Organize your Week as an Engineering Manager
How to Fill and Organize Your Weekly Calendar as an EM
One of the most common questions I receive from new engineering managers is:
"What should my week look like, and what exactly should I be doing?"
This question is particularly pertinent for those who have transitioned from a developer role, where their schedule was often tightly structured and well-defined.
When entering the role of an engineering manager (EM), especially in the early stages, it can be challenging to organize your time and determine your priorities.
In this essay, I aim not only to provide answers to these questions but also to guide you through the process of creating a weekly calendar that reflects the typical responsibilities of an EM.
It's worth noting that every company, role, and situation is unique. Your weekly calendar will depend on various factors, including your company's culture, the number of teams and people you manage, your specific responsibilities, your team's duties, and your personal work style. The calendar we will build here is based on my own experiences and the practices I followed during my journey as an EM (I even went through my past calendars for reference). Consider it a starting point and a source of inspiration for tailoring your own schedule to meet your specific needs.
For the purposes of this exercise, let's assume that you are an EM responsible for managing a team of 5 people.
While this is a common scenario, remember that your situation may differ significantly, so feel free to make adjustments as necessary to align with your unique circumstances.
Routines, while primarily associated with productivity in general, hold significant importance for engineering managers. Establishing routines in your role as an EM is crucial for several reasons:
Consistency: being consistent is crucial for you as an engineering manager, and following daily routines can help a lot. When you regularly do certain tasks and develop good habits, it's a key factor in your success in this role.
Time Management: setting aside specific times for repetitive tasks helps you stay organized and well-prepared for your workload. This way, you use your time efficiently for various responsibilities.
Stress Reduction: these routines, as described here, act like helpful markers for your workday. They assist in creating clear boundaries between your work and personal life and also in the reflection process before and after work, which can significantly reduce stress.
Warm-up routines act as a fantastic way to kickstart your day and establish the right mindset. Like athletes prepare with warm-up exercises before a competition, you can prepare yourself for your daily challenges with warm-up routines. Here are some examples:
Start your day with a quick review of your calendar to know what meetings and commitments you have ahead.
Check your email and messages for any urgent matters that may require immediate attention.
Spend a few minutes in self-reflection. Consider your goals for the day and how you can best support your team.
Stay up to date by reading relevant news sources, engaging with other professionals on social networks, or any other industry-specific activities that help you stay informed.
After a full and intense day of work, it's a good practice to gradually wind down. Once again, the athlete analogy fits perfectly. Just like athletes engage in cool-down exercises after a competition to prevent injuries, incorporating cool-down routines into your daily routine serves a similar purpose. Here are some examples:
At the end of the day, take time to review what you've accomplished and what still requires attention. This reflection process is invaluable for assessing your progress and planning for the next day.
Organize your tasks and priorities for the following day. This step ensures that you have a clear agenda when you start your next workday, preventing you from feeling overwhelmed by an unclear to-do list.
To effectively disconnect from work, engage in a relaxing activity or spend quality time with loved ones. This mental break helps you transition from work mode to personal life, promoting a healthy work-life balance.
It might be tempting to keep working nonstop throughout the day, but doing so can lead to burnout and lower productivity. It's important to take regular breaks for:
Recharging: short breaks during the day can help you regain your energy and focus.
Reflection: use breaks to think about your work, check your progress, and adjust your tasks and priorities if needed.
Connecting: breaks also provide opportunities to connect with your team on a more personal level, which strengthens relationships. For instance, in my team, we have shuffle meetings where we randomly chat over a coffee break.
As you might see, our calendar is already filling and while these activities could seem useless, believe me, they are important and they are what will help you to keep a healthy balance in your stressful life of EM.
Meetings are a vital part of your role as an engineering manager. They serve various purposes, and it's crucial to approach each type of meeting with specific goals and strategies.
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