mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Management Systems - Time Management via Color-Coded Calendar

This past summer at Twitch I went from working with our Viewer Experience team to owning all viewer-side features on mobile. This meant working with another team, Viewer Engagement. In preparation for this increase in scope and team size my manager asked me to look at where I was spending time to ensure I could continue to deliver on all my responsibilities.

In his fantastic book An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management William Larson describes time management as “the enduring meta-probem of leadership.” When describing effective time management strategies one of Larson’s methods stuck out to me:

Quarterly time retrospective: Every quarter, I spend a few hours categorizing my calendar from the past three months to figure out how I’ve invested my time. This is useful for me to reflect on the major projects I’ve done, and also to get a sense of my general allocation of time. I then use this analysis to shuffle my goal time allocation for the next quarter.

Categorizing my calendar got me way more excited than I expected! I went through my (Google) calendar and color-coded events based on different types of events. After doing a coloring pass I looked at my calendar from earlier in 2019 to see if the system accurately reflected my hunches about where my time was going. Growing the team was a big focus in 2019 so I spent a lot of time recruiting and interviewing. All the red here matches that hunch!

Early 2019 - lots of recruiting!

These days with hiring mostly done I spend less time recruiting. But with a much larger team I spend a good amount of time in 1:1s (yellow) and working with my Viewer Experience (light blue) and Viewer Engagement (grey) partners:

More recently - a more balanced calendar!

With this system I’m able to quickly scroll through weeks in my calendar and get a good feel for where my time is being spent. I currently manually set colors; for recurring events I only have to do it once and for one-offs it’s really easy to set the color (e.g. right click and pick a color). That said, I am already looking into automating this process via Google’s Calendar API. From there I can even produce a quarterly reviews by adding up time by event color. Update! Calendar Colorist is now available! The sky’s the limit with a color-coded calendar!

Got an interesting system you use to manage your time? Let me know on Twitter!

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