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BA Quicktips : Time Management

As business analysts, it’s essential that we manage time effectively. I’m sure we’ve all worked on projects when there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day. Not only do we need to manage our own time, but we also need to make the most of the time available with our users or other business stakeholders.  This can be a tough call sometimes!

Luckily, there are many reports, books and articles on the subject of time management which are full of useful and effective techniques.  Here are some I have personally found useful:

1. Plan & Prioritise: There can be a real temptation, especially when working on projects, to give attention to whoever “shouts” the loudest.  This isn’t always the best approach. Having a sound prioritisation mechanism is key, and putting together a to-do list can be incredibly effective.  Think about what tasks you realistically would like to achieve in a day, and order them by priority (high/medium/low).  Personally, I find just the act of thinking about what I need to do focuses my mind, and often helps me to remember those critical tasks that would otherwise be missed!

However, no “To Do list” is ever set in stone.  Things are likely to change as the day progresses. You  may need to adapt your plan and when this happens you can compare the new task against your prioritised list and decide when to carry it out.  You may decide to defer less urgent tasks, however if you do this, make sure you record this somewhere , perhaps in a diary or on a calendar.

2. Don’t be a slave to e-mail : E-mail is a wonderful tool, but can become a serious drain on time.  It  is very tempting to read (and respond) to e-mails as soon as they arrive. Consider closing your e-mail client and reviewing incoming e-mail at fixed points in the day. When you do read an e-mail, consider its priority – does it really need to be actioned right now? Then either:

– File it
– Delete it
– Action it
– Make a firm plan to action it later

3. Let phones ring: If you are working on an urgent task, consider diverting your phone to voicemail.   This places you firmly in control of your time, as you are far less likely to lose your train of thought if somebody calls. Clearly this isn’t always an appropriate option – so alternatively you might want to consider answering the phone but offering to call the person back at an agreed time.

4. Calculate the value of your time : It can be enlightening to place a pound (or dollar) value on your time, and you may find that this helps with decision making.  It doesn’t have to be the amount you actually earn, it might be a market rate or nominal value.  The point is that it makes it easier to make comparisons. For example, if you have been invited to an all day meeting, you now know the cost associated with attending. Will you derive enough benefit for the meeting to be justified, or would it be just as beneficial for you to only attend for an hour?

This technique may  also be useful when considering outsourcing or delegating.  For example, do you drive an extra 30 minutes to save £5 on your shopping?   It depends on how you value your time.[1]

5. Manage expectations : However hard you try you can’t work more than 24 hours a day!  (Seth Godin wrote a very eloquent blog article on this subject). Setting realistic expectations is of paramount importance, as is keeping people engaged throughout.  A delay that is expected is often significantly more palatable than one that is unexpected.

Time Management is a personal skill that I believe all BAs rely on. There is always room for improvement, and for those that ‘crack it’, the rewards are likely to include less stress and more leisure time. I believe the best way to use this material is as a guide to help find a method that really works for you.  Hopefully it will spark some inspiration!

Do you have any time management tips? I’d love to hear from you – please feel free to leave a comment, or contact me directly.

[1] Thanks to Peter O’Donoghue of Sales DNA for showing me the value of this tip – if you haven’t considered exploring sales training, it can be a great addition to a BA toolkit.  Many “sales” techniques can equally be applied outside of a “sales” situation!

3 thoughts on “BA Quicktips : Time Management”

  1. Hi Adrian,
    Your article is very useful and so proficient artifacts to manage time. I am so pleased with your topics and to be very particular “Plan & Prioritize” is excellent.
    2. Don’t be a slave to e-mail:
    So perfectly arranged and well elucidated. To add some more points, I have seen this habit of compulsion and exigency concerns on mail, badly hit lot of people. You can even see this manner of attitude to the senior most people in the project.
    One way to elucidate this is to make different folders with a specific name, say the project name as the folder and set your mail box to receive mails to the appropriate folders. This may productively diminish the time spent on trivial mails.
    I would like to append a most relevant topic over to complete this article.
    How much to Speak and how long to speak:
    Mostly commonly, all the BAs should have a competency of quick understanding and brief explanation of reasoning. Here we come with some problem on explaining.
    Explicate is as important as concise.
    On explaining a requirement it is a tendency that grows, to exemplify with examples. If the examples are not appropriate then, the example will exhaust the audience and even confuse to an extent that they will deviate from the subject. If the elaboration exceeds it may have a deliberate cause of expense which directly proportionate to an individual’s productivity and time. Also causes the scatter attention of audience and a mere depletion of BAs effort.
    So be simple and put it, to the point on notations. This will help you in explaining and avoiding mislaid sentences and interpretation. This will immensely save your time on discussion / presentation. This will also stand, when writing a requirement too.

  2. Hi Krithivasan,

    Many thanks for your comment, you have raised some very valuable points!

    I completely agree with you that written communication (e.g. requirements) should be as clear, precise and succinct as possible. This makes things so much easier for the reader, and careful use of language will help to avoid ambiguity in future.

    Rather than relying solely on the written word, I always think it is worth using diagrams or pictures where possible. I personally find that a well-drawn diagram can very quickly and clearly portray a very complex situation (which would otherwise take hundreds if not thousands of written words). This can be a real time saver. However, not everyone “tunes in” to diagrams, so I tend to accompany diagrams with a brief written description.

    Thanks again for your comment,


  3. Pingback: How to avoid the silent danger: Burnout! | Adrian Reed's blog

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