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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, 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 • “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 • Deck: Images from Unsplash & pixabay