Effective Time Management #1

Time is Precious

Time is the one quantity that we cannot buy or get more of.  Therefore we have to make the best use of the time that we have.  How do we make sure that we spend our time making ourselves successful and not risk spending too much time making other people successful instead. How do we do time management ?

Many of the roles that we have can create situations where we have far more work than we can possibly do, but how do we manage that challenge ?

Being overworked is one of the biggest causes of general health and mental health issues in the workplace.  So this is not just about creating a more effective work environment, it is about creating a healthier work environment where you can look forward to starting work every day.

Just to be clear though, being in sales engineering means that there will be times when the workload peaks – especially as we drive closing some big opportunities.  That is why we get paid the big bucks.  We should recognise that these short periods of high workload can be part of the role, but it should not be a constant. 

This is the first in a 3 part series on how to manage our time.   This article will cover our goals, what we are doing in our roles and why .  The next article will look at how we organise our time and how we can optimise what we do, and the third article will look at the Fine Art of Saying No so that we do not take on more than we can accomplish.

All 3 of these videos will have a common thread running through them which is that we need to concentrate our time on the things that create success for us in our roles and therefore success for our customers and for our company.

Our Primary Goal

In Presales we are often seen as the go-to group in the company when it comes to the products and services that we deliver.  This is great for our egos but it also means that we have all sorts of groups making demands on our time.

Most SEs want to help – after all that desire to help solve problems is at the heart of what we do,  but that willingness to help can take a toll.  Have you ever considered that your desire to help another team be successful could actually limit YOUR ability to be successful as an SE that is measured on helping to close business.

Our primary function as SEs is to help the AE win new business and to help sell expansion deals to existing customers.  We do this using a combination of our technology skills, our business skills and the trust and value that we build with customers.  There are many secondary functions like working with marketing, product management, etc., but there is a balance to be established.

You NEED to truly understand what are the business priorities that you are working to.  This should be agreed with your manager and the team around you.  Then, when someone asks for additional work you can legitimately push back and refer back to the agreed priorities.  We will talk more about that in the third article.

Being clear about work priorities and expectations is the foundation of great time management.  But then we need to address the issue of what we are actually doing

What are we Doing ?

When I am coaching people one of the first things that I ask them to do is to tell me about their work and the types of things that they do.  This might seem like a basic entry level question, but it tells me a huge amount about the person and how they organise their work.

I often find that people think that they know what they are doing but when they try to quantify their time they are completely wrong and the results shock them.  So here is an exercise for you to try.

This sheet will help you record exactly what you have been doing during each 10 minutes of the working day.  You can download a copy of the sheet using the link in the first comment below or just create it in your favourite spreadsheet tool or editor.  I suggest that you print a copy of the sheet for each day that you run this process.

Note what you are doing for the 10 minutes but don’t fill in the other columns just yet.  In fact, fold the page over so that the other columns are hidden from view until we do the analysis.

If you want to get really granular then you can track to every 5 minutes, but I suggest 10 minutes to start with.  You could always do a followup in a few weeks with a more granular assessment of your time.

You should run this exercise for at least 2 days but longer if possible to catch all of the things that you are doing.  By the way – the reason for a printed copy is so that you can still write what you are doing even if you are on a video call or in the middle of using an application.

Why are we Doing It  ?

Now we need to analyse what you are doing, look at why you are doing it and then decide how to move forward with it.

You should review each task and determine who should be doing the task.  The classifications are Me, Prior Role, Team Task, Other Team, or Manager.  You can add other people or groups if needed.

You need to review anything that is ‘Me’ a second time and be very honest.  Ask yourself if the task is something that you REALLY should be doing or should it be done by someone else.  Could a more junior member of the team do it, and help build their skills.  Could a member of the Admin team do it ?  

Does the task actually need to be done at all ?  There are many examples of tasks that have been done for years and no-one knows why.  So ask the question – Who needs the information and what will it be used for ?

This comes back to focussing on the key priorities that we have as SEs.  Are we maximising our time to support customer interaction and opportunities?  If the task does not directly relate to an opportunity with a customer then should you be doing it ?

This leads to the next step – determining WHAT to do about the task.  Should you Continue, Stop, Delegate or Reassign – usually to another team.

Again, you need to be honest about what to do.  Deep down you might know that you should delegate or reassign, or maybe you know that you should stop doing something, but you fear the implications of pushing back.  Article 3 in this series will help you with this, but in the meantime, talk it through with your manager or team to get advice.

By the way : There is another reason for continuing to do something – it is because you LIKE doing it.  We all have our little secrets about continuing with a task that we know someone else should be doing.  We all need these happy moments so just make sure that you minimise it for now and then find the fun tasks in your current role to replace them with and reassign the old task.

You now have a shorter list of tasks that you know that YOU have to do which will help you to drive success in YOUR role.  These tasks ARE your role.

Blog Links:



Video Links:

Time Management Part 1 : https://youtu.be/uNJKIpfq6xs

Time Management Part 2 : https://youtu.be/AYSmH869ji8

The Art of Saying No : https://youtu.be/S3j2-YYy8lM

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