Priorities and Productivity

Time is a resource for all of us, both at work and in our lives. As I get older, I think time might be the most valuable resource I have, the same amount each day, but an ever decreasing set in my life. As a result, I try to avoid wasting time and taking advantage of what I have when I can.

At work, we often have more tasks than we can complete in any point in time. I have rarely been without work, though certainly there are slower times when deadlines aren’t providing pressure to get things done. For many of us, we can struggle to manage our work, especially without strong management to help us.

There was an interesting blog from Trainline, from a technical worker that was promoted to manager and had a whole new set of tasks and responsibilities. He decided to adopt some of the same agile principles he used as a developer to manage his time. It’s an interesting read, and perhaps one that might help some of you better organize your own work.

The principles of Lean Thinking and visualization are two of the items he used, along with building a Customer-Value map. You can read the basic descriptions, but to really understand how these concepts work, you will want to do more research and spend some time practicing the concepts. However, there are a couple of other techniques in the post that I think are worth pointing out.

The idea that work has an effort and value you can use to help determine which tasks are worth tackling is important. I think sometimes we consider value without effort, but organizing tasks into grid is useful. There is also the concept of important v urgent tasks, and how these two may or may not be related. As I read about these, I realize that I often do this internally with my work.

I know there are important things to do, many of which aren’t urgent. Finding time to get those done is useful, not only because they get off my plate, but the more often I can avoid creating urgency, the less stress I have. I also find that urgency can sometimes be my own fault for procrastinating a task.

There are certainly many times when managers will prioritize work for us, but I often find for developers and DBAs, that we have a fair amount of autonomy. Many of us also have a known backlog of work. Developing some skill and techniques to manage your own workload will serve you well, and you might consider adopting some of the ideas in the post in your own career.

Steve Jones

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