How to Crush Time Management

To Do:
  • Plan quarterly Milwaukee Tableau User Group meetings
  • Plan quarterly Wisconsin Virtual Tableau User Group meetings
  • Plan monthly Data Science Round Table meetings
  • Write a blog post every month
  • Stay active on social media with tips, support, and upcoming events
  • Complete Masters in Predictive Analytics coursework
  • Determine a data analytics road map
  • Read news, blogs, and newsletter for current
  • Don't forget all the domestic stuff

These are some of the things I work on throughout the year and in order to do so I have to be ruthless with my time management. My days are well-structured... generally (because sometimes the system breaks down)... to ensure I maximize my time. I've found one of my favorite things is efficiency. Why use a 3-step process if a 2-step process will do? In addition to efficiency plays, the systems designed to organize/structure the process are paramount.

So how do I get it all done? Well, usually I don't. I fail somewhere and I'm comfortable with that. But when I do succeed, it's because I start with clear goals, develop a simple plan, and then execute in chunks. I'm not going to talk about how to curate goals or how to create a great plan. What I'm going to talk about is chunking.

Let's take the Milwaukee Tableau User Group as an example. The leadership team puts together at least 4 meetings a year, and we do so relatively easily. We meet at the end of the year to pick dates for the next year. We usually meet on Thursdays and we know to avoid certain months (like January, July, November, and December). From there, we arbitrarily choose dates for the whole year, though we keep in mind other events such as the Tableau Conference and Milwaukee Alteryx User Group meetings.

Once dates have been tentatively chosen we begin to line up all the components that go into a typical meeting. I've written about Starting a Tableau User Group, in which I discuss a template agenda. Having one helps community members understand what to expect from each meeting and makes planning a meeting much easier. So during our planning meeting the leadership team identifies a theme for the meeting (such as Tableau Server administration, Ask Data, Tableau Public, etc) and a leadership team member who will be the primary person responsible for ensuring the meeting comes together (though we all contribute).

Armed with dates and themes, we come up with ideas of folks we think would be fitting and start reaching out to see if they would be willing to speak at a meeting. We go through the same process with organizations that would be ideal to host a meeting and sponsors who fund the happy hour that follows each of our meetings.

Hopefully you've noticed the pattern. Do the same thing for all meetings at the same time.
  • Pick dates (for all meetings)
  • Choose themes (for all meetings)
  • Solicit sponsors (for all meetings)
  • Find locations (for all meetings)
  • Setup registration pages (for all meetings)

Now scale this process for each thing on my larger list of things to do. As a result, I've found that I need to have dedicated time for each activity. I usually dedicate a day each quarter to planning Milwaukee Tableau User Group meetings. As for writing blog posts and keeping active on social media, I have created a calendar with reminders on when I need to post and deadlines to keep me on track. Blogger (the tool I use for blogging) even has a schedule option, so I can spend a weekend writing a few posts and schedule them to be released in the future. I also use Hootsuite to schedule a bunch of social media posts at once.

You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems. - James Clear

Starting today, my primary focus will be on my current class, Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning. To prepare for that, I spent the weekend reading the syllabus, making a to-do list for everything due throughout the course, and creating a folder structure on Dropbox to organize files for each week. During periods of the year when I am in school, almost everything else falls away and I'm completely focused, which is the reason I've had to develop these systems. They allow me to do all the things I love, but in a systematic and efficient way.