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November 26, 2019

5 Ways Busy IT Managers Save Time and Stay Productive

A Time-Strapped IT Manager’s Guide to Maximizing Time

Time is one of the only things in life that you can’t buy more of. And if you’re a busy IT manager in a growing company, trying to make ends meet within the strict parameters of a limited schedule is frustrating and stressful. But with the right habits and mentality, you can do more with what you have available.

5 Super Practical Tips for Better Time Management

According to SnackNation’s 2018 State of the Office Manager report – which gathered feedback from managers in nearly 70 different industries – 37.5 percent of respondents cited “an intense workload/not enough time” as their top challenge. This was true despite the fact that people are working longer hours than ever before. (Nearly half of respondents cited working more than eight hours per day, while 14 percent said they put in 10-plus hours per day.)

In other words, you aren’t the only one who finds productivity to be elusive. No matter how experienced or skilled you are, trying to get work done in the midst of distractions, time-sucks, and unforeseen circumstances is a very real challenge. But here are some practical ways you can improve your time management skills and consistently maximize output:

1. Schedule in Advance

A “wait and see” approach is a recipe for disaster. You should never show up to the office on a Monday morning – or any morning for that matter – without a schedule in place. You don’t need to account for every minute of every day, but there should be some structure.

When scheduling your day/week, avoid dead pockets of time. A dead pocket is a 15-to- 45-minute window of time where you don’t have anything scheduled in between tasks/meetings. It’s not quite long enough to do anything meaningful, yet still represents a valuable chunk of your day. Just a few of these dead pockets in a single week can lead to hours of wasted time.

The best approach is to schedule meetings and tasks back-to-back with just 10 minutes between them. This gives you just enough time to move from one task to the next, without squandering precious minutes of your day. A good calendar app can help you visualize your schedule and eliminate dead pockets.

2. Use Task Management Software

When you have multiple projects going at a time, trying to manage your staff and keep teams focused is a major challenge. But when collaboration suffers, so does output.

“There’s nothing worse for project managers than to see every team member moving in a different direction,” digital marketer Mohammad Ali writes. “Team cohesion is pivotal for project success, and it is the project manager’s job to unite team members to work toward a common goal. That is possible only when you collaborate on projects and encourage input from all team members.”

Task management software is the perfect solution for improving collaboration and keeping people on track. Some of the top task management solutions on the market include Monday, Nifty, Quire, Wrike, and Asana.

3. Use the Five-Minute Rule

“In the many years I've spent as a cognitive-behavioral therapist, I've seen self-sabotage come in all shapes and sizes. But procrastination stands out as a favorite modus operandi for making ourselves miserable,” psychologist Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. writes.

Procrastination comes in a variety of shapes and forms. While we all put things off, each individual’s procrastination is the byproduct of a proprietary blend of factors that include deep-seated issues like perfectionism, anxiety, guilt, and fear. The long-term solution to defeating productivity is to tackle these elements that are resting below the surface. The short-term solution may be as simple as implementing one of Bonior’s favorite tricks: the five-minute rule.

The five minute rule goes like this: You pick a task that you need to work on and vow to only do it for five minutes. Once the five minutes is up, you move on to another task. How is this helpful, you may ask? Well, it forces you to get over the biggest hurdle – starting. Procrastination is fueled by a fear of getting started and the five-minute rule compels you to break through this invisible hurdle and make progress. And once you start, you’ll find that five minutes can easily turn into 10 or 20 minutes. Thus, what begins as a simple exercise can quickly morph into a tool for increasing productivity.

4. Be Smart With Errands

The days of completely separating personal life from work life are gone. Work-life balance is a huge priority in today’s business world and that means there’s some inevitable overlap between the two. If you’re working longer hours, this means you have to fit some tasks into your workday that were once reserved for days off. The key is to be smart about how you manage these errands and tasks.

Take, for example, something as menial as selling a car. It’s something you have to do every few years, yet typically requires a lot of your time. But you won’t have to eat up an entire day off running from dealer to dealer and negotiating prices. By finding a company that purchases cars for cash, you can have a buyer come to the parking lot of your office and purchase it on the spot.

Or what about exercise? You know you need 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity every day, yet you don’t always have time to squeeze it in before or after work. What if you could optimize your work schedule so that you’re able to get in a quick workout during your lunch hour? Not only does this help you stay active, but it also provides a nice mental break from the demands of the job. Again, it’s all about strategically integrating tasks and errands into your daily routine in a way that doesn’t interrupt your flow.

5. Establish Minimum Thresholds

“Managing time efficiently, when you’re a perfectionist like me, is easier said than done. It’s hard to fight the urge to make everything perfect. But the higher I’ve gotten in my career, the more I’ve had to come to my senses,” one high-level manager writes. “When you prioritize work, set a minimum threshold that you need to accomplish in a given day or week.  Disruptions happen.  Don’t sweat.  Get the minimum done and move on.”

Setting minimum thresholds allows you to differentiate between what you need to get done and what would be nice to get done. It ensures you don’t get so caught up in the details that you forget to attack what truly matters.

Regain Control Over Your Schedule

You can’t control everything that happens on a daily basis. Servers crash, employees show up late, software updates take longer than expected…there are potential pitfalls at every turn of every day. You can, however, control your approach. By adopting the right mentality and making smart, proactive decisions about how you utilize your energy and optimize your schedule, you can enhance your efficiency and eliminate many of the problems that so often ensnare well-intentioned IT managers. Good luck!

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