The IT industry itself has a wide range of companies offering different services and products, each with the intent to make life easier and more progressive for everyone. However, this also means that the competition is vast and ruthless. Everyone is rushing to be the top dog of their niche, inspired by the likes of Google and Amazon.
And to be among the best, these companies need to work and think like the best. They need the best organizational skills in order to stay in the race. With this article, we set out to debunk some myths on time management by listing strategies that can be an IT company’s game-changer.
Don’t Manage Time – Manage Energy and Focus
You can keep on with the mantra that we all have 1440 minutes a day, and should be careful how we use them. But it’s very rarely said that we’re not supposed to manage time as such. There is no perfect time management.
It’s more about managing our focus and energy within that time constraint. Google’s productivity trainer Laura Lae Martin made a brilliant point on productivity. She stands by the fact that you don’t have to fill every minute of your day with tasks. Try to learn what levels of productivity you (and your team) operate with, then schedule tasks according to peak performance hours.
Choose the Right Tools
If you haven’t started using a time tracking/productivity tool, get started. Make it a company-wide task. Everyone gets to pitch in their suggestions on an app or software they feel would be the most beneficial for the team.
In this way, you don’t spend hours scouring for that one suitable productivity app. Your employees get to participate in the process, which is always good from a managerial aspect. You can choose from a variety of time trackers and project planners together with them, and watch their motivation, as well as their productivity, boosts up.
Identify Your Most Important Task
Do you know your company’s most important task (MIT) right now? Is it a specific product? Growth? A marketing campaign?
Define the one task that will push your business forward, and make it known to everyone. Break up the MIT into smaller tasks, then redirect most of your efforts to them. Even if they turn out to be more time consuming, their long-term payoff will be greater.
Additionally, make the MIT tasks a priority. If every other task gets done rather than the important ones, less energy is invested in goals that matter more for your company.
Make Action Plans With MCII
MCII stands for mental contrasting with implementation intentions. In short, it is a time management strategy that follows a few simple steps:
- Visualize the desired, positive goal (successful project launch, productive meeting, etc);
- Compare the goal with the current reality;
- Identify the things holding you back from achieving the goal;
- Create a step-by-step action plan to reach the goal.
Visualization allows for a clear-headed overview of the obstacles between you and the goal. It requires you to think about roadblocks in advance and prepare for them, instead of handling them on the go. In itself, this is a major time-saving strategy.
Batch Your Tasks
For a smoother workflow on your most important tasks, try using task batching. It’s a simple technique of organizing by priority: either by the deadline proximity, similarity, the effort required to complete them, and so on. This is achieved by utilizing labels.
For example, your IT support team will have labels like “bug”, “inquiry”, “feature request”, “remote support”, and “subscription”. They sort incoming tasks from users into these labels. Tasks that are batched together get finished quicker, as it creates a natural workflow.
Apps like Clockify have this feature mastered. The app allows you to overview tasks that are similar in difficulty, relevancy, or urgency, depending on your labels. It’s better than having to hop between two wholly unrelated tasks, causing you to lose momentum.
Practice Deep Focus
Multitasking is a construct many have rejected nowadays. It has been proven that productivity drops the moment we shift our focus from one task to another. Which is why we’ve more recently turned to re-learning deep focus on a single task at a time.
To make good use of deep focus, employees are encouraged to eliminate distractions. One of many studies has shown that interruptions as short as mere 3 seconds doubled the chances of an error in the task. This means every time an app notification dings, a coworker comes over to “ask a quick one”, or you get a call. To prevent mistakes that take more time to fix, introduce an office signal – a “do not disturb” sign, or a single red card on the monitor. Everyone should be free from unwanted, time-wasting desk visits.
Calculate Opportunity Costs
A lot of articles on time management advice learning how to say “no”. And we agree with that, wholly. However, there’s also much to be gained by comparing it with the economics term of the “opportunity cost”.
Whenever you’re presented with an opportunity, don’t rush into rejection. Calculate your opportunity costs by thinking about what you’ll give up if you take up the offer. For a new task or project to enter your workflow, something else needs to take a backseat. It’s important to know what you lose in this tradeoff, to help you make an informed decision.
There’s Always More to Do
We’ve said at the start that it’s important to manage your focus and energy, not your time. The same goes for expecting you and everyone else to put in crunch hours.
Work is never going to be finished. There are always new tasks, new fixes, small fires to put out – especially in production. This can result in you racking up to 12 hours in the office every day. Modern society glorifies workaholism, neglecting the fact it opens door to mistakes. Overworking doesn’t save time – it makes people slower, sloppier, and more prone to burnout. In the long run, it does more harm than good.
Teach everyone at the office to go home on time. Unless you’re faced with an immediate deadline, working exhausted makes for substandard results. Gauge your risks and reward and choose wisely.
Let Go of Perfection
Richard Branson, the founder and CEO of Virgin, advises entrepreneurs to learn how to delegate tasks early on. In pursuit of perfection, many will want to do even the smallest tasks, to ensure they’re done properly.
However, for the best results, you actually want to focus on things only you can do, which push the company further. Delegate smaller tasks to others. And while the results may be far from perfect the first time, learn to be satisfied with a good enough result.
Don’t fret over the little tasks, and delegate as much as you can. That way, you can use your time to work on the bigger picture.
Let Flexibility into Your Life
Every to-do list needs to have some breathing room. We shouldn’t sort tasks back to back, even though we may think it’s a good time management.
Leave time windows between different tasks, for example, half an hour after lunch, 15 minutes before leaving work, and so on. That way, you can deal with any unpredictable events. Otherwise, you would have to push back your schedule or rearrange tasks. That means calculating your opportunity costs to see which task you’ll have to trade in for managing the emergency.
Be flexible about your schedule to deal with situations stress-free, and without trading off any valuable time.
Time management is not about making more time in the day, or even doing as much as possible within the time constraints. It’s about learning how to use your energy and focus in the workplace. Especially with projects with deadlines – knowing exactly what your goals are, all the obstacles and steps to overcome them… there’s more to time management than just being as efficient as possible with your day. It’s about making smarter, bigger-picture choices.
Author bio: Marko Maric is a marketing manager specialized in digital marketing and SEO for SaaS. Over the years he has worked for several startups, as well as building his own personal brand by blogging on relevant online publications. Marko mostly covers topics that revolve around marketing, management, and productivity.