Time management is a constant challenge for all EMs. And as an EM everybody wants a piece of you, right? This can be especially overwhelming for new managers. I will share tips, tactics, and strategies to get things done based on over 65 interviews of engineering managers at https://managersclub.com, and my personal experience. Topics include planning your day, time boxing, emails, calendar management, to-do lists, and effective meetings.
Lead Dev Meetup - Mountain View - May 2, 2019
Time Management for
Get Stuﬀ Done and Not Drown
Vidal Graupera, May 2019 @ Lead Developer Meetup
● Tips and More Tips
● Resources and Wrap up
● A bit about me… Always been interested in this… my mission
● Everybody wants a piece of you, right? Never enough time….
● Can be overwhelming especially for new managers!
● Time management is a constant challenge for all EMs. Top concern of
managers I interviewed on managersclub.com
● “What’s your work day like and how do you manage your time, emails, etc.?”
● How to not drown! And how to scale your eﬀorts and be eﬀective without
brute force putting in more time as team and scope grows.
● Share what I’ve learned and also picked up from interviewing over 70 EMs
● A collection of techniques and strategies that may help you
● Suggest some tweaks to your human management software
● Some of these items may also apply to ICs!
● Everyone has the same amount of time
● You will not get everything done!
● Manager’s schedule vs maker's schedule is very diﬀerent, see article by Paul
● You have to be really conscious of how you manage other people’s time.
● Analogy. Since we are in tech there are things we can learn from computers to
avoid thrashing and bricking ourselves. Try to not touch things more than once
if possible, e.g. avoid memory swaps.
● Parkinson's Law “Work expands so as to ﬁll the time available for its
completion.” -> Time Boxing.
The Fallacy of Multitasking
● Very tempting. It’s a myth that this works.
● Human beings are single threaded
● Subject much research, e.g. American Psychological Association
● Your eﬀective IQ goes down by 10% on these tasks!
● Errors go up
● Don't do fast task switching for anything really important, save for routine stuﬀ,
ﬁlling out forms, or don’t do it
● IMO better for focus on 1 thing at a time. Apply 80/20
● Learn to love internal interruptions: they’re often your job
● Interruptions from your team, your boss, your peers are almost always
important. You are an unblocker.
● Shutting out the world was what made you successful as a coder
● Inviting interruptions is what makes you successful as a manager
● Very diﬀerent from makers schedule
● Be strict with external interruptions from 3rd parties, vendors, recruiters, etc.
● Quickly scan for ﬁres. Priority one: Can I unblock anyone or another team?
● Work toward acting on an email when you read it – delegate it, reply to it, trash
● 80/20 rule. Can I answer it quickly now even imperfectly - 1 sentence and not
have to come back later to avoid swapping? Don’t leave anyone waiting.
● Turn oﬀ all alerts. If you can, only review a few times a day at ﬁxed intervals.
Block time for communications. Keep this time sacred.
● Inbox Zero & Slack Zero with as SLA
● Avoid “texting” via email. Limit back and forth. Ineﬃcient. Kill oﬀ long email
chains. Call a meeting.
● Filters and rules
○ Emails addressed only to you, or where you are named
○ Emails from my manager and manager’s manager
○ Emails from my team(s) and my peers
○ Emails with “Action Required” or Invite to Edit or Comment
○ Automated emails and newsletters -> File
● Last resort declare email bankruptcy
● Whatever happens…. Your Calendar is not the enemy
● Scan calendar ﬁrst thing, which meetings can I skip, cancel, etc.?
● Defrag calendar, popular tip
● Schedule like items together, e.g. 1:1’s but e.g. not more than 3
● Themes by day of week, e.g. Monday focus on 1:1s, Tuesdays on Project A
● Defensive calendaring; avoid temptation to over schedule your day
● Plan breaks for unplanned work and add (do not schedule) DNS blocks.
Don’t brick yourself. Put lunch, travel time, etc. on calendar
● Decline meeting and send representative. Delegate as learning opportunity.
More on Calendar
● Declare a no meeting day, e.g. No Meeting Weds is popular
● Don’t only schedule “interruptions,” e.g. doctors appointments and meetings.
Block out time for signiﬁcant tasks in calendar, otherwise when will you do
them? E.g. writing, reviewing docs, etc.
● Color code your calendar for easy scanning
● Set meetings with your future self to get work done, or to check in with people
● Consider using an asset allocation strategy
● Develop a Time Map showing a picture of when you’d like to do each of your
major activities during a normal week, e.g. spend 20% of time on recruiting
● End of week review on Friday or Sunday
● Meetings are often the main work up to 80% of time
● Learn to love meetings! Get good at them to improve eﬃciency & reduce
need for more meetings!
● Running eﬀective meetings is super important (book recommendation)
● Action items, agendas, meeting notes, etc. “If there are no notes and AI, then
meeting never happened.”
● End early and return time to people! Super appreciated.
● Keep short (Parkinson's Law)
● Laptops down. Take note of how many people are not paying attention.
● Regularly send surveys after meetings to improve them. Rate 1-10.
Eisenhower Matrix (EM version)
Adapted from a system used by
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
and later popularized by
Stephen Covey, as the “Time
● Create a daily “TO DO” list of the things I want to accomplish TODAY usually
1-3 items. Very popular technique.
● To-Do lists and apps are very popular
● Beware: todo lists can quickly grow long and become overwhelming. They do
not have a sense of time so instead put items on calendar
● Create checklists, daily and weekly so things don’t slip through the cracks
● Pro-tip consider a Personal Kanban Board! Beneﬁts limit WIP, visualize in
progress, blocked, waiting, etc.
Personal Kanban Board
Tips & Ideas
● Get in early before everyone else and things get busy or plan it out night
before. Most common manager technique.
● “Work late night” e.g., stay late on Mondays to get week oﬀ to strong start and
● Think what is the most important thing I can do, or that no one else can do or is
able to do
● Make time to check in with staﬀ to get ahead of problems.
● Always leave at least 30 min a day unscheduled
● Exercise and meditation to keep energy
● Become a faster typer
● Get an autocomplete app like TextExpander
● Hide if you must, leave your desk and book a conference room to work with
focus, e.g. writing perf reviews
● You are most productive 2-4 hours after waking up. Don’t squander that time
with e.g admin stuﬀ, routine staﬀ meeting, etc. Use it for deep, creative work
work. Avoid getting sucked into email and calendar ﬁrst thing.
● Capture system. Get things out of your head it’s stress inducing. (GTD). I carry a
paper notebook and Evernote.
● If you can do it in less than 2 minutes, just do it. (Getting Things Done = GTD)
Books on “Time Management”
● Getting Things Done by David Allen
● When: The Scientiﬁc Secrets of Perfect Timing
● The Checklist Manifesto
● Personal Kanban
● The 7 Habits of Highly Eﬀective People
● The Surprising Science of Meetings
Thanks for your time! I hope you found this useful.