Time Management: systems settings and testing the efficiency of the system

Time management has been one of my primary issues and I believe this is also a problem for many. However, I strongly believe that I have partially mastered it. Mastering time management has been the results of understanding and applying the following concepts:


  • Setting systems rather than goal.
  • Testing the efficiency of the systems.


You want to set up systems and test the efficiency of the systems so that you can use your time more effectively or be more productive. This is time management in a nutshell.


I will walk you through an example of system settings when it came to my courses at the University of Edinburgh.


Setting systems rather than goals


I came across this concept of settings systems rather than goals from a TEDx video (I don't remember which one). Anyways, the key theme of setting systems was to divert one's attention to systems rather than goals. Because a system is something that you can be in control and your goals are something that you have less control over because it lies in the future.


An example of a goal as an entrepreneur can be to make 100 billion dollars. But the system is the marketing and sales process. Notice that the difference lie in what you can or cannot control. You can control your systems but you cannot control the goals.


But how did I set the systems for my studies?


First of all, I set up the goals: have at least 80 % or higher on all my courses this year. But what can I control?


I knew that I could control my attendency during lectures. My engagement with a course for example through exercises (how much I exercise I did).


After I identified the things that I was able to control, I decided to set up my schedule. My system was to set up weekly schedule. So my schedule had a static and dynamic aspect to it. With static aspect, I mean a fixed time in my schedule, and a dynamic aspect, I mean one that I could allocate time in my schedule whenever there was a free slot. So Towards the end of a week, my schedule tend to become static.


As an example, below is an image of my schedule during week 41:



In my schedule above (done in Google calender), I also planned when I ate and slept. I love afternoon naps :-D.


Doing the above was not enough. I also needed some ways to test whether the two systems (weekly schedule and breaking a lecture into concepts) are efficients.


So, for example for the course Image and Vision Computing, second lecture, I broke down the lecture based on some concepts.




This was a list of things I had in order to keep track of what I was doing:


  • Lecture number: telling me which lecture it was. So I could identify which lecture that was.
  • Concepts: the concept discussed during the lecture.
  • Difficulty: my perception of the difficulty of the concept: one through five, easy to most difficult respectively.
  • Time (in min) taken to understand: this was based on my intuition.


The main reasons for breaking down a lecture like that and then study for it was because during revision period, I could estimate the time it would require to complete a lecture so I could plan my revision time in advance.


Testing the efficiency of the systems


I setup two systems, weekly schedule and breaking down lectures into concepts and scheduling based on concepts. But how do I test the efficiency of these systems?


I looked at the goals I setup for the semesters, and I asked myself whether weekly schedule and breaking down a lecture based on concepts made the materials easy to understand, and engage more with the course, as well as doing more of my extra-curriculum activities such as going to entrepreneurial events, or working on my project.


So, I was able to tell the efficiency of the systems by looking at the free time I had, and how much I will do in a week in order to classify it as a productive week or not. Essentially I traced my performance as the weeks went by.




To use your time efficiently and be productive, setup systems and identify areas of the system that you can efficiently measure with respect to your goals. This helps you to identify key areas about yourself (weakness and strength), but also whether the system is effective for your goals. System settings and testing systems are just the beginning of a good time management skills.


More to come in the future, as I will be reflecting about time management and attempt different systems for different types of problems such as programming and entrepreneurial activities.