I have a small framework for how I carve out my professional time. I think of my working hours spent into three buckets:

  • Teamwork (“team bucket”)
  • Company-wide work (“company bucket”)
  • My own initiatives (“me bucket”)

Let’s go through them one by one:

Teamwork (“team bucket”) Link to heading

Time spent in the “teamwork” bucket is time I spend on tasks related to the local team I am primarily working with. Usually these tasks are tied to issues in a ticketing system, but it also includes team ceremonies (retros or planning etc.).

Company-wide work (“company bucket”) Link to heading

“Company-wide work” is work spent that is related to things outside of my team. Usually this work impacts wider/broader range of impact. It could for example have an impact on the entire engineering org., other teams, or the entire company.

Tasks in this bucket tend to be more strategic and “extra curricular”. It’s common that they are requests coming in from the company, or engineering leaders. They are not related to the responsibilities within my team.

My own initiatives (“me bucket”) Link to heading

These are my personal initiatives which come from my thoughts, ideas and visions after for example reading an article, learning something new or trying out a new piece of technology. It is work that gives me energy and a sense of forwardness. My initiatives can also take the form of thinking about a new technical strategy, building some tool to simplify my day or coding up and a proof of concept to showcase it. “Hackday” is a good example of where I think it’s a good time for me to spend in this bucket.

I have found that a surprisingly amount of innovation happens in this bucket.

Time distribution between buckets of time Link to heading

How much time is spent in the different buckets depends on your role expectations.

However, the distribution between the time spent in the different buckets also changes dynamically with situation and context. For example, sometimes I need to charge with some individual initiatives if I have worked on mundane team or company tasks. Or sometimes I have spent too much time on company-wide initiatives and need to start spending slightly more time in my team to help them out.

Widening the efforts of engineers Link to heading

I have also found that using this model has yielded more strategic initiatives and innovation, both for myself and others. It is easy for engineers to get stuck in the “I need to only do work in my team” silo. By encouraging engineers to slice their time into these three buckets, it implicitly reminds them that we all are allowed to decide ourselves what to work on - we don’t only need to be ticket machines in our local team. This increases autonomy, which has positive effects on motivation.

Maybe this model might be of use to someone else. It has certainly been to me.