How To Deal With Time Bandits

by David Alicea
time bandits

When all is said and done, how did we make the best use of our time? The time we have is finite. There is set number of seconds, minutes, and hours in a day. Part of that time is already spent sleeping so we must make good use of the remaining time we have.

As professionals in the world of IT, there are a few areas that we spend time in. We spend much of our life studying. Technology continues to change which pushes us to continue learning how to wrangle said technology. Even if you have completed a degree, there are certifications to tackle. Even if you have all the certs you need, you’re still going to spend time learning. The rest of that time we are applying that knowledge at work. We spend another portion of our lives working. No matter what position you are in though, you should be able to efficiently spend your time. Often times we run into distractions that gobble up our time in these areas, slowing down our progress. I’m calling these the Time Bandits. As we study and work, those Time Bandits creep up. What might some of them be and how do we deal with them? Read carefully as I try not to waste your time.

The Study Time Bandit

Hello, my name is David and I am a Time Bandit. When it comes to studying, I am my worst enemy. I can sit here and come up with dozens of excuses, but it all comes back to me. In this situation it doesn’t help to deflect and blame the distractions out there when I am the one allowing those distractions in. I started studying for Cisco’s SCOR (Implementing and Operating Cisco Security Core Technologies) 350-701 exam late last year. Instead of pushing myself each day into my studies, I let procrastination infiltrate.

Some of the thoughts I allowed in: “Tomorrow will probably be a better day for studying,” or “Work was tiring today, I’ll start fresh tomorrow,” and “I need to just play a game today to de-stress. I’ll study tomorrow.” This threw me into a terrible study habit where I would study one day, skip a few days and study again. Even though information was coming in, it was sporadic and did not have the same impact it would if I was concentrating on the tasks over a couple of days. Also. I wasn’t retaining the information as efficiently as I could have.

So how do we battle against ourselves when we are the Time Bandit? Sure, I can choose not to turn on the Xbox, but something else will come along to distract me. I took a look at my previous study habits and education. Usually, there was some sort of fire someone lit under me that would push me forward. This same fire made sure distractions were pushed aside. When it came to school, the need to not fail a class was there, especially if I was paying for it. I pursued two Master’s degrees and each time I would tell myself – “I am not going to waste this time in my life. I am going to excel. This is all for something.” That became the fire that helped me study.

Now while studying for Cisco’s SCOR exam, I am not paying anyone tuition. Work has not demanded that I seek the certification. So how do I light a fire under myself? Just like class, my made sure assignments were due on Sunday. It did not matter if I turned them in or not – but there was a due date. Battling against ourselves in this scenario means putting in due dates. So far what has helped me tremendously is adding in due dates to chapters and study tasks throughout the week. Even though it seems like a minor adjustment, it has helped. My next step to ensure I continue working on the SCOR is to just book the test. A lot of people do this since there is a deadline attached. It motivates them to study before the test date arrives. Lighting a fire under a Time Bandit should get it moving.

Meeting Declined

This would be a great place to insert a “This meeting should have been an email” meme. There are tons of Time Bandits at work so be on the lookout. A Time Bandit at work is something or someone that stops you from performing at peak efficiency. Yes, that meeting probably could have been an email. I’ve sat in a plethora of meetings where the written topics that should have been discussed, are not. There are meetings that turn into extended design sessions when they were simply meant for quick overviews. Then there are those meetings where no one is prepared for the discussions. Obviously, you are not the only person in a meeting. There are others involved and we cannot control the actions of others. We can control our actions. We can take the time to be prepared for those important meetings. If you are the one leading the meeting, don’t just wing it. Have the topics for discussion defined. If it seems like a certain topic needs to be expanded upon, it might be necessary for an additional meeting (or email) on that particular topic. Don’t ever be afraid to suggest  – “Let’s take this offline in a separate discussion.” When needed, people’s time is valuable. My manager does a good job of keeping me out of meetings I don’t need to be. He then gives me the quick summary later on. If my input is needed, I’ll definitely be there. If not, I’ll get back to my previously scheduled program of many things I need to take care of at work.

The Right Information

When I think of efficiency, I think of having everything you need at arm’s length. I am a huge documentation nut. It might be a pain sometimes, but it is necessary. I love writing, tossing in screenshots, and slapping in fancy cover pages. It takes work to put together a good architecture document or a set of clear instructions for people to follow. So, what I am trying to get to? Not having the right information when you need it can create a Time Bandit. There have been times where I could have resolved an issue if I simply had an updated network diagram. There have been times that I could have gotten a service up and running much faster if the application team had the documentation on what was required of that service. So, then what happens?

Time is spent troubleshooting, digging up information, making emergency calls to vendors, and many other things that drain your time, keeping you from focusing on projects or even training. Much of this can be resolved by spending the time upfront to ensure documentation for the network, services or a process is up to date. That to me is time well spent. It is a good investment of your time that pushes those Time Bandits away. This will help you, the team, and your organization.

Time Bandits rob us of something we really can never get back. As professionals in our field, it is important that we take a step back and look at what is keeping us from efficiently accomplishing our goals. This is something to look for not only in our professional environments, but also at home.

I wrote about three areas where Time Bandits lurk. It is a harsh reality to call myself a Time Bandit, but that is what I’ve felt happening during my studies. Accomplishing our study goals will help us reach higher levels professionally. Do we want to get there “someday” or do we want to have an exact timeline of when?

There are plenty of work Time Bandits to discuss, but meetings do take up a large portion of our days. They are necessary and important, but take the time to ensure they are properly organized and executed. If they are not, they have simply become virtual or in-person Time Bandits multiplied by every person involved.

Finally, everyone’s favorite subject, documentation. The lack of it can cause problems. Not having the right information in a project or even a support ticket can cause delays that gobble up precious time. If we want to become more efficient at what we do, kicking those Time Bandits to the curb will ensure we can put our time to better use. And with that, I’d like to give you back some of your day. Go and be productive.

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