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Time to focus on what’s important in IT


As an IT professional, have you thought about what your scarcest resource is? Some people believe it’s money, others might believe it’s buy-in on the part of management and users. While these things can be formidable barriers to accomplishing your goals, whether it seems like it or not, your scarcest resource is time.

Outside of your technical knowledge and wisdom, time is really the only thing you have. Studies have shown that people squander 50% or more of their time in any given day but that’s for another piece. What I want to focus on instead is something that we have all been impacted by – it’s the constant, yet often legitimate, business interruptions that occur throughout the day. These are the things that keep you distracted, block you from doing what really needs to be done, and prevent you from achieving your goals.

Whether it’s provisioning new network equipment, resetting passwords, or answering software-related questions, these unplanned aspects of your day can derail the greatest of intentions to complete larger, more strategic, tasks. And it’s not just support-centric distractions. Meetings too can be a real time sap. Studies have shown that rather than pulling everyone into a meeting, email or similar online collaboration can often suffice, saving numerous man-hours.

There are always going to be daily distractions – that’s part of life and business, but it probably shouldn’t be much more than 25 percent of your day. Once it creeps above that, especially as it is spread out over your working hours, you will be unable to find the large chunks of time necessary to complete your larger to-do items.

As your network environment increases in complexity, or you move up the corporate ladder and take on additional responsibilities, you must find creative ways to keep from getting sidetracked if you are going to be able to properly address bigger picture items in your IT work. Here are some tips from my own experiences, to help you get your day back:

  • Shift your schedule. If you show up at 7 AM, or even earlier, you’ll likely have an hour and a half to two hour’s worth of quiet time to work on the important stuff. If you stay much past 5 or 6 PM, you may find things quiet down. The problem with working on important things at the end of the day is that your mind will be a bit frazzled and you won’t work as efficiently.
  • Set people’s expectations. Don’t be afraid to say “no” or “not now, maybe later”. That’s half the battle. A lot of people keep coming to you with questions because they know that you’ll drop whatever you’re doing and help them out. Make yourself unavailable after hours. You need a mental break and home life is just as important too. So when you are working on something big and someone tries to pull you away, tell them what you’re doing and let them help decide where you need to focus your efforts. Have a set timeframe where people know not interrupt you, ideally in the morning when your mind is fresh. Put a sign up by your desk or on your door to let people know not to bother you. I saw this in a client’s office recently and they said it was working very well for them.
  • Focus on what’s urgent and important. Many things at work are urgent but they may not be important. Likewise, they may not be urgent but they are important. Make sure you sort out your priorities so you can focus on the things that matter when the time is right. If you end up with items and on your to-do list that are neither urgent or important, then you probably shouldn’t even be doing them at all.
  • Use Automation. Of course, you should also leverage tools and automation that can help you free up your time. Numerous IT and security management and control functions can be carried with various automation tools. I, for example, use AlgoSec’s Firewall Analyzer to automate my firewall security policy audits.

You can’t really manage time but you can manage yourself, your goals, and your approach to the work you are responsible for. It’s really a philosophy and mindset that you must bring to the office every day. Don’t let other people’s emergencies create problems for you. Think about how you can approach this and tweak your work habits. You’ll be able to better manage your IT responsibilities and, really, your career as a whole.


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