Tag Archives: Time management

Taking control of your career requires taking control of your life.

take control of your life

Alejandro Escamilla via Unsplash

Your career is as much about your life outside of work as it is about what you do from 8 to 5.  Money, health, relationships…it all impacts how effectively you manage your career.  Whether you’re trying to find your life’s passion or simply want to land a better gig, it’s time to get more than just your resume in order.

First, take a look at your finances.  If your dream job means taking a salary cut or paying more for medical benefits, will you be able to make it work?  Committing to living within your means and building up a savings cushion is critical.  Career decisions shouldn’t be made from a position of scarcity, so now’s the time to start building good financial habits.

Speaking of habits, how are your diet and exercise?  Are you getting enough sleep?  A new job will make it tough to focus on self-care.  Building a healthy routine now – prepping weeknight meals on Sunday, hitting the gym regularly – will make it easier to stay on track when work gets crazy.  And don’t forget about relationships.  Make connecting with the important people in your life a regularly scheduled event.

Since you’re career-minded, I’m sure you’ve already spent some time polishing your resume.  But have you given your online presence a once-over recently?  The bulk of all your online content should reflect your professional experience and interests.  Take the time to clean up anything unflattering and make sure you’re putting your best digital foot forward.  (This is a good post on crafting a professional digital identity.)

And finally, let’s talk about time.  You already feel like you don’t have enough and here I am telling you to add more to your to-do list?  I know it seems daunting but I’m willing to bet you have more time than you think.  I challenge you to keep a time log for a week and see what you learn.  (And I admit that I hate tracking my time too, but it’s worth it.  Start here.)

How about you?  What would you add to this list?

 

Advertisements

How to make time for the work that matters.

how to make time

Sonja Langford via Unsplash

Stop for a minute and think of all the people you work with.  Who would you say is the busiest?

I bet one person pops into your head immediately.  Because every office has that one “busy” person – the person who always has too much to do and makes a big, passive-aggressive production about it.  The person who responds to tasks with a resigned sigh but, because they have a lot of institutional knowledge, are respected and even seen as an expert at their job.  Which isn’t surprising, since they’ve been doing that same job for years.

So why hasn’t the Busy Bee been promoted?  Because being busy is career quicksand.  You can work yourself silly, but if it’s not right kind of work, you’ll never get anywhere.

In order to move up, you have to do the kind of work that makes you management material – understanding your industry, effectively prioritizing, creative problem solving, learning to lead a team, and so on.  You have to do more than just your core tasks.  You have to take on the projects that will help you grow as a professional

But how?  You already have a full day of assigned duties and you can’t simply stop doing them, right?  Of course not.  I’m not suggesting you neglect your work.  You have to do your job and do it well.  But leaders identify ways to get what they need.  If you need more time, you’re going to have to create it.

Waste is a concept I became familiar with during my time in manufacturing.  Every process we do is full of waste – actions that take time and energy but don’t create real value.  Maybe it’s moving material from place to place.  Or sitting idle while you wait for your next task.  Or finding a defect and having to scrap your work.  Eliminating waste is key to reducing costs, improving quality and decreasing production time.

You probably don’t work in manufacturing but I believe the concept of waste is valuable in any field.  If you look closely at your day, you’ll likely see that you expend time and energy on things that aren’t really necessary.  If you can reduce or eliminate that waste, you can get more work done in a shorter amount of time and, in essence, create more time.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

Are your tools in the wrong place?  The things you use to do your job should be readily accessible, when and where you need them.  If you find yourself reaching, stretching and searching for things you need, you’re wasting time and energy.

Are you in the wrong place?  If your tasks are repeatedly taking you outside your work area, consider whether your workspace should be closer to the people you support.  Think in terms of process flow rather than department or function.

Are you doing more than is necessary?  By this I mean adding extra administrative steps for no reason – like printing reference copies of things that are readily accessible online.  Save your energy for going above and beyond in ways that actually matter.

Are you reworking things that weren’t done right the first time?  Sometimes things come to us broken and we just fix it as part of our process.  Taking extra time now to address the problem at its source will save you time over the long term.

Are you inconsistent in your processes?  Find the best way to do a repetitive task and stick with it.  The speed and accuracy you gain will free up time to do more glamorous work elsewhere.

Each of these individual examples may seem trivial, but considered together, they add up to a significant amount of wasted time – time that you can be using to do the right kind of work for your career.

 

Be a better manager in 40 minutes a day.

Today

Last week, Sarah Von Bargen’s Every. Damn. Day list got me thinking about my daily benchmarks for productivity.  As a work-from-home mom, my personal list includes things like showering (a surprising luxury) and feeding the kid (yes, he wants to eat EVERY day).  But since you’re here to read about management and not my sporadic personal hygiene, here are four daily tasks to keep you on track, even on days when the rest of your to-do list has gone up in flames.

1.  Tidy up.  I think of organizing my desk as the business equivalent of making my bed every day.  It signals that I’m awake, upright and ready to tackle the day.  Whether you’re a neat freak or someone who thrives in organized chaos, spend 10 minutes every day on administrative tasks – filing, opening mail, approving receipts – to keep them from becoming messy and demoralizing eyesores on your desk.  Doing a little each day keeps recurring tasks from becoming huge projects that you need to fit into your schedule.

2.  Walk around.  Whether you call it “management by walking around” or just stretching your legs, you need to get out from behind your desk and see what the rest of your team and organization is doing.  You can learn a lot from seeing your team function in real-time, so take 10 minutes each day to engage with your team without a set agenda.

