Time Management for Engineering Managers

Time Management for Engineering Managers

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.


Vidal Graupera

October 19, 2019


  1. Time Management for Engineering Managers Vidal Graupera, October 2019 @

    SV Code Camp @vgraupera
  2. Topics • Introduction • Concepts • Interruptions • Emails •

    Calendar • Planning • Meetings • To-dos • Tips and More Tips • Resources and Wrap up
  3. Introduction • A bit about me… Always been interested in

    this… & my mission • Never enough time…. • Can be overwhelming especially for new managers! • Time management is a constant challenge for all EMs interviewed on managersclub.com • “What’s your work day like and how do you manage your time, emails, etc.?”
  4. Concepts • Everyone has the same amount of time •

    You will not get everything done! • Manager’s schedule vs maker's schedule, article by Paul Graham • Be really conscious of how you manage other people’s time. • What we can learn from computers • Parkinson's Law
  5. The Fallacy of Multitasking • Very tempting. It’s a myth

    that this works. • Human beings are single threaded • Subject much research • Your effective IQ goes down by 10% on these tasks!
  6. Interruptions • 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. • OK to be strict with external interruptions from 3rd parties, vendors, social visits, etc.
  7. Emails • Inbox Zero - very popular • 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 it, etc. • 80/20 rule. • 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.
  8. Emails Continued • Filters and rules ◦ Addressed only to

    you, or where you are named ◦ From manager or manager’s manager ◦ From team(s) and peers ◦ With “Action Required” or Invite to Edit or Comment ◦ Code Reviews, Alerts, Outages, etc. ◦ Automated emails and newsletters -> File • Last resort declare email bankruptcy
  9. Calendar • Whatever happens…. Your Calendar is not the enemy

    • Scan calendar first thing, which meetings can I skip, cancel, etc.? • Defrag calendar • Schedule like items together, e.g. 1:1’s but not more than 3 • Themes by day of week, e.g. Monday 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. • Prep for meetings 1 day in advance
  10. More on Calendar • Decline meeting and send representative. Delegate

    as learning opportunity. • Declare a no meeting day, e.g. No Meeting Weds • Color code your calendar for easy scanning • Set meetings with your future self to get work done, or to check in with people. 2+ weeks out.
  11. Planning • 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. 20% on recruiting • End of week review on Friday or Sunday
  12. Meetings • Meetings are often the main work up to

    80% of time • Learn to love meetings! • Running effective meetings is super important • Action items, agendas, meeting notes, etc. “If there are no notes and AI, then meeting never happened.” • End early and return time to people! • Keep short (Parkinson's Law) • Laptops down. Take note of how many people are not paying attention. • Send surveys after meetings to improve them. • “Writing over talking” e.g. use Google docs
  13. Eisenhower Matrix (EM version) Adapted from a system used by

    General Dwight D. Eisenhower and later popularized by Stephen Covey, as the “Time Management Matrix”
  14. To-dos • Create a daily “TO-DO” list of most important

    1-3 items. • To-Do lists and apps are very popular • 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!
  15. Personal Kanban Board

  16. Tips & Ideas • Get in early before everyone else

    and things get busy or plan it out night before. • Or “Work 1 late night” e.g., stay late on Mondays to get week off to strong start and build momentum • Think what is the most important thing I can do, or that no one else can do or is able to do • Always leave at least 30 min a day unscheduled • Exercise and meditation to keep energy • Study and learn using Audio books will driving or commuting
  17. More Tips • Become a faster typer • Autocomplete app

    e.g. TextExpander • Leave your desk and book a conference room to work with focus, e.g. writing perf reviews • Most productive 2-4 hours after waking up. Don’t squander 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.
  18. 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
  19. Times Up - Wrap Up - Q&A Thanks for your

    time! I hope you found this useful. Contact Info • Twitter: @vgraupera • vgraupera@gmail.com Deck: https://managersclub.com/talks Images from Unsplash & pixabay