During a phone screening someone asked me, “How do you keep track of your time? How do you stay focused?”
I immediately answered that first thing I do every morning is open the Apple Reminders application and schedule my day. This way, no matter who or what interrupts my work flow, I have a clear idea of what I need to be doing at that moment of the day. When the alarm sounds I can decide if I need to space out more time for that task or move on. This method requires constant updating of the list through the day but the app is synced to all of my devices via iCloud. This really works well for me.
To this explanation she replied, “I didn’t realize Reminders was that robust. We use software called Things 2.”
Doh! That’s when I realized that she didn’t mean “time management”. She meant “task management”. What’s the difference? Time management is how you spend your minutes from hour to hour. This is usually broken down into basic task descriptions like “code” or “write product description”. It’s not meant to give you details about the task. It’s meant to say from this hour to that hour you’ll be on a single task.
Task management is about breaking down a given assignment into small steps, assigning responsibility to those steps, and tracking their execution over time. Applications like Jira, ScrumDo, or Things 2 are task managers. They are great for agile teams as they allow you to really break down everything that needs to be done in a given project.
So on my time manager I could have an item scheduled from 9am to 11am that just says “code”. I know that between those hours my phone is unplugged, my headphones are on, and my nose is down. What I don’t know from this is exactly what kind of coding I’ll be doing or for what task on the scrum chart. I just know that I’ll be coding until the alarm goes off at 11am. So at 9am I’ll open the scrum chart and see what I need to be doing based on what the team has prioritized. All of this is constantly in flux. That’s agile!
In the future I need to clarify these things when asked. I could tell from the reaction that I had just gotten some points deducted because I missed a subtle but important detail in the question. Live and learn.