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Tips & Tricks for Time Management

This is a collection of tips & tricks that was compiled over the summer when the Reclaim team met internally to talk about time management & work prioritization. I wanted to add it to this space too, mostly for personal reference.


Let’s face it, life at Reclaim can get busy! There are always projects on the horizon, meetings on the calendar, and daily tasks to get through. What’s more, there’s a lot of cross-collaboration happening at any given time. This leads to exciting opportunities to jump in on conversations that interest you or pursue professional goals that you’re passionate about. Everyone wears many hats, and every day can look a bit different. So how do you make sense of it all? How do you prioritize your workload, your projects, your ideas?

Goals for Time Management

In order to develop strategies that make sense for you, it’s important to step back and remember the larger goals for time management. You’ll want to have workflows in place that allow you to:

  • Know what’s coming in a given hour, day, or week and be able to articulate that clearly when someone asks 
  • Have a space where you can easily reference personal notes
  • Minimize duplication with your notes/planning
  • Have a language or code that works for you (i.e. short-hand, meanings for notifications, liked asana messages)

The following guide is a culmination of tips & tricks for managing time effectively at Reclaim Hosting. Remember that this is purely advice, and by no means a requirement or the only way to get stuff done. Everyone works differently, so it will be important for you to reflect on your own working practices and figure out what works best for you. Think critically about your existing set of tools or workflows. Does it take more time out of your day to follow your processes, or are these steps making you more efficient?


Planning Your Calendar

One of the best ways to manage time effectively is to get those tasks on a calendar so you can easily see the full scope of work in front of you. Start first by adding events that are not flexible, and then fill in the gaps with your floating tasks. 

  • Every Monday: plan for the week (hard events, or non-flexible events)
    • Reclaim events, company calendar, team meetings, project/customer meetings, support shift schedule, asana deadlines, HR schedule changes
    • Professional Development (yes, you should aim to keep the time you set aside to learn and improve as nonnegotiable)
  • Each Morning: plan your day (soft events, or flexible events)
    • What do you need to accomplish?
    • What has come up since you were last online that needs your attention?
    • Where can you make progress on long term projects or goals? (baby steps)
    • HR changes, recurring tasks, miscellaneous reminders
  • Last 15-20 Min: plan your next day
    • What will roll over to tomorrow?
    • Where will you jump in to start your day tomorrow morning?
    • HR changes
  • Every Month: backburner list
    • Check in on your low-priority ideas. Should anything be resurfaced or archived?

* If you find that your soft events are often rolling over to the next day, this may be an opportunity to figure out why. It’s possible that you’re simply overloading your schedule and need to adjust your pacing/ how much time you’re dedicating to certain tasks. Or perhaps you’re stuck on a project and you need to reach out for assistance. Or if a specific task keeps getting skipped or looked over, should it be moved to your back burner list & taken off your plate completely? Or is there another reason why you’re pushing it off?


Taking Notes During Meetings

Here are a list of questions to consider as you’re preparing for and participating in meetings:

  1. What am I bringing/offering to this meeting?
  2. What are my questions?
  3. If I had to summarize this meeting for someone who wasn’t here: what are the key takeaways?
  4. Action items: What do I need to do as a result of this meeting? What is my team responsible for?
  5. Where do we go from here? What am I bringing to the next meeting?

Your answers to these questions should drive the type of notes you’re taking and what you’re responsible for after the fact. 


Notifications

There’s no doubt that there are a lot of ways to be updated about all-things Reclaim. Here are some suggestions for staying in the know:

  • Subscribe to calendars:
    • Gusto HR/PTO Calendar – shares birthdays, too!
    • Reclaim EdTech Calendar – upcoming company events and trainings 
    • Reclaim Invoicing Calendar – primarily used by Sales team
    • Asana: Internal Company Calendar – helpful for larger infrastructure work and internal company projects
    • Colleagues’ calendars – crucial for seeing everyone’s availability 
  • Pull your Google Calendar into Slack (notifies you 15 min before your next event)
  • Set up Email notifications for personal tags in Asana & Zendesk
  • If something requires action, don’t leave it open/read: slack snooze or mark as unread until it is processed

Prioritizing Work

One of the more challenging parts of balancing an ever-changing workload can simply be prioritizing the work in front of you. Start first by grabbing a fresh sheet of paper, Google doc, or Asana project to list out everything that you’ve got going on. (If Asana is your preference, save yourself time by adding existing tasks to multiple projects instead of duplicating the tasks themselves.)

Once you’ve got your list in front of you, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are the upcoming hard events/deadlines? (i.e. shark closest to the boat 🦈 🛶)
  2. What has been waiting the longest? ⏰ 
  3. Are there quick items that that I can knock out? (i.e. low-hanging fruit 🍎)
  4. What is causing the most stress? 😅 

The answers to these questions should begin to highlight areas that you need to focus on first. And when in doubt, bring the list to your team or manager and ask for their advice on how to best proceed. As you are prioritizing work, it will be best to communicate with your team(s) and set expectations about when they can see progress on X tasks.


Example Workflow

Everyone has a different or preferred way of working. As you’re making your way through this article, try to narrow in on a process or workflow that makes sense for you. How are you taking notes in meetings and keeping track of your action items? How are you keeping track of your calendar, email inbox, and various notifications in Slack, Zendesk, Asana, etc.? An example workflow might be:

  • Asana: To-do list, project management, task deadlines, quick referenceable notes, inbox/archiving notifications (read: Asana Workflows)
  • Spark: Consolidated Email & Calendar
  • Google Drive: Archive of Reclaim Team files & shared brainstorming docs

Reflection & Estimating Time

After deciding on a process that works for you, evaluate those decisions every so often by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. If you keep pushing a calendar/task block, why?
    Are timelines unrealistic?
    Are you asking for help or collaborating with others?
    Do you have too much on your plate? 
  2. If something’s on your list week after week & no progress is being made, why?
    Do you have a clear path forward? Who’s owning what?
  3. Think critically about the tools/workflows– is it taking more time to use your process, or is it making you more efficient?

Closing Advice

  1. Set due dates for everything. Larger projects can be broken down into smaller, bite-sized tasks with realistic timelines. If you have floating tasks with no deadlines, accountability becomes much more difficult.
  2. Be honest & consistent! If you resurface every couple weeks to check in with yourself about your goals/tasks, it will be much more challenging to articulate where you are, where you’re getting stuck, and how your time is being filled. 

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