Time Management in an IT Environment

Being an IT engineer is hard work. You get bombarded from all directions. People coming up to you asking you requesting work to be done, emails constantly filling your inbox and tickets being assigned to you. Let’s not forget to mention your phone ringing off the hook asking you to action that “urgent” request that is stopping them accessing YouTube to watch the most famous cat video known to mankind. It is a non-stop race to finish your work, deliver a consistently high standard and ensure attention to detail is not compromised. This working environment is not only taxing, it’s also a fairly negative one for one main reason – people mostly call with bad news; something is broken or has stopped working. Somehow these issues need to be turned into a positive conversation with a solution while maintaining a smile on your face. That’s a lot of smiling for 8 hours!

My next door neighbour works in an emergency ward in a hospital. One of the most toughest environments on earth. It is life and death, all day, every day. Another negative environment, where people only come in with complaints, constant unhappiness and mostly no smiles. I find that IT environments are somewhat similar at times; of course nowhere near the life-death situation at hospitals, nor at the same intensity, however similar in terms of juggling multiple patients at the same time. An engineer has between 12-30 tickets at any given time; an engineer gets between 15-40 calls a day, has at least 5 people come to their desk to ask them a question  and they get around 40-100 emails a day. THAT is a serious work load day in day out.

It is hard work and you need to have some seriously good discipline, method and routines to get through your day. Each engineer has a different approach that works for them and suits them best. The following approach is written by one of our engineers Glyn Wilks, who delivers consistent results and has won employee of the month 7 times out of the 15 months he’s been with us.

  1. Don’t open Outlook. I plan the day before I start to ensure I have a clear idea of the billable work I need to complete.
  2. Limit admin time where possible (internal KPIs are based on customer billable time, admin is time spent on internal work or other internal activities).
  3. Recording time is crucial for our line of work. To record it accurately it needs to be done every half hour or even as it happens. Never leave it to a couple hours later to go back and enter time.
  4. Recording time takes time. There are notes to write and documents to attach. Ensure that you’re recording the time that it takes to record time. Take the time to write detailed notes. Your notes WILL help someone at a later date.
  5. When there is time left over from a ticket i.e. 0.1 units (we bill in 6min increments) it means I am a couple of minutes ahead. I use this to quickly stand up, stretch, kick the ball (we have a basketball ring in the office), or plan the next ticket.
  6. Proactively look for issues with clients that are ongoing if billable work is low. An example of this could be looking into server performance issues, what processes can be done better for the client, what are common issues that are becoming problems, etc. Create tickets from this and work on them.
  7. I am always looking at my queue and time sheets. This way I avoid SLA (another internal KPI that we have for ensuring the customer experience that we provide is consistent) breaches as best as possible and I know where I am up to in my calendar.

Of course there have been books written about the best ways to work. Some of the best ones I’ve read are: 7 Habits of Highly Effective people by Steven Covey, Power of habit by Charles Duhigg and Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. We hope the above 7 steps will provide you (specifically IT engineers) some direction for creating successful habits and disciplines. If you have any questions please feel free to comment below.

-Jawid Dadarkar and Glyn Wilks

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