Managing Time So It Flows

By Pat O’Connell

It seems there’s never enough time to get everything done. The idea of an eight-hour day, five-day work week that we started out with as we entered the job market changed quickly as we moved up the organizational ladder. By the time we reached more senior levels in IT management, culminating in roles at the top of the IT organization, the demands on our time increased with more activities needing to be addressed in ever-decreasing windows of time.

The biggest time-related challenge for IT leaders is understanding “what’s important and urgent,” says Steve Davy, CIO at Newedge, a global agency broker and clearing firm offering global, multi-asset brokerage services. The answer, says Davy, is “everything.” His response to these time pressures incorporates advice from Stephen Covey based on his research of the habits of highly effective people. Covey recommended looking at time demands in four quadrants, with the first two quadrants involving important tasks (urgent and not urgent, respectively) and the last two quadrants involving unimportant tasks (such as distractions and trivia).

Davy starts the work week on Sunday evening reviewing the week and month, and blocks out time for quadrant one and two activities. He leaves time for unanticipated quadrant one tasks, which are inevitable in his position, and monitors his calendar on a daily basis to make the most effective use of his time.

When looking at what’s important and urgent, Davy considers what’s important for the firm and what he needs to do to address that. There can be a lot of noise in an organization, everything from items that appear to be urgent but are not, or activities that appear important but perhaps are not important for IT. “You need a filter to get to the important and urgent priorities,” says Davy, “particularly external client needs related to revenue opportunities or risks of revenue losses.”

Recently, Davy has had lots of demands on his time for meetings and phone calls with senior management. “There is a tendency to get senior management around the table on new initiatives and issues which are important,” he says. “However, there is also a tendency not to change that model over time as the progression of those items cascaded through the organization. Effective delegation of the ownership of these issues or projects enables better time management, but also enables talent progression.”

The changes in the demands on Davy’s time has been dramatic over the last five years. Upon joining the firm, there was a heavy focus on running the organization in a business-as-usual manner with no demand for strategic initiatives. This, combined with a merger, left very little time for longer-term thinking. “Most of the time was spent dealing with daily production and adding additional features to existing systems,” says Davy. “Today there is a more conscious recognition of the need to change [and be more strategic]. There is a greater focus on strategic initiatives, on more time to think and to focus on quality.”

Davy is using this change as an opportunity to teach his IT team to be more strategic. “We now spend more time talking to clients; we have moved from taking tickets for requests to a more active participation with the business and clients in defining and planning system projects. As IT is good at planning, we are now taking a stronger role in managing client engagements. We will always have cases where we still have to respond on the spot to a client issue or request. However, when you develop a plan in partnership with the client you find those on-the-spot items decrease dramatically.”

CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight offers thought leadership and best practices in the IT security and management industry while providing expert recommendations on software solutions for IT leaders. It is the trusted resource for security professionals who need network monitoring technology and solutions to maintain regulatory compliance for their teams and organizations.

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