Time management for engineers.

Why work-life balance is not a magic bullet for engineers – Part 2

In part 1 of this article you were confronted with how often you are put under real pressure when working as a design engineer. With luck, you were able to find one or two tips amongst the tools that we outlined to help you to better manage time. If you are one of the engineers who place value on scientific factors or the benefits of creativity, perhaps we have something here that could interest you.

Always a glance at the clock

There is no science at all involved in the Pomodoro technique, but it is all the more creative for that. Even if at first glance it actually looks more like a time-waster. Because it sees the key to more efficiency to be regular breaks. At first this seems to be contradictory but is it really? Developed by the Italian F. Cirillo, the Pomodoro techniques makes use of a timer; Cirillo used a Pomodoro, a kitchen clock. The daily work of designing new vacuum components is divided into 25-minute periods. The method is based on the fact that frequent breaks improve mental mobility. If you would like to test this out, carry out the following: 1.) Record your tasks in writing. 2.) Set a timer for 25 minutes. 3.) Work in a concentrated way until the timer rings without being distracted from the task in any way. 4.) Take a five-minute break and then start with the next 25-minute period of work. After four of these Pomodoro blocks, take a 15-minute break.

The Pomodoro technique is based on the assumption that frequent breaks can improve mental abilities. Accordingly, phases of concentrated work and breaks are alternated.

Don’t be scared of large work packages

The Pareto effect is utilized in many professions. The statistical – and therefore the scientific – phenomenon says that 80 % of results are achieved with 20 % of the total effort. On the other hand, the remaining 20 % of results requires the most work, at 80 % of effort. Those who work according to this principle need to seek out all the tasks that can be completed with an average effort of 20 %, meaning that by the end of the day they have done 80 % of their work. The Pareto principle is often used to identify the most important work packages during project development, so as to achieve relatively fast progress.

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) states that about 80% of the results can be achieved with only 20% of the total effort. The remaining 80 % of the effort must be spent on 20 % of the results.

Why interruptions are not always counterproductive

he so-called Zeigarnik effect utilizes the psychological effect of remembering completed tasks differently to uncompleted ones. It has been scientifically proven that interrupted, uncompleted tasks are remembered better than completed ones. This is astonishing, especially considering that one spends less time on interrupted tasks than on completed tasks. This can be explained scientifically by the field theory according to Lewin: A task that has already been started establishes a task-specific tension, which improves cognitive accessibility of the relevant contents. Once the task has been completed, the tension is broken. Interrupting the task impedes the reduction of tension. Conversely, the existing tension means the content is more easily accessible.

All the tools and tips introduced to you in the two articles and that you may have encountered during the course of your life as a design engineer will not make your days any longer. But they could provide a valuable contribution to making your working life more relaxed. And they could help make the daily trip to the office full of a thirst for action and new ideas for innovative vacuum components.