Think Big to Break Bad IT Management Habits

When you get a computer science degree or information technology degree, chances are you focus on the tech part of your job, and understandably. But as you move up an organizational ladder, you get involved in management, whether having people work for you or running projects. To keep your career on track, ensure that your management abilities and techniques are as sharp as your technical chops. Unless you have extensive training like a business administration degree, you probably learned how to manage by watching others. In the process, you may have developed some bad IT management habits. Here are common ones:

  • losing focus and not getting engaged in work quickly after a distraction
  • jumping to conclusions and starting to create a solution before fully understanding the problem
  • spending all your time on small daily emergencies rather than on strategy or long-term projects
  • poor time management

Notice a common thread: All of these bad habits depend to some degree on thinking small without a bigger context. For example, you lose focus after a distraction like a chance conversation, phone call, or email because you pull yourself completely out of what you were doing before, as if it hadn’t existed. Jumping to conclusions is reacting to the first automatic associations your mind makes.

Bad time management and spending too much time on emergencies are related, because when everything is equally important, nothing is important. Instead of working from the context of what is most important to the organization and what can reasonably wait, IT workers often bounce from one stimulus to another. This is understandable, given the degree of detail IT professionals immerse themselves in. Programming? Lots of detail. Administering networks? Detail. Tech support? Well, you get the idea. The solution is to put what you do into a larger context. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Get the Big Picture — Everyone thinks their problems are important, and they are — to them. But you need to work with management to set an overall priority and to create an acceptable way of dealing with the flow of small requests that can interrupt a day.
  • Plan Your Day — The most important step is to decide at the beginning of a day what you need to do and then create a priority. Work on the most important task first, then the next most important, and so on. Even if you get interrupted, you will have spent the rest of your time in as productive a way as possible.
  • Become a Forest Ranger — You want to move from fighting fires to preventing them, which means becoming a forest ranger. Listen carefully to get information on the critical parts of projects. Force yourself to invest time now in things like project planning so you avoid as many problems in advance as possible.

Make some time to pull yourself out of your day. It may seem like minutes lost, but it actually becomes a big gain that helps you accomplish more and simplify your work life.

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