Reclaim Your Schedule In 2015: 7 Tips - InformationWeek

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Reclaim Your Schedule In 2015: 7 Tips

Were you overworked, overtaxed, or simply "over busy" in 2014? Take control of your schedule and reduce stress in 2015.

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Ask 100 random professionals, "How's it going?" and you'll hear a common refrain: "Busy." Or, perhaps some variation of same: "So busy. Really busy. Very busy. Super busy. Insanely busy." Busy, busy, busy:

That's the norm for IT pros and just about every other line of business these days, in just about every industry. The problem with "busy" is that the word itself offers no qualitative value. Busy can be a great thing: plenty of customers, hard work, and high-quality results. But it can just as easily become synonymous with "inefficient," "ineffective," "unreliable," and plain-old "unhealthy" -- for individuals and organizations alike.

A tell-tale sign of the latter: Calendars that fill up like an advanced Tetris grid. With people increasingly asked to take on additional responsibilities and "wear multiple hats," in the parlance of corporate America, work schedules quickly resemble existential crises more than productive roadmaps. And IT pros, especially, know that modern devices and applications turn phrases such as "close of business," "end of day," and "work-life balance" into the deflating punch-lines of jokes you've heard way too many times. If this sounds like you and your job, it's time to do something about it. A new year is around the corner.

[Have your heart set on a 3D printer? Read 3D Printers: Why Nobody Needs One For Christmas.]

If you've been "bad busy" in 2014, now's as good a time as any make changes. InformationWeek asked a range of businesspeople -- IT professionals, career and organizational experts, and others -- for their advice on working smarter in 2015. Here's their advice on building better schedules for greater productivity, efficiency, and health.

1. Channel Sun Tzu.
Fred Kirwin, business intelligence analyst at Eliassen Group, oversees the tech recruitment firm's data warehouse and database development. As a result, he doesn't often get to turn off his various devices, so advice to that effect doesn't help him. Instead, Kirwin found a different approach to keeping a sane, productive schedule. "The best way to do so is to get your boss to allow you to focus on two or three specific tasks for a period of time," Kirwin said. "That way, you can work in a somewhat linear fashion, while also having the ability to put out the inevitable problems that can occur when you are working for a relatively large enterprise. Sun Tzu said it best in this regard: 'In trying to defend everything he defended nothing.'"

2. Run mini-sprints.
Developers and similar IT professionals who must work on new projects while simultaneously supporting existing systems know the tug-of-war that often occurs between the two -- a conflict that sometimes pushes people from busy to burn-out. "My developers and I are guilty [of] getting distracted by drive-bys and random user requests for assistance," says Kelly Bedrich, director of IT at American Quality & Productivity Center (AQPC). "When we need focused development time, we've been reserving a dedicated block of time on our calendars and finding a nice out-of-the-way conference room." The ground rules: No email, phones, or instant messaging. "Just work on one specific problem and accomplish a task you identified before you started." Bedrich says.

3. Make status indicators meaningful.
AQPC uses Skype for messaging. No matter what communication tools your organization or team uses, Bedrich offers this advice: "Make it a cultural norm to use the Away or Do Not Disturb settings." You can use status indicators

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Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
12/30/2014 | 3:22:27 PM
Take your time and use it

Very good advice though I know it's not possible all the time. In some corporate cultures it's hard to implement steps that allow more control over the day however I always use a specific technique to help myself manage the day. I block time on my calendar in the morning and afternoon every day that I do not take meetings. These blocks of time help to get focused work done and also help alleviate the overtime meeting issue that causes the entire day to back up. These windows of time help to accomplish project goals and avoid the avalanche of work that always follows hours of conference calls or meetings.

User Rank: Author
12/31/2014 | 8:50:50 AM
Re: Take your time and use it
Mini sprints and single-tasking feel cut from the same cloth -- a recognition that we aren't very good multi-taskers. Single-tasking = Quality, Multi-tasking = Quantity.  
User Rank: Author
12/31/2014 | 10:25:12 AM
Many of us are gulity of eating lunch "al desko" as a rule. The getting up to walk advice is sound.
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