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.

The Ugly Truth About Time Management

 

badhon-ebrahim-1169302-unsplash
Photo by Badhon Ebrahim on Unsplash

Let’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.