Eric Kraus

time management

New Productivity Strategy: Reflection

This post is a follow up to the New Productivity Strategy post I wrote on October 31. I wanted to give this new strategy a go for a month and see if it had any impact on getting more “work” done.

To catch you up, my new framework looked something like this:

  1. My 50+ item task list will get prioritized to my “must do” top 5
  2. Those 5 items are my “only do” list for the moment
  3. New emails fall on the “never do” list, so I won’t check email until my “must do” items are done
  4. After done, I’ll check email, triage and re-prioritize the task list
  5. Take a break
  6. Repeat

Rather than simply “focus” on the things to do, I was getting sucked in to a daily routine of just following up on interruptions: email, instant message, etc. So many in fact, I could go days without getting any of my actual tasks done.

This new approach is reinforcing a few valuable lessons in prioritization:

  • We can only prioritize a few things at the same time…and really only really work on ONE thing at a time. Proper goal setting for the day is critical.
  • It’s important to specifically call out things that are consistently distractions – email and IM are #1 for me. Email is actually de-prioritized on my list and I no longer log into IM tool.
  • Some things you just can’t put on the Never Do List. While I can’t remove email completely, I can designate specific times to do it…and do it fast. Internal email doesn’t warrant the same scrutiny as something written to a client. Most of the time quantity is better than quality.
  • Delegation is important, but it has overhead on the follow through. If you are consistently delegating a task, it might be valuable to remove yourself from the middle. 
  • I’ve played with the Pomodoro Technique over the years, but it has recently come in very handy to carve out time for forced breaks OR time to catch up on email.
  • This approach takes a discipline in saying “no”. Historically, that’s been a weakness of mine. 

The biggest challenge in all of this is the feeling of dropping other tasks, letting others down or not appearing as useful as others. However, the bigger let down would be not completing the few things one must get done.

As far as the workload, I am absolutely making significant progress. As expected, it’s a bit disruptive to others that are used to the quick turn around on “interruptions”.  Setting proper expectations with them has been helpful. The bigger lesson in all of this is being aware of the need for change and continually experimenting/growing to meet  the need.


New Productivity Strategy

I recently took a new role with my company. It wasn’t a difficult transition. I have the same responsibilities…just different customers I work with. It was a change I was excited for. Being someone that values growth, how can you learn if you aren’t exposed to new things.

However, with the transition came with a number of other organizational changes as well. With everyone around me also changing roles, it was chaos.

“the way I worked in the past simply wasn’t working anymore”

Read More …

How to Wake Up Early – Tricks to Getting the Most Out of the Day

For the last year, I’ve been working on a goal of waking up at 5am. I’ve had a great amount of success with this strategy…and, not just because…it really has completely rocked my productivity and quality of life. It was a little bit of a shift at first, but overall not that hard of a transition to make.

Why even do this?

Getting up early can be a great way to get more done and be more productive. There is already a ton of research and content on the web discussing these benefits too.

Read More …

Time Management

I have been experimenting with different aspects of productivity lately.  Everything from waking up early, meditation to time management.  Time management?  Blah Blah Blah.  I always thought time management practices were something sold to people who were highly disorganized.  I used to think: “I’m not disorganized, I’m just really busy”.

Productivity Definition

“Productivity is spending your time on working towards your goals.”

It took my research into ‘productivity’ to really discover the truth.  I found it easiest to relate to Asian Efficiency’s simplified definition of productivity: “Productivity is spending your time on working towards your goals”.

The two keys to productivity here are:
1. setting goals
2. working towards them.


In my past thinking, “busy” was accomplishing the “time working” portion…and I thought I was done.  However, I was missing the most important part: “setting goals”.  Without a plan or goals for the day, I was a bit scattered.  I worked on things as they came in, was often distracted away to the next “important” thing and I never felt fulfilled after the day was done.

I have come to admit: “I was disorganized.”

Goal Setting Practices

I recently started practicing a morning ritual (following meditation) of goal setting.  For no more than a couple minutes, I dedicate time to plan out my day.  I pull from a general list of tasks that I gather throughout the week (Wunderlist) and categorize them into three major buckets for the day: MUST DO, BLOCK TIME, OPEN.

MUST DO: These are items I absolutely need to accomplish for the day.  I try to do these items first thing, if I can, before I even leave for work.  The better I am at this, the more I’ve opened my day up to work on the other things or handle the “urgent” firedrills that are thrown my way.

BLOCKED TIME: These tasks are ones that are all similar in nature: checking email, reading blogs, etc. I’m the type of person that, if allowed, can easily take 30 minutes to reply to a single email.  Time boxing helps force me to get through as much as possible.  At the end of the day, unless it’s an email to an officer of a company, it shouldn’t take 30 minutes to compose.  I also don’t have time to read through the 1,000s of blog posts I subscribe to.  So, I use this blocked time to read through my Saved list of posts (not the most recent ones that came in). [future post coming on my blog/feed reading strategy].  The key is to stick to your time block, whatever it is: 30 minutes, 1 hour, etc, and then move on to the next item.

OPEN: These items are things I can get to when I’ve completed all other tasks.  Here I include things like choosing blog posts I want to Save for later, replying to more emails, researching something, reading, etc.


Early on, it felt like I would never be able to block time for things like email, let alone get to the “open” items on my list.  Before, I never had time to read a book, and I wished I did.  So, I was curious to see how this would go.  The biggest lesson learned for me was noticing the days where I completed my goal setting ritual vs. the ones where I just rolled out of bed right into my day.  The days where I effectively set goals, I was much more likely to have felt “caught up” early in the day.  Also, dedicating one or two uninterrupted blocks to do email was by far more efficient than 60 separate 30 second quick replies as email came in.

“…it’s what gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment for the day”

The snow ball effect of freeing up time was another eye opener.  While I might not have gained a full hour back in my work day, it significantly reduced the amount of time AFTER work that required my attention.  Getting my evenings back to “personal time” allowed me to actually get to the “open” items and it’s what gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment for the day.