At work, how you invest your time can lead to significant business analysis career success … or equally significant failure. No matter how disciplined your organization, there will always be time crunches and there will always be value in getting more done well and in less time.
As business analysts, we need to be wary of how we invest our time. Our analytical brains predispose us to misuse our time in ways that are not always productive in the bigger picture of things.
Here are a few of the most common time wasters I see in business analysis.
Time Waster #1: Perfecting Documents
Yes, our documents should be good. But all too often we spend more time on them than is merited, especially early in the business analysis process. Engaging stakeholder feedback early and often helps ensure we are on the right track.
Besides, when we perfect what should be draft documents, we get over-invested and tend to resist changes to those documents, making us less open to the very feedback we need to be successful.
A quick rule of thumb: Make every document good enough to take the next step forward in the project, and no better.
Time Waster #2: Attending Every Meeting You Are Invited To
As your influence grows, you’ll be invited to more meetings. Some business analysts complain about every day being all meetings, yet it is difficult to say no. What if we miss important information? What if the facilitator is upset when we don’t show up?
Steve Blais has written an excellent article about how to say no to meetings.
Time Waster #3: Learning Without Doing
On one project, I remember a developer coming to a status meeting week after week reporting that his progress was “learning more about tool X.” Weeks went by and we had nothing tangible to show the business. The project manager finally asked the developer to demo the tool to the other project participants. It became clear that his knowledge was still cursory.
In his defense, it was a very complex tool and the company probably should have invested in more training and consulting up front rather than allow this developer to self-study for weeks on end. Still, this did not put him in anyone’s good graces.
Let this be a warning to you. Accompany learning by doing. What’s more, make sure what you are doing has a tangible value for your organization. While it is much easier to learn one more thing before putting your work out there, you risk wasting a lot of time if you don’t produce a meaningful deliverable as early as possible.
The developer would have been much better served by creating a working prototype, no matter how preliminary, of how we could have used the tool in our organization.
Time Waster #4: Facilitating Meetings Without Agendas
One of the most valuable take-aways from our Essential Elicitation Skills course is the insight for how to create a useful meeting agenda, one that moves the project further ahead towards its goal. Although it can be tempting to leave the agenda open because you don’t know what you don’t know, taking a little time to plan out your approach yields huge time-saving dividends.
When you facilitate meetings without an agenda, you risk not achieving what you need to be successful. This leads to countless hours asking follow-up questions, scheduling follow-up meetings, or researching information. In other words, a lot of time is wasted.
Time Waster#5: Answering Communications – All the Time
While business analysts do need to be responsive, you also need a fair amount of focused time to successfully complete requirements documentation and other deliverables. Watching every email come in, answering the phone, or keeping your instant messenger open can create a steady stream of interruptions. I know it’s tempting to be constantly aware of what’s going on in your projects or be the first to know when a critical issue surfaces. However, every time you are distracted by a new message, even if you don’t respond, you lose the time it takes to refocus.
While there are appropriate times to be accessible and available, and you definitely need to plan time into your work day to respond to communications, there also needs to be time to minimize distractions and focus your creative, analytic energy on the task at hand. If you never seem to get your deliverables done as quickly as you’d like, consider creating time blocks in your work day where you turn off distractions.