Having great time management skills makes your life and your business run smoothly.
Several factors characterize a successful project, and one of them is a project that runs like clockwork. This can’t happen without proper preparation, and as a professional programmer, you’re likely to have more than one project on the go at a time, so you need to make sure that you’re on top of everything all at once. Add to that the fact that your working hours are probably very different to the traditional 9-5, so managing your time effectively is crucial for reducing stress levels and ensuring successful projects.
Project Planning Time Management Tips
One Bite at a Time
You may have heard the expression ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If you think of your project as your elephant, trying to tackle it as one whole task can seem daunting, and can leave you wondering where to start. By breaking the process down into smaller, bite-size chunks, you’ll not only find it easier to manage, but you’ll also be giving your full focus to each part of the process. A great trick that I learned from a business coach is to always work from the end to the start. This allows you to visualize the bigger picture or result, then fill in the details.
Avoiding procrastination is one of the key time management tips for programmers, but it can be very easy to fall into the procrastination trap, and I know this from experience! If you’re a champion procrastinator, try to set yourself timed goals to help you achieve everything you need to do, and feel free to reward yourself once each target has been achieved – for example, set yourself a target to complete a specific task within a specific timeframe, and if you achieve it give yourself an hour to go for a walk in the fresh air, catch up on your favorite TV show, or even book a post-event weekend away.
Some other useful strategies for beating procrastination are making to-do lists or tracking developer productivity tools, focusing on the positive impact of getting tasks completed, and vowing to only check your email/social media at two or three set points in the day.
Learn to Delegate
It can be difficult to let go of any part of planning your projects, especially when it’s your business, and it’s your name on the line if things don’t happen the way they should. But if you have a team, they’re there because you’ve personally chosen them, and you trust in their abilities, so make sure that you delegate whenever you can. If you struggle to decide what can and can’t be delegated, think about both the urgency and the importance of the task.
- If it’s urgent and important (for example, a crisis that could ruin your project), do it yourself, and do it now.
- If it’s important but not urgent (for example, longer-term planning for your project), either schedule it for a specific time or delegate it to someone else. If you leave it too long, it’s likely to fall under the important and urgent category.
- If it’s urgent but not important (for example, a request that requires your immediate attention but won’t affect your project), delegate it to someone else.
- If it’s not important or urgent – then ask yourself, why am I even doing this?
Make Every Minute Count
Rather than working 24 hour days in the run-up to the project because time is running out, try to make the most of whatever downtime you get during working hours. Waiting for a conference call to start? Use this time to read and answer emails. On your way to a meeting by train? Make the calls you need to double-check arrangements. By making the most of the time you have available to you during your working day, you’ll be managing your time in the most effective way possible.