Time management strategies for the IT pro

Time is the one finite resource we have in IT. It’s also one of the scarcest resources in our line of business. How effectively are you managing your time? Are you plagued by constant interruptions? Does management expect you to douse every IT-related fire that comes your way? Does it feel like you’re getting a lot done, but you’re not doing anything particularly well?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone, and you do have a choice in the matter. Once you realize that time is your most important asset, it becomes clear that you have to be stingy about what you take on. Start by analyzing your current workload and how you respond to new tasks. Focus on your highest-payoff tasks; these are the most urgent and important issues and they’ll have a measurable impact on your business. When you begin prioritizing things this way, it will help your career tremendously.

There’s a universal law known as

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relentless incrementalism. Simply stated, it means doing small things over time that add up to serious long-term outcomes. Getting started on a project or task will build your momentum, and a good personal approach will help you accomplish immediate IT needs as well as your long-term IT career goals.

Beware, though, of one thing when it comes to time management: Don’t become complacent and believe that it’s OK to goof off on the job. Mismanaging your time is a proven method for getting very little done. Wasting time can ultimately lead to losing your job to someone else who is interested in adding value to the business.

Sure, watching YouTube videos, interacting with friends on Facebook and posting comments on Slashdot can give you a great social and emotional boost, but, in the end, they contribute little toward helping you accomplish what needs to be done. Downtime is fine, and we need it. Just save your downtime moments for the appropriate time and place.

Also, don’t let your computing devices enslave you. Do not immediately answer every phone call you get or read every email as soon as it pops up in your inbox. Some things are urgent and you can’t hide from co-workers who poke their heads in your cubicle, but just remember to always be smart about your choices.

If you follow these tips, your colleagues will notice that you have control of your time. Being an organized IT professional who consistently hits and exceeds the mark because of skillful time management is a great way to build credibility and get others on your side. If you resolve to develop your time management skills, then more than likely every aspect of your life will improve. You can make more money and have more down time.

Ask yourself if what you’re doing right now is the absolute best use of your time. If not, think about what is and focus your efforts there. It’s that simple. The hard part is the self-discipline it takes to make that happen.

Kevin Beaver is an information security consultant, expert witness and professional speaker at Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. With over 21 years of experience in the industry, Beaver specializes in performing independent security assessments revolving around information risk management. He has authored/co-authored eight books on information security, including The Practical Guide to HIPAA Privacy and Security Compliance and the newly-updated Hacking for Dummies, 3rd edition. In addition, he's the creator of the Security On Wheels information security audio books and blog providing security learning for IT professionals on the go. Kevin can be reached at www.principlelogic.com, and you can follow in on Twitter at @kevinbeaver.

This was first published in December 2010

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