How are you doing with managing your time? Nobody ever told you that being an IT manager was going to be this tough, did they? How did you spend your last day at work: a lot of phone calls (some completely worthless), a lunch meeting that may have been rescheduled at the last minute, work that is due soon, staff conflicts that only you can resolve, oh, and that budget thing is coming up again…
There simply is not enough time in the day for you to get everything done – we all have the same 168 hours each week; however, some IT managers seem to be able to get more done than others. How do they do it?
Looking For A Solution To The Time Management Problem
I had the same time management problem that you are facing now a few years back. I was simply overwhelmed with work and couldn’t even begin to find my way out from under all of the tasks that I had to work on. I knew that it was time to go to the library and do some reading.
I must have read every book that my library had on time management. What I discovered surprised me: there didn’t seem to be one magical “silver bullet” approach to solving the issue of having too little time and too much to do.
Instead, I finally uncovered more of a philosophy to dealing with limited time rather than a quick solution. The approach that ended up working for me had to do with starting in the right place: finding out where all of my time was going. Although this sounds simple, it’s actually quite difficult to do correctly.
It Takes A Log To Know What You Don’t Know
The idea is for you to create what the experts call an “activity log”. The whole purpose of this exercise is for you to write down what you are doing during the course of a day. I’ve found it helpful to write down a quick note on what I’m doing every 15 minutes during the day. If you wait too long to write things down, then you’ll pack a whole bunch of activities into a time period and you’ll forget what you’ve done.
You’re going to want to keep your log for a week. During this time you are going to want to note both what you’ve done and how long you worked on it. Once you’ve collected the notes for an entire week, you are going to need to sit down and do some analysis. The first thing that you’re going to want to do is to group the things that you did into categories for each day:
- Meetings (scheduled)
- Meetings (unscheduled)
- Admin work (time cards, evaluations, etc.)
- Reports / presentations
- Lunch / breaks
What To Do With All That Data?
So how do other IT managers spend their time? A 1990 study by Henry Mintzberg revealed that 48% of a manager’s time is spent dealing with staff. Interacting with clients, suppliers, and associates took up another 20% while working with peers accounted for 16% and the remaining 14% was split between dealing with senior management and “others”.
After you’ve categorized how you are spending your time, think back to what your goals for the week were (you did have goals, didn’t you?) How much of your time was spent working on things that were related to what you really wanted to accomplish?
If, as it often does, most of your time was spent working on things that were not related to your most important tasks then you’ve got some changes to make. The easiest thing to do is to stop doing the things that don’t matter. This could be as simple as delegating this work to other members of your team so that you can focus on what really counts.
What All Of This Means To You
Not having enough time to get everything that you need to accomplish done is a problem that every IT manager faces. The good ones eventually solve this problem.
The first step in getting a handle on your time is to keep a time log for a week and find out where all of your time is going. Once you’ve got the data, categorize it so that you can find out if you are spending your time working on the tasks that relate to what you really want to accomplish.
If it turns out that your time is not being spent correctly, make some changes! Ultimately good time management comes down to you having the ability to recognize where your time is going and having the ability to adjust how you choose to spend it…
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™
Question For You: Do you think that keeping a time log for just a week is long enough?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Doing a good job of managing your time is a challenge for every IT manager. Every day it seems like there are more and more things that you are being asked to do while the amount of time that you have to accomplish them keeps getting smaller and smaller. If only there was some way to organize what you had to work on so that you knew that you were making progress every day…