In Developer Relations, life moves pretty fast. Internal calls and meetings, troubleshooting live with developers using your tools, recurring sync up calls with development teams and other stakeholders... it piles up so fast and can quickly become overwhelming. So how can you control time in a way that you know you'll come out on top each week?
Here's a straightforward approach that's saved my bacon and my sanity:
1. HOLD A WEEKLY PLANNING & SCHEDULING SESSION
-Every Monday morning, before I've done ANYTHING, I get into weekly planning mode. To do this you need 2 things: a to-do list, and your weekly calendar, I use Google Calendar.
-Take your to-do list, and block out time in your calendar for each task. You'll get better at knowing how much time to allocate to each task.
-Time boxing: I rarely book more than an hour for each task. You'd be surprised how much you can squeeze into a focused 1-hour time block.
-For larger tasks, chunk those up into multiple 1-hour blocks, this helps you remain productive and flexible if you have to split up work blocks for whatever reason.
Pro Tip: Only schedule 30 minute meetings. Your team and especially your engineers will greatly appreciate it.
2. CHUNK MEETINGS TOGETHER
-Rather than scheduling a meeting here and there with 30 minutes of free time between to try and refocus and squeeze in work, try to chunk those meetings back to back.
-This helps you get in the zone faster with your meetings, and get back in the other zone once you're out of meetings.
Pro Tip: Your Engineers need as much solid dev time as they can get, so do your best not to interrupt dev time that with a meeting block. Instead, put your meeting time right before or right after another established meeting they have. DEV TIME IS PRECIOUS!
3. TAKE NOTES DURING MEETINGS & SHARE NOTES AFTERWARDS
-You'd be surprised how much time is wasted wondering where to pick things back up when working with your own team internally, or with external teams. Instead of trying to dig back into your memory banks and emails, take great notes instead. It will offload a TON of cognitive burden.
-For recurring (30 minute) internal meetings, I keep a running Google Doc with most recent meeting notes at the top.
Pro Tip: Add your meeting notes share doc to the recurring meeting calendar event so everyone knows where to find them.
4. PREP FOR MEETINGS IN ADVANCE
-Who has time to prepare anymore? I'm just gonna wing it! This isn't for all meetings, but I especially reserve this for my 2x/weekly internal DevOps calls where we have a LOT of information to go through in a short time.
-During my 30 minute prep-time I go over last week's meeting notes, copy+paste unresolved issues to this week's notes section, and fill out an agenda on the meeting notes doc that helps me stay on target and comprehensive during meetings.
-Preparation is an enormous help to keeping your mind fresh and keeping you up to speed with the most important details as projects evolve.
Pro Tip: ALWAYS have a Next Steps section to your meeting notes and you better assign somebody to take point on those tasks.
5. FILL OUT NEXT WEEK'S TO-DO LIST *THIS WEEK*
-What the what?! This is where the super power kicks in. This is where you become a true Time Lord!
-The thing is, you have limited inputs, your time is your most precious resource. If you keep piling new to-dos on your plate, other things are going to give way and go undone, or you're going to go into overtime and burnout, it's a slippery slope. There's a better way!
-As new tasks come in, find ways to squeeze them into this week without going into extra hours mode OR tack 'em onto next week's running to-do list.
-Then when you're back at Step 1 Weekly Planning Session next week, you'll start your Monday with a pre-populated task list to help you quickly prioritize your schedule.
6. GIVE YOURSELF 10% TIME
-Every week I try to give myself 4 hours of "me time". This is time to research, connect, network, self-improvement, do trainings, dogfooding, dev time, whatever to help you be better at your craft.
-It's so easy to get in a groove and do the same thing week in and week out, that might be how some folks operate but I'll die of boredom if I'm not constantly learning new things or pushing myself to grow.
-Make 10% a priority, it's a compounding investment in yourself and you, your team, company, and products will reap the dividends.
Pro Tip: If you can't get a 4-hour straight block, break it up! But you gotta commit to it.
Thank you for taking a few moments to be here, it's awesome you're taking time, your most precious commodity, to sharpen your blade.
You got this!