Time Management Simplified

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Aug 06, 2023
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Time Management Simplified

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Recently, a friend of mine called me saying her son, who is studying in college, needed help on a very urgent basis. I agreed to help. He and his student group wanted to discuss answers to specific time management questions. They also wanted to know some industry tools or personal productivity tools one may use. Later they said that my answers were helpful to them. So let me share with you those questions and answers.

Question 1: How do you prioritize tasks and manage your time effectively to ensure important deadlines are met?

  1. Stay in line with the overall scope, big picture roadmap and related timelines all the time.
  2. Know your most productive time and plan your tasks according to it, unless it is a collaborative effort for which I have to plan around other people’s most productive time as well.
  3. Plan for no more than 3 top tasks for a day, and make sure I complete those during my most productive hours.
  4. Always strive to be punctual; the habit goes a long way.
  5. Keep stakeholders informed of your task status, and report impediments/dependencies/blockers with respect to any other tasks/team members. Reporting at the end of the day, or any other logical point during the day, is fine. If it is a critical matter, it has to be done asap.
  6. Break tasks down until they are measurable and clear (especially so for complex tasks).

Question 2: What strategies do you use to avoid procrastination and stay productive throughout the day?

  1. Turn off all phone notifications, even the door bell if you’re working from home, and especially while working on crucial tasks — it really helps. Use the ‘Focus Mode’ on your phone effectively to determine when to check missed calls, notifications, etc.
  2. Build recreation windows throughout the day. This will also prevent burnouts.
  3. Be mindful of the time I may be slipping into or wasting. Bring attention to the focus line.
  4. Once the top tasks, or the most complex/most important, are done in my productive window, I am freed up to plan for easier tasks on the go or during my leisure time.
  5. Sometimes tasks are a little mundane and I do feel like postponing those. However if it is a must task, I consciously motivate myself to do it no matter what. Trying to the same thing differently or creatively also helps.
  6. Needless to say, humor is a very important ingredient, and it helps me shake off resistance to boring and mundane tasks. Imagine how diligently Tom and Jerry or Donald Duck keep doing some seemingly mundane tasks with fun and curiosity. They never seem to get tired or bored. Then why should we? :)

Question 3: How do you handle unexpected setbacks or changes in a project while still maintaining the project timeline?

  1. Life is agile, uncertainty and change are constant. We don’t have to just resist when setbacks or unwelcome changes are impending. I have always tried to remind myself of this as much as I can.
  2. Understand the kind of change and the impact of that change. Assess the effect it will have on systems or people.
  3. Communicate the impact and consequences through meeting and decide your next course of action or solution measures.
  4. Sometimes there is no time to get a consensus from everyone, nor is there a need for one. I follow my gut and intuition to take charge of the action items I have decided, as the lead in certain areas. On teams, generally everyone is an expert in their own area too. Respecting each other’s areas becomes extremely important in such situations. Indeed, this is a call for team spirit.
  5. Picking up the most important tasks is important here.
  6. If nothing can be done about it, communicate the risks involved. Go back to your scope or roadmap and change it if it’s deemed important.

Question 4: How do you delegate tasks and assign responsibilities to team members to ensure an efficient use of everyone’s time and skills?

I have generally led small teams in the capacity of senior BA/BPM consultant and Quality Lead. I’ll share a few ideas around how to assign tasks here, especially working with smaller teams.

  1. I assign tasks as per a team member’s expertise and availability and as per the urgency of the task.
  2. For ensuring progress, I always find daily check-ins (agile) very helpful.
  3. Often, a short 10 to 20 minute impromptu meeting helps too, instead of sending enormous chats and waiting for someone to respond.
  4. If the team is facing any blockers and needs my facilitation, I take that as the high priority on my plate, as otherwise it would affect the progress.
  5. Just in case, I do not have expertise in the area where my team is needing help on, I take a quick action in contacting the right expert who can help with it.

Question 5: How do you balance short-term and long-term goals when managing your time and the time for your team?

  1. For short term goals, I like to consciously shift my focus to only the next immediate task or requirements (the things happening over the next week or two). It is easier said than done, but it’s still worth a mention.
  2. Using agile ways such as daily check-ins, stand up meetings, and retrospectives helps.
  3. Using white boards (I have one real white board with a tripod at home) helps immensely too. A physical white board can be used to take down notes to track updates, see a visual overview, etc.
  4. For long term goals, use vision documents, a simple bulleted presentation, or visual representations such as a roadmap or a mind-map. It is important to have something to see and keep ourselves motivated towards: what we do and what we do not do, both count.
  5. Having a bird’s eye view, as well as a detailed view, is an art. I love to work on this art continually. Maybe there is no trick as such but just an ability to switch the context on the here and now to what is the future state.

Question 6: What tools or techniques do you use to track progress and identify ways to improve time management strategies?

  1. Start with the simple things: I have always found simple applications, such as Notepad, very useful in tracking day-wise updates of the entire project or product. It can even provide you with a complete chronological progress of the work, plus it is lightweight.
  2. To-do lists, of course. Just again combined with Notepad.
  3. Kanban apps such as Trello for tracking ‘to be done’, ‘work in progress’ and ‘done’ tasks.
  4. Cloud based tools such as Jira or Monday for task/project/product management.
  5. Collaborative steps such as tagging the team, assigning/reassigning tasks, highlighting dependencies, are very useful too.
  6. Using the start time, end time and status of the tasks, and using sub-tasks for complex tasks.

On an Ending Note

Coming to think of it, managing time is both an art and a science. I may not be the best at it and yet I am continually improving.

I think any writer derives immense satisfaction through true expression of his or her own ideas on a given subject. The expression also comes with a hope that the reader will get benefited in some way.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas too.


Author: Swati Pitre, CBAP®

Swati Pitre, CBAP®, is Sr. Business Analyst, Consultant and Trainer with 20+ years of industry experience across various domains and geographies. Her specialties include Process Improvement, BPM, Predictive Analytics, Product Development, Quality, and Governance. She undertakes various training courses such as CBAP®/CCBA®/ECBA® Prep Courses, Comprehensive BA Job oriented Course, Agile BA Course, and several other customized courses. She is also a public speaker and has completed Level 4 of Effective Coaching Pathway at Toastmasters International.

 

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