Creative time management can save your sanity

One of the tools that has helped me more than anything in my career as a busy IT pro are good time management skills.

One of the tools that has helped me more than anything in my career as a busy IT pro are good time management skills.

Toward this goal, I learned to identify 10-minute tasks. These are things that you can literally do from start to finish in ten minutes. A 10-minute task is a great fill-in when you arrive at the meeting on time but no one else does and you can tick one more task off the list in time that would otherwise have been lost.

And speaking of meetings, even the best time managers can get totally derailed by meetings gone amok. You may not have much control over meetings conducted by others, but you can do something about the ones you have to run. I learned to schedule half-hour meetings designed to accomplish the task at hand in 15 minutes and allow the remaining 15 minutes to manage the parking lot. I started sending out the 15-minute agenda with the meeting notice and asking attendees to print it off and bring it to the meeting. Then I took out all the chairs in the conference room.

Yes, I know that by now you think I'm crazy. Probably, but crazy like a fox? My meetings were tighter and more organized; I had follow up notes on the same sheet as the agenda. Endless debate came to a screeching halt. People were less inclined to argue inconsequential points if they had to stand through the argument. Communication became more effective.

One of the things that went alongside this approach was to state decisions that needed to come out of the meeting up front. I also made sure that there was enough time for people to tell me if they didn’t feel that we had reached a point where we could make a decision.

Finally, I started to control the access that my business client had to my technical people. I know that sounds odd, but I stopped getting calls from my architect and programmers that they were getting instructions from business asking for changes to the requirements. I gained back hours of time every week by taking the time to explain to business that once we were signed off on the requirements, anything else was Phase Two. And business understood and respected that.

I still have days that spin out of control. IT isn’t an exact science. But I have them less frequently, and when I do, I check to be certain that I am following my own rules.

What time management tips can you share?