CTOs are invaluable, expert sources of knowledge for all things tech and productivity. But staying on top of every change while simultaneously leading your technology into the future can be tough, even for the most experienced of leaders.
That’s why we're compiling a series of blogs including insights from leading CTOs in a range of industries, to try and share their knowledge through collaborative pieces.
These actionable tips and tricks are easy to integrate into your working day. So, whether you’re a newly promoted CTO, or a seasoned leader, this advice may be of use to you.
What is your biggest pain point?
We asked CTOs a simple question: what is the biggest pain point in your day to day work?
Their answer was clear: time management.
Dominic Holt put the issue perfectly when he said:
“The biggest pain point is definitely time management. If you're a CTO, at any given moment you are helping someone with a coding issue, building out a tech roadmap, meeting with customers, prototyping the new feature or subsystem, and hiring 8 people. Figuring out how to fit it all in and make it work can be a challenge. This is also why a CTO job is not a 40 hour per week job.”
- Dominic Holt, CTO of Valerian
A CTO will be juggling multiple teams, tasks, and sub-tasks every single day. So, finding the time to squeeze everything in can feel like a huge pressure. Especially in the ever-changing tech world. That’s why we created a guide to the best time management techniques and tools used by CTOs, to provide you with some creative ideas on how to manage your time and deliver quality as a result.
Planning and deliberation
It may sound obvious, but this point is crucial to managing your time.
As you start your week, evaluate which tasks are a high priority, and which directly impact your growth metric. Let’s say you need to coordinate a new update on your app that intends to fix bugs that directly affect e-commerce sales. Tasks relating to this will affect your ROI in the long term, and the success of your team, so these should be a high priority. This will indicate where best to spend your efforts and enable you to plan each day efficiently.
According to Casey Jordan:
"I’ve found my time as CTO to be a consistent reminder to continually evaluate where your time is best spent. Of course, given the dynamic nature of technology, where time is best-spent changes often and quickly.
What has a real exponential impact is your planning and deliberation. Figuring out where to spend your time and doubling down on it. It’s more difficult to execute than other time management strategies, but after some disciplined practice, it becomes invaluable.
Evaluate where you need to spend your time, commit to spending it, then get to work with minimal distractions. After that, re-evaluate, identify, repeat."
- Casey Jordan is Co-Founder and CTO at Jorsek Inc.
Take the ‘Eat that Frog’ technique. Eating the frog means identifying your most important task and tackling it with single-minded focus until it is completed. Rather than focusing on multiple tasks, you launch directly into your most important task. According to Tracy, your ability to focus on your most important task will determine your success. This is the technique followed by Wojtek Olearczyk, Head of Engineering at Global App Testing.
“Each day I try to think about the most important thing and make it my focus”
- Wojtek Olearczyk, Head of Engineering at Global App Testing.
Why not also consider tracking your time for a week, or month, to see where you spend the majority of your efforts? This will reveal whether you allocate too much time to a certain task that could be automated, delegated or streamlined. As Maksym Kunytsia says:
“My best time management trick is to use time tracking software to find where most of your time goes. For myself, I tracked my time religiously for a month, only to find out that I spent two hours every day delegating tasks. I ended up hiring a project manager to take the bulk of that workload.”
- Maksym Kunytsia is a Chief Product Officer at Chanty
Split up your time
Splitting up your time and tasks into manageable and measurable chunks is a fantastic way to ensure you stick to your plan.
“Time management as a CTO takes a lot of discipline. You can easily be bogged down by different emails, meetings, and phone calls about all manner of topics. In order to be effective, you have to block out time and make sure each time you sit down to work on a block you decide what you're going to accomplish by the end. Setting aside even 2-3 blocks of time a day where you accomplish something specific adds up significantly over the course of a week of effort.”
- Dominic Holt, CTO at Valerian Technology
There are a number of proven techniques, like that Pomodoro technique, that can help you split up your time in a rigid process. It is a technique used by Maksym Kunytsia, CPO at Chanty:
“The Pomodoro technique entails working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break. This helps me focus on my goals and I actually get far more work done than I have before when I worked endlessly until I got tired or lost my focus."
- Maksym Kunytsia, Chief Product Officer at Chanty
Ensure Your Team Prioritise
Some tasks simply aren’t as pressing as others. Making sure that your team prioritises which tasks will have the largest impact on your growth metric, therefore, is extremely important.
Why not sit down with your team and work through your development pipeline. Look to where along its stages you could streamline the process, and which areas you consider most high priority. Once your team is aligned on this, you can make sure that they are prioritising their time accordingly in future. A shared vision will help increase productivity.
“As a CTO the most important things for me are the productivity & efficiency of my team. Considering the fast-paced & information-saturated world we live in, it is crucial for us to be clear about the priorities for the team and how that reflects our goals"
- Atanas Georgiev, Co-Founder & CTO @ Enterprise League
Automate where possible
There is no doubt that automating repetitive tasks can free up more time for you and your team and streamline your workflow. And we aren’t just talking about automation testing - many non-QA-related tasks can benefit from a process of automation.
“If it can be automated, do it. Generating quarterly reports can be automated. Simple batch scripts can be set up to open particular programs when you start your computer, saving a bit of time.
Part of Google's AI assistant, Google Duplex, can even call and schedule appointments. AI is getting advanced so put your Siri, Google, and Alexa to work as much as possible. It's really streamlined my days and saved me a lot of time."
- Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris
There are also fantastic automation tools available for CTOs to use to automate some of their processes. According to Atanas Georgiev:
“Every tool that we use for automating a process is extremely useful. Bitbucket Pipelines makes our life super easy, as we can deploy to our services in a matter of seconds. And also the automation test tools such as Jest & Webdriver.io which help us ship code which has been fully regression tested. We like to move extremely fast and automating such repetitive processes gives us an opportunity to do so.”- Atanas Georgiev, Co-Founder & CTO at Enterprise League
Not being afraid to delegate is hugely important to any CTO. Knowing which tasks are best trusted in the hands of a member of your team can really help manage up your time and open up some availability for those pressing tasks you never seem to quite have the time for. According to John Moss:
“The key to effective time management for CTOs is to learn when and how to delegate and vitally, who to delegate different things too. Building a strong team and also being willing to loosen the reins and trust them to support your needs is difficult, and a tendency to micromanage and feel responsible for doing and fine-tuning everything yourself is common to the CTO role.
However, to thrive in a CTO role and to be successful in the field long term, an ability to switch off, schedule admin time, and be willing to hand over potentially highly loaded and important work to trusted colleagues is essential. This starts with building a good support network in terms of administrators and assistants, and scheduling downtime into your routine as well!”
- John Moss, CTO at English Blinds
Moreover, you can improve your team’s efficiency and shift repetitive testing tasks to the crowd through partnering with a company like Global App Testing. This will free up more time for your team to focus on test strategy and analysis.
Save your time and your teams
Following these 5 tips will help aid and improve your time management:
- Planning and deliberation
- Split up your time
- Ensure your team prioritise
- Automate where possible