In this edition of Calendar Heroes, we talk to Michele Wiedemer, Manager of Customer Education at Synk, to learn about her style, tools, and methodologies for balancing priorities while developing the education training program for security champions and developers at the open source security platform. Follow Michele on LinkedIn and Snyk on Twitter at @snyksec.
Calendar Heroes are real stories from very busy professionals across all types of roles and industries to learn more about how they manage to make time where there is none. We’re highlighting these stories to help share tips and ideas for working effectively, improving your time management skills, and boosting your productivity.
If you know a Calendar Hero who has awesome productivity hacks that you’d like to recommend we interview or want to be interviewed yourself, let us know! You don’t have to be a Reclaim user to be featured as a Calendar Hero: these stories are about anyone with an interesting approach to managing a complex schedule.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
I’m Michele, the new Manager of Customer Education at Snyk, and I’m building an education program for our customers that includes group training activities and self-paced learning paths. I’m a fully remote worker in a globally distributed company. Before that, I was a freelancer for the last 15 years, often working with small startup companies to create software user guides, online help, and video and eLearning content.
What does a typical workweek look like for you?
The work in my typical week falls into a few main categories:
- I join a lot of meetings. The meetings might be to collaborate on specific projects, to learn about changes coming in our products, or to learn from our new customers. Most of the meetings are in the morning in order to overlap time zones with my teammates in EMEA.
- I also spend a good chunk of my time on content creation activities, including instructional design, writing, and producing educational activities and multimedia content.
- As a new leader, there are aspects of the job I’m still learning, like working on our educational strategy, building our tech stack, and team building.
- At a fast-paced company, it can be challenging to keep track of things that impact me and the program I’m building. But, I spend some time trying, mostly by reviewing a number of Slack channels. I always find things that either enhance what I already have planned, or are ideas I want to hang onto for future initiatives.
What techniques do you use to manage your time?
While I was freelancing, I was often juggling several projects at once, as well as spending time volunteering with my children’s schools. I became a bit of a productivity enthusiast to stay on top of everything. What helped me most was reading David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. I’m not always great about all of the steps of the GTD methodology, but whenever I start feeling overwhelmed, it helps me get more grounded if I focus on the basic steps of the process.
Having a plan really helps with those million random things that don’t neatly fit into a certain project. What I love about the GTD method is that I can capture all of those things in one safe place and know that getting back to them will not significantly derail my other big goals.
What tools do you use to make you more productive?
One of the first things I did when I started the new job was to figure out which tools to incorporate. I’ve always been a fan of using the right tool for the job, and no one tool does every job well when it comes to productivity.
I’m using Asana to track cross-collaborative projects and associated tasks. I’m using Notion for both informal note-taking and as an internal information repository. I use Lattice to track my quarterly goals and KPIs, as well as agendas for one on one meetings.
I love how tools work together. For example, I can start an Asana task from a Slack message or store links for useful documents or articles I want to return to in Notion.
Because of all of the meetings, my calendar is really my source of truth for how I spend my time. We use Google Calendar, and internally, my teammates can find time on my calendar when scheduling a meeting. I’m also using Calendly to simplify scheduling external meetings.
Within my first couple of weeks at Snyk, someone recommended Reclaim.ai and it has been the best tool to keep my calendar as my main day-to-day grounding of what I should be doing. In addition to syncing with my Slack status, I use both the Habits and Tasks functionality.
There are personal Habits that I want to make sure to include in my week, like a daily walk and time for lunch. I love that I can give Reclaim some parameters about these Habits to make sure they show up on my calendar in the right way.
I had a lightbulb moment when one of my teammates talked about her “big rocks” to refer to focused project work. Each week, I decide which big rocks I want to schedule, estimate how much time I want to spend on them, and let Reclaim Tasks do the rest.
Once Reclaim does the scheduling, I sometimes tweak it a bit. Then when I find time slipping away on undefined Slack work, or feel that I’m going from meeting to meeting, I remind myself that I have some focused work time coming up later in the day or the next day.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Big thinking, small steps. Stay focused on the project in front of you, with just a hint of what’s coming next.