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.
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.
 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!