3.  Think long-term.  It’s easy to get caught up in the urgency of daily tasks and forget to allow time for working on your long-term goals.  Networking, professional development, deliberate practice – you don’t need to schedule large blocks of time for these things.  Once you’ve mapped out tasks required to reach your long-term goal, you can work your plan in 10 minute increments. You’ll be surprised by how much you will accomplish over the course of a month.

4.  Do nothing.  Spend 10 minutes each day reading, writing or thinking about something non-work related.  And, no, I don’t mean browsing E! Online or Facebook, although sometimes those little brain-breaks are healthy.  Instead, pick a topic you want to learn more about – creativity, happiness, design – and allow yourself a daily 10 minutes to explore it.  Getting your brain out of its normal routine will give you fresh perspective and inspiration when you return to work.

“A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.”

~ Anthony Trollope

 

(Photo credit: Microsoft)

Keep calm and make a list.

to do list

In less than a week, I will be braving a cross-country, red-eye flight with a two year old.

Holyfreakingcow.

This is our first plane trip as a family and our longest extended stay away from home.  To say I’m anxious would be an understatement.  My mind has been racing with what seems like a million things to plan:  Figuring out what to bring on the flight.  Getting the house and dog ready for the sitter.  Anticipating what gear we’ll need once we’re in New York.  My blood pressure rises with every new thought.  But today I finally sat down and made a list.  And, amazingly, I feel much better.

Why do I always forget how calming a list can be?  Until it’s on paper, it’s an infinite string of things.  But once it’s in a list, it’s a plan.  And plans I can handle.

Here are some of my favorite thoughts on to-do lists:

 

freak out

Even my hair was freaking out about this trip.

You might also like:

On optimism.

 

How do you survive a job you hate?

Out of Office by Everjean

Being stuck in a job you hate is draining – mentally, physically and emotionally.

You’re unmotivated, unproductive and unhappy. 

How do you get through it?  Here are three tips that have helped me in the past.

And as I wrote this, I started thinking about the flipside of the question:  How do we as managers make sure our employees aren’t stuck in jobs they hate?  Interestingly, the same advice applies in both cases.

Fight negative self-talk

There’s a voice inside your head that narrates as you go about your day, and sometimes it says the same negative thing so often that you don’t even realize it has become your mantra:

“Ugh, I hate this place.”      “I’m trapped.”      “This sucks.”

This inner curmudgeon is hard to ignore and only serves to make you feel even worse about your situation.  But if you can become conscious of your own self-talk, you can stop the voice before it starts.  When you hear your inner dialogue start to take a downward turn, pull up some positive phrases to counteract the negative voice.

“I feel good today.”       “I can do this.”

It won’t change the realities of your job but it will help you feel better as you do it.

The flipside…

As a manager, you obviously can’t change an employee’s inner voice.  But you can insure that your workplace culture doesn’t promote complaining and negative cross-talk.  Keep lines of communication open between you and your staff by creating a space for genuine feedback in your team meetings and one-one discussions.  Encourage your staff to bring their negative opinions into the open so you can actually deal with the underlying issues.  And don’t forget to make sure you’re curbing your own inner critic as well.

Focus on growth

It’s tempting to check out of a job you hate… zoning, surfing the web, napping in your car.  While it seems like focusing on anything other than your job will cheer you up, the reality is that we need to be challenged to be happy.  Simply “doing your time” will make the days even longer and yourself even more unhappy.  So use the time you’re stuck in a bad job to grow your professional skills.  Take on a new project, rework a process or try a new technique.  Challenge yourself to learn something new every day.  The days will go faster and you’ll be beefing up those weak points in your resume to boot.

The flipside…

As a manager, this one is pretty straight forward.  Make sure your team has challenging work and the opportunity to try new tasks.  Cross-training is a great way to keep your employees learning new things while also making your team stronger.  It’s important to encourage your staff to explore projects that are of personal interest as well.  Tune in to your team’s individual career goals and focus on helping them grow.

Tackle big projects in small doses

As much as you hate your current job, you probably need to find a new one before you can move on.  Even if jobs are plentiful and you’re a hiring manager’s dream, job hunting sucks.  When you’re drained and demoralized from 8 hours on the job, the last thing you want to do is spend your free time writing cover letters.  But if you want to find a better job, you’ve got to tackle the process.  If this seems daunting, work in small doses.  Commit to working on the job hunt for 15 minutes every night.  It won’t seem so overwhelming and you’ll be able to get a surprisingly large amount accomplished in a week.

The flipside…

As a manager, make sure you’re paying attention to your team’s workload and let them know they can come to you when they’re feeling overwhelmed.  Coach them on how to approach large tasks and help them find smaller side projects that they enjoy.  This will give them something to focus on when they’re feeling burnt out on their main project.

 

How about you?  How have you gotten through a job you didn’t like?

 

(Photo by Everjean via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

On optimism.

Sunrise by Nigel Howe

Do you write down your long-term goals?  Productivity gurus recommend separating our to-do lists into daily tasks, mid-range projects and long-term objectives (think: operational, tactical and strategic) and we all know writing down our goals keeps us focused, organized and accountable.  But did you know it can also make you feel more optimistic?

In her book The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky explains how recording our dreams in a “Best Possible Selves” diary can help us feel more positive and improve both our mental and physical well-being.  Writing down our vision of ourselves in 5 or 10 years helps us define our values and our identity.  You get a happiness boost from anticipation, and having a mental image of yourself living your best life helps you stay optimistic about the future.

Other ideas on managing your long-term goals:

 

You might also like:

Notes To Self: Tracking Your Deliberate Practice

 

This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.

(Photo by Nigel Howe via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)