I found myself making a rookie mistake this week, the kind of error that a new manager makes but not someone who’s been doing this as long as I have. I made a major time-management blunder. In this column, I’ll show you how you can benefit from my mistake and avoid the problems I’ve had over the past week.

From the open door to the open calendar
When I first started in management, way back during the first Reagan administration (or during the DOS 3.3 era, if you’re on computer time), there was a flood of books that promoted the open-door policy. The idea was that anyone in an organization should be able to walk into an executive’s office (whether president, CIO, or whatever) and register a complaint or make a suggestion.

The idea behind the open-door policy was to try to break down the barriers between senior management and the people who worked for them. This would help keep the executive connected to the real world and would help demonstrate to employees that the company was sensitive to their concerns.

Of course, the open-door policy is still with us. And while we all know of organizations that pay only lip service to the concept, I think most of us would agree that the intent of the open-door policy is a good one. Certainly, most IT managers I know—at least the good ones—use it in their own shops.

In fact, many of us have taken the open-door policy a step further and adopted the open-calendar policy.

That’s what got me into trouble this week.

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Calendar conflict
Here at TechRepublic, there are approximately 60 people in the content development organization, which I head up. Currently, I have nine direct reports. In order to make sure that everyone feels they have enough access to me, I tell people they can walk in my office when necessary, but they can also schedule individual or group meetings on my calendar. I know many of you do the same.

So here is where I made my rookie mistake. Last week, I forgot to schedule some time to actually get work done. Typically, I’ll block out two to three hours every day, so that over the course of the week, I’ve got 10-15 solid hours in which to write, work on projects, deal with paperwork, or just go through e-mail.

For a host of reasons too depressing to describe, I forgot to do that at the end of last week. The result? This week, I’ve got 35 hours of meetings and appointments in my Outlook Calendar.

Needless to say, I’m having a heck of a time getting anything done. Obviously, meetings are a big part of any technical manager’s job, but if you’re like me, meetings are likely to generate more work for you, and not less.

That is why I’m writing this column at home at 1:30 in the morning instead of at my desk during business hours.

I called this a rookie mistake. I am constantly telling my editors to block out time in their calendars to get the interviewing, writing, and editing done. They will probably have a chuckle at my boneheaded mistake.

The French have a saying, “Flowers before bread.” By that, they mean that it’s sometimes important to budget luxuries in front of necessities. When it comes to your calendar, budgeting time to get things done is no luxury—it’s a necessity.

How do you set priorities?

What’s your best tip for maintaining an efficient schedule? Do you skip meetings that you know will be pointless? In the morning, do you arrive earlier than your coworkers? To add to this discussion, post your comment to this article. Each week, the person who provides the best feedback to a Laws of Technical Management column will win a free TechRepublic coffee mug.