When you work in IT, there’s never a shortage of things to do. For folks who like to be busy, IT is a great place to be. But the workload can quickly become overwhelming, and it may often feel like you and your team are putting out fires and not productively working on other tasks that move the needle for your team or company. The trick is managing your team’s time effectively so the excessive pile of work gets done. These four time management strategies can help. Let’s get started.
1. Get your team to make traditional to-do lists, but take it up a level
This may seem obvious—and maybe it is—but the first step to effectively managing your team’s time is by getting them to keep track of the projects and responsibilities they’re expected to deliver on for the day, week, or even the month.
Tasks can come from anywhere: emails, Slack messages, help desk tickets, meetings, or your own discoveries. Your team needs to collect all those tasks from all of sources and put those tasks in a list they can track—whether it’s a spreadsheet, an app like Monday or Todoist, or a ticketing system.
The next step is to get your team to prioritize their tasks. Some tasks will be business critical—like there’s a serious network issue and no one can access the internet—and need to be addressed immediately. Other tasks will be focused on the future, like migrating to a new CRM system or upgrading network infrastructure. And there’s always other tasks that fall into neither bucket but are still important.
To prioritize their list, the Eisenhower Matrix is a good method to follow as it breaks the list down into four Ds:
- Do: Complete the task now (or as soon as possible)
- Defer: Complete it at a later time or date
- Delegate: Assign the task to someone else
- Delete: Remove the task from the list
Once their tasks are ranked in order of importance, your team can estimate how long each project or task will take to complete, organize their day or week around it, and populate their calendar with their tasks.
By setting aside strict times to work on specific tasks, they’ll be able to ensure they have time to complete their tasks for the day and week, and you have a tangible way to keep track of your team’s productivity.
2. Find ways to automate manual tasks that are taking up too much time
If you sit some members of your team down and discuss what they’re working on, you’ll likely find they’re just as swamped as you are. Networks need to be mapped and monitored, issues need to be resolved, and devices need to be backed up. And these tasks are likely eating up hours—sometimes even days or weeks—of your team’s time, when they could be left to a machine.
For example, Auvik’s cloud-based network monitoring and management software can help save time in several ways:
- Network mapping and documentation: As soon as Auvik’s deployed, the network map begins populating with device details like make and model, serial number, IP address, and the physical switchport the device is connected to. It doesn’t matter what it is—if it’s on the network, you’ll know what it is, where it is, and what it’s doing. And Auvik automatically updates in real-time to show you everything on the network, even as it evolves
- Network monitoring: With over 50 pre-configured alerts tuned to industry best practices, Auvik notifies you immediately to anything unusual happening on the network. Your team can proactively respond to network issues before a user submits a ticket, and you can fine-tune so you’re only receiving notifications when you need to respond.
- Configuration backups: Config backups take so much time that many teams do them once a month, once a quarter, or not at all. Auvik continually polls every network device for config changes, and when a change is detected, a backup is made, and every config version is stored in archive.
- Remote access: With remote tunneling, a remote browser, and an in-app terminal, Auvik also allows your team to remote access any device, which means your engineers won’t even need to leave their seat to troubleshoot a network issue.
3. Create standard operating procedures for common tasks
While documentation is often a dreaded responsibility as a leader, creating SOPs will allow you to step back from the day-to-day responsibilities and empower your team to be more efficient.
First, start by creating an SOP about… how to create an SOP. Then, identify a few responsibilities you consistently do, and document those. Once you have a standard for how you want your SOPs to look, you can encourage other members of your team to start documenting their processes for common tasks.
Eventually, you’ll have enough SOPs that outline and streamline common processes that your team doesn’t have to waste time figuring out which step to take next. Your lower level techs will also be able to pitch in, which will lighten the workload for your higher level techs and managers.
(As an added bonus, you can easily build Auvik into your SOPs).
4. Break your team into specific roles
Maintaining to-do lists, automating manual tasks, creating SOPs—easy enough, right? Well, this last strategy to free up tech time is a little less obvious, and it may require you to think outside of the management box. It’s all about rethinking how you approach role and responsibility separation on your team.
On Ep 042 of the Frankly MSP podcast, one guest shared how his team is divided into proactive and reactive roles. Seventy-five percent of his team is focused on proactive activities that are moving the business forward, while 25% of his team is focused on reacting to issues.
Fact is there’s always going to be more reactive stuff, and reactive stuff will always take priority over strategic, proactive tasks—unless you break it out. By separating his team into roles, he can ensure there’s always time to focus on strategic and proactive tasks. By doing the same, your team can focus attention and make progress on things that are important, but not urgent.
If dedicated proactive and reactive roles don’t work for your team, you can still benefit from the strategy by rotating proactive and reactive responsibilities by days or even half-days. Every person gets some time when they’re “on call” and some focus time for deep work.