IT Management

Busy mainframe executives might be surprised to learn how they’re really spending their time. We all lose focus throughout the day; our moods and energy levels fluctuate, so we’re more or less inclined to perform different kinds of tasks at different times. However, there’s a simple way to get an objective view, and it involves your mobile phone.  

Scott Goldman was the first CEO of the WAP Forum, the standards body that made it possible to browse the Internet from a cell phone. He also started several companies capitalizing on mobile technology and now runs an SMS gateway and software company. But Goldman isn’t just a businessman; he’s also a technology and time management fanatic.

Even though he spends much of his time working with cutting-edge technology and finding ways to change the world with new handheld gadgets and wireless networks, Goldman thinks one of the best uses of a Smartphone is as a simple time management tool. The idea is to get a snapshot of how you spend your day and how your moods and energy levels vary. With this knowledge, you can make changes in how you plan your day.

You don’t need a fancy device for this; it works for anyone who has a cell phone with a minimal set of features. The method involves tracking what you do over a period of three days. You shouldn’t worry about small things; just try to note the approximate start time and duration of all activities that take more than five minutes.

At the end of the three days, you can look back at your notes and see what you’ve done. You can get a pretty good view of where you waste time, and you can spot where your mood changes. Most people don’t need to actually note their moods; they usually remember how they felt when they carried out a particular activity.

There are several ways of implementing this technique, depending on the type of handheld you have. If you have a Smartphone, you can use the “notes” function to jot down what you do, or the calendar function to maintain a basic diary of activities. You can even use a spreadsheet. At the very least, you can record voice memos. Simply speak memos to yourself throughout the day and then later listen to what you’ve recorded.

There’s no need to worry about details. Just put down enough information to allow yourself to recognize each task. You should include things such as drive time, eating time, the time you spend getting dressed, and the time you spend chatting at the water cooler. As a result of this exercise, you might notice where you get distracted. Instead of looking at your email and making phone calls throughout the day, you might find ways of lumping these activities together to free yourself to move other things forward. If you aren’t blocking off chunks of time for focused effort, it will show up through this process.   

Look for ways you might schedule tasks to fit your mood. For example, some people experience a dip right after lunch and aren’t up for rigorous intellectual activity. These people should try to schedule mentally intensive work at a different time of the day. In fact, Goldman has discovered his most effective focusing time is early morning.

It’s a good idea to repeat the three-day process every couple of months. “The trick is to use the technology to control the ebb and flow of your work instead of allowing it to overwhelm you,” Goldman says.

Pat Brans helps companies optimize workforce productivity through mobile technology. He provides corporate training on time management and productivity using a unique methodology, based on exclusive tips from the world’s busiest CEOs and grounded in psychology research. For more information, visit