Time, Tide & Usefulness

So, as the fates would have it, the pandemic is not a sprint — but a grueling marathon. Work (for some of us) is still present, although likely in some morphed form. The pace or tenor may have been revised. Colleagues may have scattered. Yet hopefully, your heart, passion and loyalty are still present, although possibly bruised and battered.

A lot has happened. Every day there is more to digest.

Yet fall has still arrived. The days are still becoming shorter (at least here in Michigan) and my garden is still quickly fading. The tide still returns. Soon winter will come. Mother nature hasn’t bothered to blink an eye.

What are we to make of all of it? What comes next?

As as a young college student (pre-major), I drafted a rather depressing, dream-based short story named “The Far Side”. It mused of a dystopian world, where those with a useful profession were transported in the dead of night to an undisclosed location, in an effort to save the world (from itself). Some sort of traumatic event had already occurred — and while traveling through seemingly endless darkness and barren landscapes, there was a palpable sadness among the passengers. Yet, at the same time a resolute calm. A firm sense of determination. All I knew at that moment, was the aching pain of becoming separated from my family. I was unsure of their fate and on which side of the sorting algorithm had I fallen. Was I deemed useful?

At the time, I was a struggling college student on many levels. My parents had just divorced, Microeconomics was proving a relentless challenge and my tiny, insular world seemed to be collapsing. But, I had an inner sense that training to do something useful, was one key to getting past my present.

Feeling useful is important to all of us. It is a vital part of our work life core, especially when things are literally going sideways. Whether we are blessed with fame, wealth or acclaim really does not matter. Striving to be useful — is something of note that we can all achieve.

What matters is that we apply our training, our gifts, empathy and strengths.

That we create a small, useful ripple, in this vast ocean of a world.

Not simply for the betterment of others, or for the world — but for ourselves.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who focuses on empowering work through the development of a strong foundation. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Here’s How to Build a Stronger, More Stable Organizational Culture

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We would all like to build a strong, stable organizational culture. Yet, we often underestimate the enormity of the challenge to do so. I’ve spent years as a consultant, diagnosing organizational issues — and if I have learned one cogent lesson it is this: It is always difficult to face what has gone wrong.

In a sense, we dance around the issues. We build compensatory mechanisms to manage the fallout. We make excuses.

In the end, we often treat the entire situation like a spoiled child that we would rather not upset. Yet, to truly build a stronger organization — we must honestly examine and address the elements that have contributed to its current state. (In my practice, I often utilize the philosophy of Core Stability to support the exploration phase of a client relationship. See a definition below.)

Organizational Core Stability: A confluence of elements including, but not limited to: 1) clarity surrounding the development/communication of mission, goals, strategy and expressed values, 2) clear governance, 3) alignment of resource priorities, 4) shared performance metrics.

No argument here, facing the music can be a painful process. There can be discussions of blame, of thwarted efforts to improve, of unrelenting, stubborn obstacles. However, examining the discord — note by note — is the only way to move forward. (I’ve found that my role is just as much about cushioning the blow, as it is diagnostic.)

If your organization has begun this process, take heart — and remember the following:

1. No one sets out to build a sick culture. I’m going to absolve everyone of their guilt in the name of forward progress. Horrible cultures seem to take on  a life of their own. Time, growth, and the wrong metrics — push organizations further down the wrong path — somewhat like a bully that is intent to steal your lunch money. The resulting condition can serve as a devastating blow, yet no one wanted it to happen.

2. Letting go of blame can be liberating. When we let go of blame, of silos and functional turf, we can get to the business of changing things. Stabilizing the organization is the first step on the road the rehabilitation. Internal organizational stability requires that you examine topics such as governance, decision-making, resources and how you treat your people. Rebuilding your culture starts from the nucleus and moves outward. (Moreover, “dark-side” elements, such as narratives that over-ride healthy habits, must be unearthed and quickly addressed.)

3. Start small and behave differently. The proof is in the pudding as they say — and the best way to improve a sick culture is for it to behave differently. If you manage a team or department, make no mistake, it is a living, breathing micro culture. Know that if observed behaviors do not change in line with a declared change, there is little hope of rehabilitation. The culture will continue to decline and the organization will lose both people and opportunities.

Change is often about forgiveness.
About re-focusing toward the future and leaving painful narratives behind.
In a sense, this must be extended to the larger organization as well.

Allow it to move on.

Have you ever been involved in an effort to change an unhealthy culture? Was it successful? What were the greatest challenges?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her training series The Core — helps people & organizations build a stronger work life foundation. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Where We Are Now With Work

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Photo by Eli Sommer on Pexels.com

There is nothing so stable as change. – Bob Dylan

I’ve not felt like writing in weeks. I have 45 open drafts. That’s a record (even for me).

There is a malaise that meets me at my desk on many mornings. I would characterize this as a lack of energy. A bit of resistance to do the work I normally love.  (Indeed, I am grateful to still have a role to occupy my mind.) I will hypothesize that the pace of both challenge and change in our world, has finally caught up with me.

Of course, none of us has all of the answers. We can only bring our collected knowledge and best intentions to forge ahead.

As I usually do, I’ve talked to others about their work as well — how it has changed (for better and worse), how it will remain so for some time, how we must adapt. What I’ve learned, is that we are entering a new phase of work life, “post” the arrival of Covid. The changes we are going through come with an element of loss and we should open to speak about all of it.

We are each affected differently, that goes without saying. But, as aptly expressed in this HBR article: “If we can name it, we can manage it.” I’ll start. You can join in the comments section if you wish.

I am quickly realizing that this crisis isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon. We are in this for the long-haul. Some of the elements of work life that once were — may never return. Some of the changes will be useful. Other changes will likely make us feel oddly out of sync. (We seem to be moving through a crash course in “digital transformation,” in real-time.)

I also know that we should draw from our foundation, our built work life core — to help us along. We must acknowledge what we can bring with us on this journey. More specifically — that we can bring along the good, as well as the challenging. (A strong nod to positive psychology here.) Bolstering our resolve with the positive, is vital. This may be a useful strategy in our arsenal to combat all of the work life twists and turns, yet to come.

What we’ve built.

We bring along the elements of our work lives that we have nurtured. The strong teams. The great colleagues. The challenge of the work. The healthy cultural landscapes.

These elements will help us adapt, help us face the changes with resilience.

Of course, when the dust settles we’ll have decide if we still fit — and at least assess where we find ourselves within our current organization. The outcomes of which will not be easy to predict. It is hard to know what choices (good or bad) an organization will make. What choices you must make. Yet, I do know that you should pause to re-evaluate constructs such as the psychological contract. Discuss it openly. Declare what you need to stay engaged and healthy. Managers should have an open and honest conversation with each one of their employees to take stock.

Ultimately, our world of work is now characterized by change.

To keep pace — look to your core.

Lean in to the great things you have built.

Please Note: The articles on this site are the intellectual property of the author — and cannot be used commercially without expressed written consent.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist & speaker, who explores the value of core stability to empower work & career. Her course, The Core Masterclass teach managers how to build core stability for themselves and their team.

5 Unexpected Things I’ve Learned About People, Work & Organizations

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Photo: @jamieinemo at Instagram

What we need to know about our line of work, can never be conveyed completely in a classroom setting.

Scores of valuable lessons are learned through our experiences. In some cases, they emerge as topic gaps. For example, a course entitled “consulting for success” was not a part of my curriculum. (It should have been.) In other cases, the guidance is shared, but delivered far too early — as we require a certain breadth of experience to comprehend its importance. (Only maturity brings this.)

Ultimately, we discover many of these vital lessons on our own.

On some occasions, just in the nick of time. On other occasions, that timing is not as fortunate.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned with time:

  1. No matter how driven or successful — work cannot be corralled into a neat, confined space.
    Early in my career, I was caught in an elevator with the most senior level employee in my department. (Her office was just a stone’s throw from mine and I would only see her breezing to and from meetings.) Normally stoic, on this particular day she was uncharacteristically open, “In this organization you need to learn to leave your personal life at the door. Remember that, Marla.”, as she huffed out of the elevator. As the doors closed, I was so struck by her admission that I forgot to exit. I realized years on, that work affects us broadly — because of its central importance in the operation of our everyday lives. Work-life balance is really more of an integration challenge. Moreover, when an organization ignores this fact, undo pressure and stress often develop. Everyone loses, as she likely felt in that moment.
  2. Never make assumptions about people how people feel about their work.
    I left school believing that my training and reasoning skills, could help me solve most of the encountered work life problems. However, that belief was inherently flawed. Over time, I came to realize that the true nature of someone else’s experience, isn’t obvious. The only way to gain access and understand that perspective, is to develop a trusting relationship and inquire. True feelings and dynamics are often shrouded — and leading with curiosity is vital.
  3. Growing pains aren’t just for kids. They apply to work life as well.
    My father was a family physician, so I was well versed concerning the pain experienced as tendons stretch to accommodate bone growth. I’ve also realized that organizations and careers paths, suffer from a similar dynamic. As individuals & organizations approach important inflection points, they must stretch to meet the challenge. This can become quite uncomfortable. My role is to help them through it.
  4. Goals which once motivated us, can also trip us up.
    If you’ve ever been stuck trying to force your way forward, you may have experienced this issue. Sometimes the goals that we establish for ourselves and seek, actually begin to hold us back. This happens when we see things one way — and cannot budge to see an alternative path. In some cases, it may be time to let the goal go.
  5. Authenticity isn’t always a good thing.
    I’ve worked with more than one individual, whose authentic “brand” or work style, literally stood in the way of progress. I’m not referring to awful people, who fail to possess concern for their employees or colleagues. I’m speaking of talented, kind individuals who have a working style or flow, that happens to affect others adversely. When made aware of how their quirks derailed others, they are usually horrified. (Know yourself and how you work best. But, also build awareness of how that might impacts others. If you aren’t completely sure — ask.)

Work life is a journey.

If approached with the right mindset, it is also a non-stop learning experience.

What have you learned about work life that was unexpected? Share in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who focuses on empowering work through the development of a strong foundation. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

4 Lessons That Burnout Can Teach Us About Productivity

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Jack Seeds @Unsplash

Have you ever considered stepping away from something you love? A task that you previously enjoyed — but in the present not as much? A team? A role? An organization?

I realize the question may seem counter-intuitive. Why would we ever consider doing that? Yet, in reality this is precisely what may need to happen.

Most of us deliver value to our clients or customers because we love our work and are committed to progress. However, loving an element of your work life is not synonymous with a vaccine against burnout. In fact, it may leave you somewhat vulnerable. (Writing always checked this box on my side. But that process no longer fed my work life core as it once had. Looking back on the impasse, I hovered near “burnout” for quite some time before deciding to scale back.)

What does burnout look like? How does it present? It’s not as if it sends a note, letting you know of its arrival — and know that crossing into that territory is often undetected. However, there are clear signs that we’ve arrived: Apathy, where there was once passion. Anxiety, where there was previously anticipation. Exhaustion. Dread.

Stepping away or slowing down may be needed.
This will serve you longer-term — helping you to re-engage more productively with your work.

What I’ve learned:

1. When to stop isn’t discussed. We are offered an abundance of advice about how to start something. How to do more. Deliver more value in less time. Be more. Yet there is not nearly enough discussion about when and how (and why) we should walk away. We conveniently forget that remaining productive over the long-haul requires balance & rest.

2. Don’t wait for a savoir. Know this: It is unlikely that someone will approach you to say, “Stop what you are doing well, you seem mentally exhausted.”  You must play the governor of your own psychological resources. Monitor feelings of hope, self-efficacy, resilience and optimism. Pay attention if one has fallen precipitously.

3. Restructure/re-imagine your work. Becoming inflexible concerning how you contribute can become an issue, when we focus on one thing. When we pigeon-hole our contribution into a single form — we can become very, very weary. We fail to explore modifications that might support our energy level.

4. We cannot ignore evolution. When people do something reasonably well — we naturally assume we should continue. We also assume that we will remain motivated indefinitely. That’s not always the case. As contributors, our needs and motivation can subtly shift.

We cannot always step away completely from important aspects of our work. Yet, we can acknowledge how we feel about them. I encourage you take a step back and take the temperature. Explore the options. Talk with someone about how you feel — and brainstorm solutions.

Is there is an aspect of your work life that you no longer enjoy, in the way you once had?

Note to syndicated news outlets: Sharing articles from this site without the express permission of the author is forbidden.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

How Letting Go (of Goals) Can Help Your Work Life

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Photo by David Yu on Pexels.com

 

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” – Herman Hesse

Most of us are challenged to let go of disappointment within our work lives.

We bemoan the collaborations that didn’t prove fertile, the target we may have missed  or the client that got away. We are taught repeatedly to “stick with things” and to “never give up“. Yet, I’ve seen this strategy backfire and cause a great deal of stress.

As a psychologist, I’ve seen this unusual type of guilt — “goal guilt” as I like to call it — affect all types of contributors, from those new to the workforce, to seasoned CEOs and entrepreneurs. In may cases, the unfulfilled elements in the past, simply get in the way of a fulfilling, more work life in the future.

Invariably, the elements that we value the most, that live at our core, cause us the most trouble.

Big, audacious goals are touted as a cornerstone of our work lives. (Some advice here, on how to set them wisely.) We are encouraged not only to set them, but to live alongside them with each and every breath we draw. I’m good with goals and we all need them. Yet, just like the battery that feeds our favorite device — goals have a “life span”. They reach a state, where they are no longer viable or serve as a meaningful motivator. How this affects us is something we should pause and note.

People also cycle in and out, of our work lives. There are expectations attached to them as well — and not all of these might have been fulfilled. There may have been a mismatch, or we (or they) have changed or circumstances influenced the outcomes. Our time with them may have felt unproductive and frustrating, but inevitably, “it was what it was”.

All of this holding on requires energy and “headspace”. Yet, our attention cannot be infinitely divided. (Research has shown that our minds burns through 20% of our energy requirements though it represents only 2% of body mass.) In a sense, wasting that precious energy, is squandering our own potential.

Sometimes we simply must move on — and let go.

How you would describe your own history in this regard? Do you find it easy to let go? Or are you challenged to do so? If you lean toward the stubborn and notably inflexible end of the continuum, the process can be arduous. However, all of this hanging on doesn’t serve us. It can bring a fog that clouds new opportunities and can fuel bitterness. Nevertheless, turning away and leaving these things behind can be challenging and bring a certain sadness.

Letting go of people and goals that define yesterday can be a good thing. We must challenge our mindset to allow us to do so.

Here are a few thoughts concerning what letting go is and isn’t:

  • Letting go of a goal isn’t a defeat.
  • It does not signal failure on your part.
  • It may mean that the goal no longer serves you.
  • It may mean you have committed your best effort — and the outcomes/rewards weren’t there.
  • It is closure.
  • It is about shifting your energies to fertile ground.
  • It is about becoming more agile.
  • It can foster resilience.
  • It can build a sense of adventure; restore a certain hope and confidence in the future.
  • It can mark the moment of a new beginning.

In many cases letting go, creates room for pursuits that are far more rewarding — and carves out a place for the goals and people that will help move us forward.

I would say that softens the blow.

Is letting go challenging for you? Have you mastered the art? Share your experiences with our community.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

How to Survive When Challenging People Knock You Off Your Game

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No one relishes the thought of meeting the client, colleague or manager whose mere mention is synonymous with stress. Yet, challenging people (and the situations they create) are a work life fact. Chances are high that you will encounter one of these individuals along the way. When you’ve landed in a tight spot with someone who just isn’t playing fair, it can feel like a tidal wave of emotions.

Unfortunately, the experience can leave us feeling off balance and not quite like ourselves. This can be overwhelming. Feeling undermined or attacked is traumatic — and emotions run high. (Completely normal.) Most of us will immediately formulate an internal counter-attack or argument. However the opportunity for this play out in real life, is often dependent on the existing power dynamic. In many cases, we simply have to process the situation to move through it.

If you are not in the position to openly respond  — or directly defend yourself — you can be left with disturbing after-effects. We might feel a little “hung-over”, exhausted or dazed. Ultimately, encountering toxic people can affect our ability to thrive in the workplace. This is a real and present danger. So we must address the situation quickly.

Here is a bit of advice to wade through the fall-out:

  • Psychologically separate. The first thing to protect is your work life well-being. This may require applying mindfulness techniques to observe the situation from a safer psychological distance. Most human beings have a powerful response to extreme negative feedback — so ensure that your emotions (and feelings of worth) are not hijacked or destroyed. Think of things this way: What if the situation happened to a friend or co-worker? What advice would you offer them?
  • Seek support. Touch base with a trusted colleague or supervisor to share your experience and gain some perspective. Knowing that you have support, will help your resolve and deter doubts from taking a foothold.
  • Learn from the experience. A post-mortem review might be challenging — especially when you feel you are not at fault. However, reviewing the entire story to identify where things may have gone off the rails (and to revise future strategy) is warranted. Subtle cues can provoke someone who is already difficult to work with. Protect yourself going forward.
  • Face reality & exit the battlefield. If you feel your reputation may be at stake, attempt to exit the dynamic entirely. Request another colleague to cover the client or complete unfinished project work. Sometimes, more exposure only breeds more trouble.
  • Give things time. The surprise of the initial shock will fade. However, how you process the experience will matter longer-term. You will change as a contributor — but hopefully you will also emerge wiser, stronger and better prepared.
  • Focus on resilience-building. Learning strategies that help us bounce back are critical. Protecting our psychological resources is important, as situations where we feel misunderstood or attacked can have long-standing effects.

