Try to keep your list to 5 intentions. Consciously choose what you will do and what you will not do. Keep a different list of what you will review for inclusion on other days.

2. List only what you really expect to do that day. As other things come to mind, write them on a separate list. By putting these items on a separate list, you are creating the space to be in the moment with each of your day's priorities. Review that list as you plan for the next day and determine how they fit in to your plans. Give yourself some down time, enjoy your successes at the end of the day.

3. Give yourself meaningful blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on each intention. Turn OFF technology each day during those blocks and focus on your intentions.

4. At home, be clear about what technology you'll use and where. Computer in the kitchen? Maybe not. A friend of mine just removed the computer from her kitchen and said she is now far less likely to stop to constantly check email or news. In the kitchen, she pays attention to her family and prepares food. Sometimes they do group family activities at the kitchen table. When she heads into her office to work on her computer, her children know not to disturb her while she works.



  1. I was reading this with interest, when i reaslised I was at work and had a load to do and was reading boingboing instead.

  2. My list of intentions for today:

    1. Make beer in my garage.
    2. Play Wii Fit.
    3. Take a nap in the afternoon
    4. Read a book.
    5. Make love to my girlfriend.

    And I wish I’ll never have to make a conscious decision to remind myself that, while I’m doing diner I should not be checking my email worried by my work.

  3. #3: I’m with you; if you have to move your computer so you’re not checking e-mail, then you’ve got a bigger problem than having to list “intentions.” All of these books, etc., on time management, project management, etc., slay me. (My favorite is, of course, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. What is a “highly effective family”? Scares the piss out of me.

  4. sounds extraordinarily like money for old rope to me – but i do have a friend who has no concept of getting things done on time. Maybe it would do him some good.

  5. Sheesh. I find these kinds of optimum time management / personal effectiveness / blah blah diatribes obnoxious. Who is it that benefits from such maximized time management? The boss, that’s who! Hasn’t David Allen, regarded as THE time management guru, been divorced more than once? So much for time management as a life-enhancer.

    May I instead recommend a book that strikes a very different path: “Executricks – Or: How to Retire While You’re Still Working” by Stanley Bing Link. You’re welcome. ;-)

  6. @7
    A famous source of schadenfreude in the late ’90s was the difficulty that time planner messiahs Franklin Planner had merging with Stephen Covey’s Covey Leadership Center. After making fortunes hectoring executives about their shameful inefficiency and lack of organization, the Franklin and Covey leaders looked like Keystone Cops trying to integrate their two companies.
    Around that time I was subjected to the whole Covey Time Management on Paper indoctrination by an employer. It didn’t stick, although the $200 leather bound Planner makes a good address book. I do think it can increase most people’s effectiveness to have systematic ways for prioritizing, but each person has to work out for themselves what works.
    One size fits none.

  7. So to follow this plan I need to be able to 1) make realistic goals, 2) relax, 3) focus, and 4) compartmentalize. Isn’t it likely that someone who has poor time management skills would also be incapable at accomplishing each of those?

    Here’s another tip: if you’re addicted to glue sniffing, try not sniffing glue. Genius.

  8. @7: Who is it that benefits from such maximized time management? The boss, that’s who!

    Not necessarily. Time management is important for more than just your 9-5 office job. For example, I have a sometimes-overwhelming number of responsibilities from various activist groups, and independent radical projects. I’d never be able to handle all I do without time management.

    And I guess I could just throw up my hands and say “I just don’t have time to help with this campaign against unethical business practices!” but then again, that’d be what really benefits the boss :)

  9. #9:

    You’re right on the money. However, I will add that it’s crucial for most people to define their plans concretely enough to be able to write them down. I suppose that’s where all of the listing comes in to play, but they can be mental lists.

    I liked the list I made for my roommate:

    1) Grow beard.
    2) Become beard-model.
    3) Use fame as beard-model to obtain hand-model girlfriend.
    4) Marry hand-model girlfriend.
    5) Profit.

  10. Greetings

    Tech has an OFF button.

    Seriously being present in the moment and having your shit together means shutting off the toys, putting down the lists and focusing on ONE THING!

    The very best time management is taking the time to do it right the first time

    Enjoy the journey


  11. Can’t help but mention that I’m reading BB, as often happens, from my kitchen computer. Which has been used during many a dinner to look up something that came up in family conversation. Before the computer’s ubiquitous presence, I would go into another room and peer through books to try to find answers while dinner got cold. The computer actually keeps me in the same room, and I’m done faster with more accurate results.

    To say nothing of recipe look-ups, and of course keeping homework assignments under the Watchful Eye of Mom.

    So, sorry Ms. Stone, but I’m keeping this computer right where it is.

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