You Want What, When?!
Have you ever noticed a lot of the productivity experts who say "it’s ok to say no", and "you need to create margin in your work day", are self-employed?
Um….I’m playing catch up here, but with no boss (or bosses) isn't that a whole lot easier to do? What about the rest of us who have senior management asking us to chase after a variety of shiny objects, and personnel we are trying to support through the latest flu outbreak?
The fact is, it’s really hard to say no (or even career limiting) even though the benefits it would bring are undeniable. We can’t control when a boss, or customer, will come to us with a problem or request. The good news though, is we can control what we do from that moment on. The chaos and disruption that occurs around us doesn’t have to influence how we respond to it. As a matter of fact, it can’t. Our health and welfare depends upon it.
To be our best selves doesn’t mean to drop everything and jump on the latest emergency that has been tossed into our lap. It does mean to focus on what matters at that moment, and have a system by which you can capture and process new items in an effective and efficient manner. There are many ways to do this, and even more people offering advice. Here is the routine that works for me:
Here is when I take a bit of a break and recharge a little. I almost always have brought my lunch in so I’ll eat in my office, and wrap up any loose ends from the morning work. After that, I’ll go outside, or somewhere nearby, to walk and clear my mind.
Before I walk out the door I take another look at my email, voicemail etc. to ensure nothing has slipped through the cracks. It is at this time I make a list of the top 3 issues I want to address in the morning. This allows me to not waste time tomorrow determining where to begin.
So let's be honest. This routine doesn’t prevent the shiny object chase or any of the other thousands of interruptions which could and will occur. Things happen which require changes to be made, and new priorities to be established. What I have found though, is while this system doesn’t prevent the craziness it prevents me from becoming crazy right along with it. There is a sense of calm and order knowing I’ve got a game plan and general structure to see me through the day.
One last piece of advise. Coffee. Always coffee.
Side notes that make the system work:
5 Career Tips
We love lists...Christmas lists, bucket lists, task lists. Even Arya Stark* had a list.
*Game of Thrones confession: I actually liked season 8.
Lists are tricky though. They try to convince us life and success can be wrapped up in a few simple steps. If we can just accomplish what's on the list all will be good. Happiness and contentment are just a few checkboxes away.
Of course, it’s never that easy. The reality is lists represent a beginning. An initial structure of clarity and focus to begin the pursuit we are targeting, rather than a final roadmap to our destination. That’s because every moment is fluid. If we stay so locked into the lists, we lessen our ability to pivot and consider other variables as they present themselves. However, if we consistently vet and groom our lists, we can then make intentional and purposeful decisions throughout as new information, problems, and opportunities arise.
With all that being said, I was asked recently what would be my top 5 career tips for someone starting out. A career tip list if you will. I think the following is a good place to start.