Time Management…

Over the past few months, I've been fighting a major issue with time management...

Since being promoted to Controller/Director of IT in September last year, I've been effectively doing the job of two people.  We made an attempt to hire someone to fill the Senior Accountant/Systems Administrator position, but it didn't work out.  So basically, I've been running a position down since that time.  Fortunately this will come to an end on May 12, when I have a new person joining us as Senior Accountant at Fairwinds.

The problem I'm fighting now is that I have a HUGE list of things to do, and I'm almost feeling paralyzed.  I have so many things on my list that I don't know where to start.  What I'd like to do is to try and place the major milestone items on a calendar, work out the estimated time to complete, and figure out how much of my time is committed.  From there it should leave me some holes that I can fill in smaller tasks around, or delegate.

The problem I'm working with is that I have some deadlines that are carved in stone, and some that can bump.  As I do primary systems support for Fairwinds, my job is very interrupt driven; something that is not going to go away since we've given up on hiring someone to be a systems/accountant hybrid.  In all the training I've had in management skills, time management and project management are areas that are lacking.

I'm curious to know what other people do?  What methods do you have for:

  • Keeping track of miscellaneous tasks? (I use Outlook 2007)
  • Prioritizing tasks?
  • Managing larger projects?
  • Balancing everything so that you don't feel that you just have sand slipping through your fingers?

10 thoughts on “Time Management…

  1. My schedule isn't nearly as hectic as yours seems to be, but I personally use a whiteboard for my scheduling.

    It's propped up right next to me on my desk where I can't help but see it. It's got a list of all the tasks I have to do, with a space for a check mark once they've been completed.

    It doesn't schedule my time, but it does make me very aware of everything that I have to do.

  2. I use Excel with a small db to track my projects. It also include a priority function which kicks in whenever the timeline for individuals projects changes.

    I did a test to switch to MS Project but it didn't work out well as I couldn't find my way around it...

    BTW, I hope You get two salaries as well 😉

    Take care and all the best from,
    Dennis

  3. Hi Cregan,

    I've tried whiteboards and paper lists. These can work until the list gets overwhelming, or until you start realizing that the tasks that are on there need to be broken down and broken down again. They can also be a pain because you have to keep re-writing them when you've started crossing things off or making big holes. The other thing that kind of hurts is that you can't access them from home when they are on your wall. I'm not against either, and have used them for many years, but I think I've outgrown them for where I'm at.

    I still use paper for my monthly working papers. Each account is listed, and I highlight each one as it comes in. It works quite well for the pre-defined system.

    Like you, Dennis, I've tried working with MS Project to set up my month end project. (I was really hoping to get a Pert Chart out of it to show where my bottlenecks are.) It became so complicated, so quickly, that I couldn't even read it any more. I gave up on that software as overkill.

    I've recently moved to Outlook for tracking tasks. The biggest issue I face there is that I have over a full screen of tasks, many that still need to be broken down. Some are quick ones, some major projects, but with so many on the list, trying to figure out where to start is a real challenge. Setting deadlines for them at this point is a joke, as they all seem to be urgent.

    It's a real quandry, that's for sure.

  4. Okay, Mr. Microsoft MVP for Excel... 😉 Sounds like a good project to make in Excel. What would be your parameters? What kind of things do you track for your tasks? Are you reminder-based? Or maybe a small VB-based app..

    Too bad about Project. I was thinking that when reading your first post. I really enjoy my Outlook mobile for tasks. Very simple, but effective.

  5. Let me just put that on my list...

    Seriously though... I'm not sure. That is my biggest issue. I'm trying to figure out how to do this. If I knew, I'd already be building something. 🙁

  6. Here's the short version of what I do: I have one 8.5x11 sheet of plain white paper for every task that I have to do. At the top center I put a short title. At the top right I put the date. Below the title, I put any background information about the task - from zero words to a paragraph (or some bullets). Below that, it's either a date followed by what happened or "NA" followed by a specific next action.
    Then I have folders labeled Tomorrow, This Week, This Weekend, Later, and Someday. I put the sheet and any attached supporting documentation into either my inbox or one of these folders. Every morning, I pull out my Tomorrow folder, prioritize, put it in my inbox, and start working on it. Every evening, I review all the folders (and anything remaining in the inbox) and quickly refile as necessary (it takes 5 minutes).
    If you've ever read Getting Things Done by David Allen, you'll recognize that my system is an offshoot of that. If you like, I'll send you my copy of the audiobook.

  7. Hey Ken,

    Sorry to hear you have to be taking on two jobs. I hope you can find someone that will pass your multifactoral job interview process (although I am making fun, I do admire your process greatly).

    I really like Dick Kusleika's method, actually. I may just adapt that for myself. Thanks Dick Kusleika!

    For me, I usually have sticky notes on my keyboard which typically start to "come up" off of the keyboard and it bothers my hands as I'm typing which CONSTANTLY reminds me of what I need to get done. That's the best for me, something to be in my face or pestering me to remind me it's there. I know I don't have as much as you do, so I wouldn't advise the "stickies" method (plus like you said, you can't view them at home...but why would you work at home? [that's rhetorical, btw]). But just something to be "in your face". And just have it organized like Dick Kusleika.

    And if you're using outlook, do you have it sync'd with your phone? That could help too...

    And sometimes there are too many factors that can go into a single task. For example, when I need to speak with the Engineering Manager at my job, I KNOW I have to bother her in the morning, before all of her day is filled over the brim. So certain tasks that I need to get done that I need to get with her about, I have to reserve for the morning. So, it can get pretty tough to prioritize everything correctly. Or maybe you can find some way to create an algorithm to determine a given task's priority rating. That could be an interesting project for you...oh damn! I just gave you another task with high priority =) sorry Ken!

  8. Pingback: The Ken Puls Blog » Blog Archive » Job Opening at Fairwinds (again)…

  9. Maybe you could use MS Groove... I've heard its a watered down version of MS Project with some other cool features for working with teams.

    Cheers,
    Danny

  10. Hi Danny,

    Thanks for the thought. I have used Groove, but I don't know if it's really right for this purpose. It does work well as a colaboration platform, but doesn't really have any built in scheduling/time managmeent software to it.

If you have a comment or question about the blog post content, please feel free to post it here. If you need help adapting this solution to your own needs, please post in our free help forum.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *