image by wfyurasko, flickr artist
recently, i had a conversation with my career manager at work (that’s kind of like a mentor to non-booz allen people). Â we talked about a few different topics, one of them was “work-life balance.”
the question of “how’s your work-life balance?” is always met by me with the same answer: “i don’t really have one.” Â it’s not because i’m not afforded the support of my teammates or my leadership. Â booz allen actually doesn’t like when we work too hard, too much. Â our firm recognizes that happy workers are better workers, and they don’t want their best and brightest minds getting burned out. Â but for me, i just really enjoy what i do. Â i’ve got some great teammates â€” fantastic ones even. Â i’ve got a whole digital collection of coworkers from twitter, yammer, and other online realms whom i love interacting with every day. Â why would i want to take time away from that? Â but at the same time, i am also a bit fearful of taking vacations or leaving work early when i’ve met my billable hours for the month. Â the reason why is because of the college football paradigm.
i was in a training session recently with a few folks who had some concerns with the proposed new method of doing things. Â their main complaint, and one that i’ve heard from many others, was: “this is just another place i have to do work. Â i already have to check 4 web sites, and my email, and my voicemail â€” including my voicemail at home â€” and my txt messages…”
on the surface, it seems like a valid complaint. Â who wants to check 5 web sites, and all the rest, rather than the previous 4? Â but the problem isn’t really the amount of work you have to do, it’s that you have a problem managing your time.
no one says you have to answer every email as soon as it enters your inbox, or that you have to answer your phone and txt messages. Â that’s a choice that you’ve made. Â instead of looking at the amount of work you have to do â€” or the number of sites or information/communications channels that you have to monitor â€” start looking at the way you organize your day.
- manage your inbox. Â microsoft outlook gives you the ability to create rules for incoming messages, so why not use some? Â parse your incoming messages into certain folders, or create and make use of categories â€” then, once your messages clean themselves up automatically, create a schedule. Â only answer “project team” emails a handful of times each day. Â answer “corporate communications” emails once a week. Â answer “daily status” emails once a day. Â whatever you choose, stick to the schedule unless there’s an urgent need. Â email is not real-time; spoiler: it was never intended to be!
- screen your phone calls. Â utilize your voicemail… heavily. Â client calling? Â don’t answer it. Â boss calling? Â don’t answer that either. Â ”WHAT?! Â are you crazy?” Â no, i’m not â€” here’s why: Â you should always have a plan when talking on the phone with someone. Â because you don’t have visual communication, your words are all you have, and you need to make sure that you know what you’re talking about. Â the client has a question, and your boss needs a status; this is vital information to have before engaging in a conversation with them so that you can prepare. Â not only do you seem more intelligent, but you’ll also spend less time on the phone. Â unless you know why the person is calling, let your voicemail answer, and â€” again â€” create a schedule for checking your voicemail. Â check every day before lunch (people hate to chat when they’re on the way out the door in 15 minutes for qdoba) and sometime in the afternoon. Â but whatever you do always remember, return every call every day because people hate silence.
- make information work for you. Â in a world of RSS feeds and yammer, information comes to you if you let it. Â if you’re checking 4 web sites a day for work, why not use an RSS reader or add RSS feeds to outlook instead? Â you don’t need to be checking a site if there’s no new information, so don’t. Â using tools like blogs and micro-blogs such as yammer and twitter (if adopted by your project team) can help you collect information in the same place, categorize it, and push notifications. Â information will come to you if you do your part to build a platform that will support it.
the points above can be simplified into two simple rules: 1) automate what you can, and 2) create a schedule for dealing with that which you can’t. Â if you’re feeling overwhelmed, chances are you don’t have a work problem â€” you just have a time management problem.
it’s not easy to do. Â it takes complete buy-in and discipline, but if you can master your schedule you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish.
oh, hold on a second… i’m getting a phone call…
photo by tiarescott, flickr artist
i couldn’t tell you the number of times people have said to me, “i wish i wasn’t in meetings all day; i’d be able to get some actual work done for a change.” if i had a nickel for each time someone moaned or groaned about having to go to a meeting, i’d have easily paid my student loans off by now.Â it’s no secret: meetings suck.
but they don’t have to!
if a meeting you’re in is ever boring, or uninteresting, or leaves you totally disengaged â€” you’re doing it wrong. read through these 5 reasons your meetings suck, and learn from them. Continue reading
photo by stress-relief, via flickr
in my experience, setting priorities doesn’t work.
why? for one simple reason: 98% of the time, the priority is set arbitrarily. “we need you to take care of this. karen says it’s urgent.” so should you stop what you’re doing and take care of what karen asked? it depends.
“is this task on the critical path?” â€” whether yes or no, this answer should be the primary metric for driving your efforts. often times a manager, or the client, or someone else who may not be involved in the finer aspects of a project will ask for you to do something that doesn’t reflect the core goals of the project. just because someone “wants” something doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing for them. the critical path is a map of current tasks and their interdependencies. if one task on the critical path slips, you’re now looking down the barrel of a loaded gun called schedule creep.
more after the jump.
photo by Balakov, flickr artist
i heard an interesting quote from a co-worker just recently. he said, “what gets measured gets done.” what’s more he said, “i learned that from a timeÂ managementÂ course that i showed up late for.” and he’s right! as they also say – “when the cat’s away, the mice will play.”
it’s nice to think that you can trust people to do what you expect them to do, but it’s hard for people to stay motivated when they know they’re not being watched. if a professor or teacher says they’re not going to grade homework, chances are that students won’t do it (or at least do it well).
it would be great if you could count on people without leaning on them, wouldn’t it? Â now, let me ask you this question: how many people thought this post was about other people? now how many people thought this post was directed at YOU? Continue reading