Tomorrow, my first meeting is at 10am and the last one is scheduled to end at 4pm. I'd say there's at least a 50% chance that at least the 4-5 slot or 5-6 slot will be taken up at some point tomorrow as well, if not both. The only empty slot is from 10:30am-11am. That means lunch will be a turkey sandwich in a meeting room.
That's not a complaint actually. It's just become a fact of life. People rarely stand for meetings that aren't productive so it's not that I feel they're a waste of time. Everybody has the same problem: 24 hours in a day. I pretty much spend most of the regular work hours going from meeting to meeting with breaks whenever meetings get cancelled (usually rescheduled actually) or they finish before their scheduled end time. The latter actually happens quite often, which is nice as it gives you a break. But the problem with it is that you go into each day not knowing when you'll get a two hour block to do some real damage on the work that just seems to keep piling up.
I've ended up in a pattern where nights are the time to make significant progress on the todo list. It's something I've been doing for at least a couple of years now, but it's getting to the point where the list is longer and longer and the days are still just 24hrs long.
One option is to just work longer into the night (I'd say my average end time is 1am, so it's not like I've got lots of room to play with). There are a few guys on the team (Anson comes to mind) who seem to have found a way to work 27-30hrs per day. It's an amazing feat really. I've seen plenty of people before spend a ton of time at work but never really produce anywhere near as much you'd expect or they seem to think they are. Guys like Anson though are the real thing. They're extremely productive and have shown they can sustain it for years. It's definitely not ideal though and it's not the kind of thing you want to do forever. My attitude has always been to do it while you can, but over time,you need to find a way to do more in less time.
So that brings me to my point (finally). I'm on a mission to reduce distractions and make better use of the regular work hours. This doesn't mean I'm planning on working less, it just means I'm trying to find ways to accomplish more. I've been thinking about this for at least a couple of weeks. The first thing I decided to change was instant messenger. It's been off all of my machines for about two weeks. I missed it for the first couple of days, mainly when the middle of the day came along and I wanted to ping my wife and friends to see if we could get some lunch together. That only lasted a couple of days. Email and the phone have filled that need nicely. Other than that I haven't missed it at all.
Have I been more productive because of it? It's not overwhelmingly clear really, but I sure feel good about not having to deal with telling my friends I can't chat with them over and over again because I'm in a meeting or very busy or some other reason. I know they're pretty much used to it, but it was still hard for me to have to do it so often. I also have a few friends who seem to love to have long conversations on IM where sometimes they take 2-3 minutes to respond. They seem to have no problem with those types of sessions, but I've never been very good at them. I can't really focus on what I'm doing if I have a conversation hanging in another window on the screen. I like IM for short exchanges, but it starts to nag me a bit when it becomes a real conversation. I much prefer a phone call or talking face to face instead.
So the plan is to leave it off for a while longer. If it turns out I don't really need it, it probably won't come back on.
The next step in my quest is to scrub the blogs I read. I've tried to do this several times over the past year but failed miserably. Every time I got the list down to about half of what I really wanted to get down to it jumped back up to even more. I'm currently at about 130. I'd like to get it down to about fifty, but I have no idea how that's going to happen. I'd love to have a Tivo-like system such as the one Bruce describes here. That would make the decision of which to keep and which to cut easier, but we'll see how it goes. It's definitely the next step. The other thing I'm working on is developing a process to keep track of my todo list. It's been getting out of hand, and without it listed somewhere where I can figure out what to do next, I end up spending tons of time just thinking about all the things I could do next and wondering if I'm forgetting something important instead of just checking things off. I've got something going already that has worked well so far, but it's only been a few days. If it works out for a few weeks I'll probably post about it.
Back to work now, enough rambling...