How have you dealt with unreasonable individuals in your work life? Share your strategies here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist, diagnostician and coach. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at the Harvard Business review, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

What You Need to Know About Yourself to Help You With (Workplace) Change

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The wind of change, whatever it is, blows most freely through an open mind. — Katharine Whitehorn

I’ve been told more than once, that I’m not the best role model concerning change. (To be candid, I agree with the characterization.) I balk at the mere whiff of a change — holding on to hope that it won’t ever come to pass.

Then adjusting my course will not be necessary.

Honestly, this can become a problem.

As you may have read in this post, I’ve struggled with even the smallest of changes, muddling along until the “new normal” finally appears. Until that moment, I feel somewhat annoyed and completely out of sync. For better or worse, my “go to” reaction is to keep my world frozen, until I can carefully consider every aspect of the situation. Unfortunately, holding time at bay usually isn’t often an option. (This also irks me. Why can’t things go at my pace?)

Regardless, I firmly acknowledge the value of flexing our workplace “change muscles”. However, knowing ourselves is likely the very first place to look when building this skill set. I believe that we all have a leading predisposition when faced with change at work (and life in general)  — representing both our collected experiences and temperament. Of course, this influences our leading strategy when reacting to change, as well.

That’s where things get tricky. (If you manage others, just reflect on what this means for your team.) We need to come to an understanding of our own tendencies and recognize how this might affect our response.

This realization, is a crucial step.

As a consultant who advocates for change for a living — here are a few of the predispositions I’ve observed over the years:

  • Piners or Grievers. These individuals often lament the coming of change, even when it is inevitable or completely necessary. They may grieve for the roles, policies, procedures and co-workers of days gone by. They do move on eventually — but often with decreased fulfillment, satisfaction and a good measure of sadness.
  • Researchers. An unbridled penchant to gather information is the leading response for this group — as looking at the issue from all angles often helps them move on. Unfortunately, a leading by-product of this view is “analysis paralysis”. Another issue: time may not be a negotiable. (This would be where I fall, although I do pine at the start.)
  • Supporters or Embracers. These individuals are generally open to change and feel excited to contemplate the future. They may not be a primary driver of change, yet are happy to see the possibilities, are optimistic — and help things move forward.
  • Alarmists. For these individuals an impending change triggers intense feelings of urgency. This could lead to premature or risky career behaviors, that could negatively affect them longer-term. (Such as quitting on a whim, etc.)
  • Dreamers. This group always manages to see the best in the current situation, even when there is overwhelming evidence to move on and accept a change. (I would add there is a very mild level of complacency operating). Because of this perspective, they might miss opportunities to properly plan a place for themselves in the new “order” of things.
  • Observers. Usually quiet and calm, these individuals take a solid “wait and see” approach. They rarely panic — and prefer to watch things unfold organically. They might superficially support the change, but may eventually exit if the change eventually is perceived as untenable.
  • Aggressors or Terminators. These individuals feel anger when they are faced with an unexpected change. They may become a strong “naysayer”, vehemently opposing a change and could exhibit negative behaviors without reflection.

After I drafted these, I searched for other frameworks that capture how we process change. I happened upon the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, which applies the seminal model of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross concerning grief, to change efforts within organizations. (This theory states that we all move through specified phases when dealing with change, rather than identifying a leading emotion that we deal with over time.) I thought it wise to mention it here.

Where do you fall? Have I missed your leading orientation toward change? Share your style in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. She is a Consulting Psychologist at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

15 Quotes to Get Your Head in the Right Place at Work

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Not every day can begin with unbridled enthusiasm.

We all have days when our emotional status is just not in the “right place”. Personally, I’m never sure about the root cause of my malaise. It could be anything I suppose, a stressful interaction that has lingered, a bad dream or the cheesecake I had last night for dessert.

However, it can spell trouble for my day. Changing the dynamic, becomes the first order of business. Sometimes, I opt to read New Yorker cartoons.  Sometimes, I call a trusted colleague or friend.

