Woman with business and leisure shoes as a symbol of work-life balance

Time management for engineers and designers.

Why work-life balance is not a magic bullet for engineers – Part 1.

 “You have 24 hours before you have to submit it”. Does that sound familiar to you? If you are very lucky, this will only remind you of repeatedly postponed homework while you were studying. It’s a lot worse if your boss has promised a new customer a fast design sketch for a vacuum component. If you work through the night, you can make it! But how desirable is that?

Only you can answer this question. Because nobody knows your time management as well as you do. Perhaps you are one of those people who perform their best work only through procrastination. A look at studies shows that: Engineers are subject to high pressure to perform and are looking for a better work-life balance. But those who make sure they relax in their leisure time do not always automatically feel better at the office and demonstrably produce no better results when designing new vacuum components. The concept of making use of free time to regenerate sounds logical at first but is nevertheless paradoxical. Because work is really only successful if it runs in just such a relaxed way as leisure time.

Work days that feel shorter enrich life

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In the second part on the topic of time management, we present the Pareto principle and the Pomodoro technique in more detail.

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Those who enjoy constructing vacuum components or gripper systems, etc. will notice that feeling good going into the office in combination with successful time management makes any design hurdles quickly fade into the background. Because design time that is really well used can be just as enriching as leisure time. When it comes to time management, many engineers employ the classic to-do list, mind maps as well as kanban. But there are also other approaches that can help to more efficiently design, for example, innovative vacuum components.

No buffer, no go

Variant 1 is the so-called ALPEN method: First of all, determine all the tasks that need to be done. Based on your experience, estimate the time you will require to complete every task in the design process of the vacuum components. Be realistic here! Those who know that it takes 30 minutes to load their AutoCAD drawing should take this into account. Plan in a buffer. Unless you don’t have a boss, or a telephone, or any other needs like hunger or thirst. That would be a fatal mistake, as many a good idea has emerged from the unconscious on the way to make a cup of tea. Set priorities for the main tasks and start with the most important. Monitor them and the result: Were your estimations accurate? Did you need longer? Efficiency is also increased with routine and a certain amount of peace and quiet.

You can learn to delegate and postpone

In the Eisenhower Matrix, you assign all tasks to a category. You now classify them according to importance (important/not important) and urgency (urgent/not urgent). Then set out four quadrants (I to IV) – as a graphic, if you like. The first represents urgent and important, while II stands for not urgent but important. III contains urgent topics that are not that important, while IV includes tasks that are not urgent and also not important. As a design engineer of vacuum components, you’ll find you have a lot in I that you need to supply to other colleagues for their further work packages. If category I blocks the entire day, you won’t be able to get around to delegating tasks from III and IV.

Time management technique Eisenhower matrix as infographics

With the Eisenhower matrix, tasks are sorted according to urgency and importance and divided into four different categories.

“We have to stay outside”: Don’t leave everything in your mind

Getting Things Done (GTD) is the right choice for design engineers who have an affinity for visualizing. This is a method to capture and manage all tasks in context-related lists. It is done according to an extremely easy principle, which above all will make life easier for design engineers who have to design new components, e.g. for innovative vacuum components under time pressure: 1. Capture all tasks that you have to get done in a logical and trustworthy system outside your mind, specifically in an Excel list. 2. Now be disciplined about making a decision regarding every input that you allow in your life. This is the only way you will be able to visualize the next step! GTD separates deadlines and tasks. Deadlines are recorded in a calendar and tasks are systematically ordered according to their context. Calendar and context lists are aids to help you tie up “loose ends” in the GTD method. The inventor David Allen understands these to be all tasks, objectives, projects and obligations that need to be accomplished. Does that sound familiar to you? Perhaps you already intuitively do this with your email program. Cast a critical look at the features of Outlook and the like and you’ll be amazed at what’s possible.

Everyone according to their own preferences

Perhaps these small but excellent selection of methods for time management can give you some interesting inspiration. And so let you start to simplify your working life significantly. It’s also possible that you only now discover a “simple” email program to be your method of choice for the future to help you keep track of the most important thing amongst the numerous design and administrations tasks – enjoyment in your job. If you are also an engineer who would like to have more information on time management or even one who places value on a scientifically based approach, we recommend the second part of our series on time management.

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