Those in technology realize that a day of work can vary greatly and can change without warning. Additionally, many try to build elaborate project plans and organizational goals. However, what is sometimes overlooked is the importance of daily execution of tasks. Those in technology must individually address the need to stay on task each and every day.
With such a deluge of work coming through the door and the inbox, managing time on a daily basis can become challenging. Without the ability to leave each day, having moved closer to common goals, work becomes monotonous and lacks fulfillment. Additionally, the expected value isn’t realized by the organization. This article lists a few of the techniques that I think are beneficial to successfully navigating through a typical work day.
10 Tips for Daily Time Management
Make A Daily List–I have found that creating a simple list of the day’s tasks helps keep me on track. This doesn’t have to be elaborate or a work of art. It doesn’t even have to be in electronic format. The list represents what I consider to be a successful day, but may have some items that carry into the next work day. The absolute best time to make this list is at the end of the previous work day. However, I often don’t get around to it until I arrive for the day. In those cases, I tend to work it out mentally during my commute to work and simply need to record my thoughts when I arrive. This list is my personal basis for accountability for the day.
Listening to Voice Mail–This is one of those tasks that should be accomplished before attending meetings and getting distracted by the day’s work. Some voice mail messages may be urgent and require immediate attention. However with the use of cell phones, we usually find out about truly urgent issues before we have an opportunity to check voice mail. In many cases checking voice mail early, then periodically throughout the day, is sufficient. In addition, an email response is often more efficient than playing phone tag.
Checking Email–Like voice mail, email is also one of those things that should be caught up early. You should begin your day allowing enough time to get through email before the other daily distractions start. It is also important to realize that not every email needs a response. What is important is to go through your Inbox and work through anything needing an immediate action or a response. Some emails may result in additions to your daily task list while others may require further discussion.
Runaway Email Exchanges —While email is a great communications tool, it doesn’t lend itself to every situation. It’s important to pay attention to those situations where responses are simply going to lead to more questions. Each time you have to respond to an email, you are creating those problematic context shifts and each exchange creates delay in the communication process. In discussing items that are in-depth, it is often better to schedule a WebEx, Conference Call, or in-person conversation.
Queue Up Unplanned Work —So you’ve got that list that you want to start working on and probably found some tasks in you inbox. Additionally, someone has probably popped in to ask you to look at something. While many of these tasks are small, they are context shifts and take you away from working your daily list. In other words, these tasks are unplanned and competing with what you already decided a successful day should look like. To minimize these context shifts, it is important to group several of these small tasks together and address them together. It is more efficient to address your one-off issues two or three times a day than to address them all day long.
Social Media–like many other tools, social media can be a help or a hindrance. There is a lot of valuable information to be found. In addition, there are a lot of resources to ask about the new and interesting problems. However, these networks can easily become a distraction. If your organization allows the use of social networks, use them responsibly (with the realization that your activity can be tracked).
Delegate Appropriately–one sure fire way to create a bottleneck is to address every single issue personally. Pretty soon, your co-workers ability to resolve problems has atrophied due to their lack of familiarity of the environment. In order to truly help yourself and your organization, delegating some of the day’s planned and unplanned activities helps your team get and stay sharp. In some cases, you may be required to help. In those cases, you may have been able to do it more quickly alone. However, acting alone would be short sighted. It is prudent to provide oversight for high-risk tasks and it is also important not to just delegate the tasks you loath.
Multitasking–For most people multitasking is a little like multitasking in Windows 3.1. While you could have multiple applications launched at a given point in time, processing was switched in time slices. If three applications were running, the first one was serviced, then the second, then the third. At that point, the process started all over again. In addition to servicing the applications, the process of switching between them had to get some cycles. Most people tend to work more efficiently by focusing on fewer tasks at a time. Focusing on fewer active tasks also minimizes mistakes caused during the context shifts.
Get people out of your way–There’s nothing wrong with a friendly conversation. However, sometimes those conversations get out of hand, off topic, or simply go too long. There’s nothing wrong with politely saying, “I’ve got to get back to my work, I really need to meet the deadline on this.” If there’s real work that needs to be discussed, it can always be scheduled.
Keep the end goals in mind–the daily task lists as well as the unplanned work should take into consideration the overarching goals. These includes the business and IT objectives of the organization and should not be in conflict with other individuals or departments.
We all know that time management in information technology is a bit of a problem. Sometimes trying to overdo time management can lead to too much overhead. However, failing to take it into consideration is most certainly going to lead to inefficiencies. As professionals, we must somehow find a balance that works for us. This article outlined several steps that I believe can help you make the most of your time at work.