Time management can often be a work in progress. With so many techniques out there, it’s often a case of trial and error to see which one works best for you. In this post, I’ll be sharing my experiences with managing my Android development team’s efficiency. I’ll also explore the new-to-me time management technique that I’ve been favouring of late, the Eisenhower Matrix.
As Christian said in his latest post on how to successfully manage a software development team, our projects are often broken down into an extensive series of tasks and responsibilities.
When you manage a team, you should always try to facilitate as opposed to dictate – helping team members whenever they’re in need, easing doubts, tackling challenges whenever they arise and assigning appropriate tasks to relevant team members.
These are all behaviours that I try to uphold to the best of my ability in order to help my team stay motivated.
When there are so many cogs in the machine, and only so many hours in a working day, it’s easy to build a backlog of tasks. When I first started managing my team, I tried to rely on my memory when it came to dividing my time. I quickly began to realise that it wasn’t the most productive of approaches as I soon forgot things.
To combat my memory lapses, I decided to start annotating the tasks I needed to address and accomplish, moving from one task to the next as and when I completed them. Whilst this approach may work for some, it wasn’t appropriate within a development environment. Some tasks can be relatively large in size but perhaps less important to address than their smaller counterparts. It failed to address the scale of tasks and the priority that each required. I also struggled to keep track of my progress along the way.
In search of better time management, I created a Trello board with columns that allowed me to keep track of the different states of the tasks as well as allowing me to reorder them when needed.
It also gave me a clear overview of all of my pending tasks.
Here’s an example board:
The Trello approach worked relatively well but I felt as if there was definite room for improvement.
For instance, there were some days where my to-do list was unrealistic and it made me feel as if I wasn’t achieving my goals. I would definitely return to this technique in the future, however, in order to make my boards more concise so that I could get a more accurate picture of what needed to be done.
During my quest for time management enlightenment, I read about the Eisenhower Matrix – a technique that helps you to organise your tasks into four categories depending on how important or urgent they are.
It is, of course, named after the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Before becoming President, he served as a general in the United States Army and as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II. He also later became NATO’s first supreme commander.
During his service, he made tough decisions on a regular basis regarding where their focus should be. This led him to invent the world-famous Eisenhower principle, which helps its users to prioritize tasks by urgency and importance.
The Eisenhower Matrix is quite simple to achieve.
You have four boxes. Each one corresponds to a group of tasks. These tasks are then organised, by urgency and importance, into the following categories:
These are all the tasks that should be done immediately and independently.
Tasks from the Schedule block will find themselves nestled in this box if you don’t manage your time efficiently, as tasks that weren’t necessarily urgent to begin with gain immediacy over time.
Unexpected issues that arise will also find themselves in this box. Think of it as your code red.
Example: Reviewing pull requests that would unblock teammates.
This second box should house the majority of your tasks, in order to help reduce stress and work effectively.
There’s a risk, of course, that tasks housed in this box could easily be promoted to the aforementioned quadrant if they aren’t scheduled ahead of time.
Go careful and try not to overwhelm yourself.
Example: Planning discussion topics for the next tech meeting.
These smaller tasks, whilst time-sensitive, aren’t paramount for you to specifically cross off.
These are the kind of tasks that you’re required to complete in order to achieve the tasks mentioned in quadrants one and two but can be delegated to other team members to save on time.
You should keep track of the progress of these tasks through email, telephone or meetings to be sure that progress is being achieved as expected.
Example: Go to a meeting in which you would mostly observe as opposed to actively engage.
The tasks, for the most part, are distractions and are often undertaken when you’re trying to avoid completing the more urgent and important ones.
Cross these tasks off your list, guys.
Example: Surfing the internet for answers/entertainment/inspiration/enlightenment.
The Eisenhower Matrix is still a fairly new technique for me.
I plan on applying it to my daily working life and aim to report back with my findings in due course. I’ll be sure to consider both the positives and negatives and suggest improvements that need to be made.
I have relatively high hopes for this time management approach as the separation of quadrants limits the risk of repeating the focus issues I experienced when using Trello.
Wish me luck!
Looking for more productivity tips? Check out our archives:
Have you tried the Eisenhower technique? If not, what are your go-to time management tips? Tweet us and we’ll be sure to retweet the responses!
We Are Mobile First is a digital product agency based in Barcelona helping to transform businesses in a mobile-first world. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Medium to be notified of our future posts and stay up-to-date with our company news. We share weekly content on everything from how to successfully lead a software development team to how to create a container framework.