It was a good idea at the time

It was a good idea at the time


Idiot[proof] guide to improving your efficiency

Updated: Mar 23

Serial Procrastinator? Hard Time Focusing on tasks. Lots of work? How about all of the above?

Where overwhelming amount of work keeps you from focusing on tasks, leading you to procrastinate. Confusion stems from not knowing where to start, ultimately wasting time and having to rush through something. We all want to be better at completing tasks. Motivation might be to get as much done as possible. Maybe to get the grunt work done so you can focus on things you like doing. Some of you want to perhaps project more impact and either move up the ladder or grow your business. Being efficient was the only way to stay afloat for me in my old Help Desk job. The tickets would pile up sometimes more than twenty per person. Out of necessity I figured a way out to try and complete the task as soon as possible to stay on track. I didn’t do it alone for better or for worse there was other techs I could rely on getting me over the hump.

My previous boss also gave me a valuable piece of advice “If it takes less than 5 Minutes just do it”. Some have been asked at an interview about a particular scenario.

“Imagine it is Friday afternoon 1 hour before you go home for the day. You have a project that is due that you have not completed, your boss walks in the door and you get a phone call

Which do you handle 1st? “ .

Before coming back to that question, one must go over what to prioritize. It all boils down to a few items. In this scenario I have twenty tickets in my help desk queue. Five of them have session issues that need to be reset. Three of them are vague descriptions that require an email follow up. Four of them are User account setups all who start in 48 hours. Six are for New mobile device account configurations. Two PCs that need to be imaged no due date, but it will be time consuming. Hold on someone walked in frantically. Something about they can’t work.

Is it on Fire? Rather than literally “On Fire” is it figuratively on fire. On a list of items of : create an account for someone, image a PC, or a person cannot turn on a computer you would choose the last one. The person cannot work in this case you don’t know what is going on you go over and check it may be annoying for you to stop what you’re doing especially if you got a good grove going on whatever your task, but it is a necessity you will probably lose track on what you were working on, it may be “that persons fault or oversight” but, you still must take care of that for obvious reasons. Next take care of what is the quickest. “If it takes five minutes or less, just do it” is the best piece of advice given to me.

This would prove extremely valuable to you if you gathered some experience at work or at life. In the back of the mind, it is a skill that we implement but don’t immediately notice. Going back over my ticket queue. Back to the ticket queue, issue is resolved as the computer “Unfroze” by the time the workstation was in view, the user makes a “It's like taking the car to a mechanic and it works” pun.

Back at the desk after a sip of coffee Five session resets are the quickest. Calls are made sessions are reset users are happy. Quick zip zap and done, users are happy. The pile is down by 25%. Password resets unlock accounts session resets are to be handled as soon as one is seen as those are usually pile up the most and wind-up hunting in the long run. At this point the two vague tickets waited long enough as responding over ten minutes without even a hello is not only rude, unproductive and might score some negative remarks from the management. Call is made, voicemail. Leave a message reference the ticket number, l follow it up with an email. Soon as that line is disconnected write the e-mail/reply from the ticket referencing the call just made. If the Person doesn’t reply in a timely manner a follow up e-mail after the next vague phone call with "Please Advise" will need to be sent. Do not underestimate that phrasing as it politely putts pressure on the other person to get back to you. You are essentially saying in those two words “Hey I reached out didn’t get an answer twice, are still having a problem” Anything after that will have to be done with another phone call. Next vague ticket, person answers has trouble talking about what is happening. With that its best to start from the top. Ask a lot of close questions 1st to rule out the usual suspects. You will be surprised to see how much people overlook the simple stuff including yourself. Verified the user saved their work, talked them through a restart. Everything is magically working after a brief conversation the user has not restarted their computer in two weeks. While talking on the phone the user replied to your email that it was a false alarm, and the ticket can be closed. That leaves user accounts, tablets, PCs. This one may depend on the experience and the tools available to you. For this example, mobile devices are labeled in protective cases enrolled into and MDM suite (getting into the finer point of which will put you to sleep) at the destination site.

The ticket just says tablet A to driver B. The six tickets can be done in one swoop as you just go on a website set up a login and temporary password and send the precompiled instructions to the Manager. PC are drop shipped from a vendor so those will have to be done from scratch luckily, they are identical with an identical setup. User accounts aren’t that bad either as Three are identical Customer Service setup, and one is a dispatcher. Both can be done at the same time with multitasking. It is very easy to get lost when taking too much at once so best practice is to use checklists.

