Balancing work priorities - the 50-35-15 rule

How do you balance the priorities during your work day? How do you know that you are focusing on the right thing? How do you even actually know what is the right thing? This is something that my team has been focusing on for a while.

We all have a finite amount of time - 24 hours in a day, 1440 minutes, 86,400 seconds. And until someone solves that small problem of time travel - I don’t think that this going to be any different.

This means we have to prioritize, how we spend our time, with whom, and on which activities. I read a book many years back The 7 habits of highly effective people and to be honest - I can say it probably changed my life. I don’t think that I have managed to implement or adopt everything in that book, but it did help understand that everyone should live their lives, divide their time and attention to the things that matter to them most. What those things might be - will vary from one person to another, but once you have defined for yourself what they should be - you can align everything you do - and more importantly what you will not do - based on your values and priorities. Priorities matter - and the closer they match your values - the easier it becomes to say what is important and what is not.

As a new solutions architect in AWS - one of the things that is drilled into you - is that you have to guard your time as the most precious resource you have - and focus on what is important and brings benefit to your customers.

Which is how we come to the topic of this post. How do I best serve my customers interests? How do I split my time between everything I have on my plate?

Many of us in customer facing roles might think that we need to spend all of our time in front of customers, and in some cases when the hours spent with your customers are billable - then it might make sense. This is not the case when you are a solutions architect in AWS. An SA is not a billable resource, we don’t get paid by the number of hours we spend with our customers.

This was when I was introduced to the 50-35-15 rule.

This is how a solutions architect in AWS will try to divide their time.

50% of your time should be spent with your customers, meeting them, working with them, helping them, meeting with others to help them. Amazon and all of us that work here, live and act based on the Leadership Principles.

Customer Obsession

Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

It makes perfect sense that the majority of our time should be spent on the most important thing - and that is customers.

15% spent of your time should be spent on internal or administrative activities. This could be documentation, meeting minutes, team meetings, things that do not relate directly to your customer. But they need to happen. If you see that administrative activities are taking too much of time - then either the tools are not the right ones for the job, and you should find ways to improve them so that you can focus on the right things.

The remaining 35% of your time should be spent on preparation (e.g. building things, PoCs, diving deep into a topic on behalf of a customer, certification, thought leadership, training, public speaking, learning new stuff). This is extremely important to ensure that you are ready, that you have all the knowledge, tools and information at your disposal to make the other 50% of your time with your customers as impactful as possible.

I was listening to a the Last Week in AWS episode with Bobby Allen and there was something there that resonated with me and I think it really important to point it out. Here is the quote:

So, Corey, if I kind of build on that, but connect, kind of, life and technology because I feel like a lot of technology lessons are really life lessons or vice versa. One thing that I’ve been wrestling with, I feel like in tech and in life, Corey, we’re struggling with how to evaluate better versus different. Do I need a faster horse or do I need a car? And the challenge is, in a world of overwhelming options — watch this — how you choose is more important than what you choose. And most of us are overwhelmed I find because we’re focusing on a choice, not a plan.

Because without a plan, you’re one more option away from being overwhelmed or starting over again prematurely. We need things, Corey, that are going to free up our minds to go focus on the next problem."

Some people become overwhelmed - because they are constantly trying to keep up with everything around them - without taking a pause to stop - to look at the big picture - to see where I can improve - not only myself, but also everything else around me.

That is why it is absolutely crucial that you spend time on yourself, to promote yourself, to learn more, to gain more knowledge to advance your career, grow both personally and professionally.

I know that this is not a one-size-fits-all for each and every role out there, it will depend both on the company your work for, your position and company culture.

I am really grateful that AWS has the vision to see that a balanced focus for the SA role - brings not only benefit to our customers, but also the us SA’s as well - allowing us to grow both personally and professionally.