If all else fails, I read quotes about work life, career and inspiration.

Here are some of my favorite “mood changing” quotes.

I hope they offer you what you might need to impact your day for the better.

  1. Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius
  2. It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. – Lou Holtz
  3. Do your work with your whole heart and you will succeed – there is so little competition. – Elbert Hubbard
  4. All things are difficult before they are easy. – Thomas Fuller
  5. The harder I work, the luckier I get – Samuel Goldwyn
  6. Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them. – Ann Landers
  7. The secret of getting ahead, is getting started. – Mark Twain
  8. It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves. – William Shakespeare
  9. When we no longer can change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor E. Frankl
  10. There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there. – Indira Gandhi
  11. Study the past, if you would divine the future. – Confucius
  12. A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night. – Marilyn Monroe
  13. Food, love, career and mothers, the four major guilt groups. – Cathy Guisewite
  14. Believe you can and you are halfway there. – Theodore Roosevelt
  15. Change your thoughts and you change your world. – Norman Vincent Peale

Share your favorites in the comments section. I am sure I have missed more than a few classics.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who focuses on empowering work through the development of a strong foundation. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

The Ugly Truth About Time Management

 

brigitte-tohm-j8C66j15nAk-unsplashLet’s talk turkey about time management.

It’s a sticky workplace problem to tackle, primarily because it requires being brutally honest with ourselves to get a real grip on the issue. Yes, we all go through periods when work feels “out of control”.

However, there are strategies that might have prevented the lion’s share of that stress.

Where time management is concerned — it seems that we can turn out to be our own worst enemies.

Here are a few (not so pleasant) points to consider.

1. It’s Your Problem
The bottom line? No one else is going to value your time if you don’t. You have to teach others (and yourself) through words and actions, that your time is valuable. That may sound as if I’m characterizing all your of coworkers and clients as disrespectful. It’s not that. They simply have their own work lives to worry about and you need to worry about yours. If you feel someone is taking advantage, be honest and let them know you’ve spent as much time as you possibly can to help them. Point them in the right direction for more guidance. Be polite but firm. You’ll find that after you go through this once or twice, the process will become easier.

2. Cut the Cord
Here’s the thing. A time-management problem is usually not a time issue — it is a task issue. Specifically, you are not sorting through your work life and deciding which tasks really matter. This is like keeping old shoes in your closet that you really don’t wear, but continue to take up valuable space. Sometimes you have to give useless tasks the old “heave-ho.” Do you compile a report that nobody utilizes? Attend a weekly meeting that isn’t beneficial or necessary? Write the eulogy and cut the cord. It’s up to you. Choose or lose.

3. Playing Favorites is a Must
You hate prioritizing. Of course you do! Everyone does. But the number one priority to respect is your own calendar. Just remember that multitasking doesn’t work. Focusing on a single task, without interruption is critical. If you need a release valve in your schedule for tasks that pop up, set up time each Friday (or any plan that works) to connect the dots and tie up loose ends that develop during the week. Tell people politely, “My schedule is tight at the moment, but I’ll have time to explore that on Friday.” During this designated “catch-up time” you can consider ad-hoc requests and communicate responses.

4. Admit It — You’re a Control Freak
I know this excuse: “I don’t like to delegate.” But if you are a manager (or aspire to be one), the fact is that if you don’t learn how to delegate confidently, you will have trouble moving forward. Why? Because you won’t have the time to become a real leader. Chances are, you don’t trust other people to do the job as you would do it. I know. I’ve heard that excuse as well. But a surefire way to build resentment is to show your staff that you don’t trust them. You have to give up a little control and “mine” some time for the bigger picture.

5. Excuses Won’t Work
If you have a scheduling snafu, remember to ‘fess up as soon as you realize there is a problem. Recently I waited for a scheduled appointment with a specialist. After an hour, a nurse came out to ask if anyone was waiting for Dr “X.” After identifying myself, she let me know it would be at least another hour to see the doctor and asked if I would like to reschedule. They explained that the reason for the delay was that there were late additions to the schedule…but apparently they were on the books before I walked in the door. They didn’t bother to call or text me and give me the option not to wait.

If you are running behind or forget a commitment, take ownership as soon as you realize there is a problem. You’ll have a better chance of salvaging the relationship.

Time is a valuable commodity.

Use it wisely — and you’ll fuel your career.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

This post was originally published on Career Oxygen blog at Talent Zoo.