PCs and user setups have each their own checklist and matrix for user setups So print them out. Word of caution, one must not sacrifice quality with efficiency as this all falls apart when that happens. PCs can be imaged the image takes about minutes to complete. Luckily you have your installation media and a pre-made image. Imaging process is starting time to get cracking on those accounts. What do CSR’s and Dispatchers have in common. Not a lot one talks to the customers one handles the drivers. In relation to the task to be completed they crossover in which accounts or access they will need assumption being the computers they are sitting on are already properly configured as far as the software they will all need which is Access to the PC, Access to the E-mail, Access to the Trucking software. The last point is where it diverges as Customer Service will put in orders and Dispatch will modify the order and assign to a driver and put in the completed appointment times. Domain access is the same so Active directory account creation can be done at the same time in an assembly line sort of fashion, so does creating the e-mail. After the account is created in the Trucking software you assign the same permissions to customer service after that you complete the dispatcher as the order entry has to be changed to modify only. Send "the particulars" to their respective managers close the ticket and look at that in the corner the imaging process is wrapping up so after your user matrix is complete you can check off the PC being imaged.

Time to get your asset tag slap the stickers on the PCs rename them with the asset tag included join the domain add relevant printers and back in the box they go to be sent out. However, there were a lot of assumptions that were made here. Reason the second part of this was so quick was because it took meticulous planning ahead. I philosophy to be employed here is that if the task is to be repeated endlessly take the extra time when you have it the 1st time to be able to automate the process and help your future self when you inevitably won’t have the time hundreds of times later when you have 10’s of PCs to configure and\or 50 users to add. Checklists will help with that.

The PC image is something a modern IT Technician cannot live without. That’s why to save time a reference PC is created for all entry level positions. It is easier to take an image and add to it if it is their boss but most expansions in most companies happen at the bottom entry level jobs.

For user account creation it is best to do your homework early and find out as specifically as possible what they will use, what software they need what level of authority or access they will have. Create that checklist. As for the PC take a comparable model load all the software for that department and eliminate all the tasks that will make each of them unique like name of the PC and preload all the common software and back up your progress to be able to start at that point. Work Smart not Hard ultimately relays to Working extra hard at the beginning so one doesn’t have to work as hard on repeat occasions. This all sounds like a making of a well-oiled machine and it can be. It doesn’t come with its struggles. Procrastination and feeling of being overwhelmed are things to try and avoid.

Procrastination and feeling the project is too large or overwhelming, the dark side are they. Sorry for a little Empire Strikes Back reference. There is a little sense of irony with this too as I am having a hard time writing this and have procrastinated myself either. To turn it around it is the best to employ this tactic. Big projects are best broken down into small easily completed pieces. How do eat the whole elephant? One bite at a time, that is how.

So, with the PC image creation the list is available the list becomes a checklist and checklist gets used to complete a task. Install Windows, Install Office, Install Dispatch software. Capture your progress. Go over the image and identify different settings that will be exactly the same for every user. capture it again. Rinse and repeat until perfect. That’s good and all for one singular project.

What if there is an overflow of tickets and instead of the usual twenty every tech gets fifty. This is where diplomacy and specialized skill sets will come at a premium. Huddle with your team, count what types of tickets are there agree with your team who will complete which type of ticket and trade until everybody has only one type of tickets in their queue and gung ho. This is a sure-fire way to clear the backlog.

Going back to the Question. Well depending on the organization there may be a different answer based on management policy and\or experience. It is a roll of the dice as the interviewer tries to ascertain whether the candidate in question fits into their work culture. Sometimes they have an answer in their head already sometimes they want to test the candidates critical thinking and prioritizing. Best to start with explaining what was acceptable in the prior experience. Tell the steps explain what and why. Reiterate again this is on the previous company policy, then turn the question around and ask what is acceptable in the Company X you are interviewing for. This advice aside based on this long more than 2000-word memory dump it is best to tell your boss one sec let me get this, then in the first few seconds determine how quick it is and it all hinges on that call. It may be a situation where you quickly reset a password, it may be a more serious issue at which point you tell them you will meet the m at their desk or ask them for a brief hold because so and so came to your office, but you will be right with them. Then you talk to your boss who will usually ask you either a brief question that you will answer immediately or it's something more complicated and you tell them let me finish with that person really quick and I’ll see you at your office. The project will come last in this scenario as triage determines the immediate needs are to be handled first for the business to run efficiently. What that is needs to be communicated to you by your superiors as that will determine the best course of action to answer this question correctly. If you don’t answer it right think if you were given clues beforehand. If not, it worked out for the best because imagine working with an ill prepared boss for the next 90 days, 3 months or five years.

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