I was speaking with a coaching client the other week. We were talking about all of her responsibilities. She talked, I wrote. I’d written a half-page of responsibilities, some of them tactical, some of them strategic. I asked, “What else are you doing?” She paused, and said, “I think there’s more, but I have to think for a minute. Sometimes I get surprised by everything I have to do. It’s not a good thing, is it?”
No, it’s not.
I asked her, “Do you ever stop to think?”
She laughed at me. “No. That’s not a good thing either, is it?”
No, it’s not.
We all have a ton of work to do. We often have a mix of strategic and tactical work. However, if you don’t have a list of the work you do, or if you can’t write everything down, maybe you have to much work to do. Just a thought.
What can you do about this?
You don’t stop doing it and drop it on the floor. That’s not being a good corporate citizen. Or being good to yourself. Or to your family. But, you can ask yourself, “Who needs this work done and by when? Who finds it valuable? Am I the right person to do this work?”
You need to understand your personal project portfolio. You make your decisions about whether you should do this work, ever, now, or later. If you should never do this work, who should do this? If you manage people, or if you are a member of a team or a family, maybe someone else should do this work.
Maybe you are the kind of person who takes responsibility when it should not be yours. Are you the kind of person who has your hand up a lot? Do you have “I’ll do it” syndrome? Or, does your boss realize you are capable, and she says, “You get stuff done. I’ll give it you.”
We have to make conscious decisions about our work. We make choices all the time. Why not make them conscious choices?
The first question we should ask is, “Do we need to do this at all?” Sometimes, we do work because we’ve always done it. Or, because we’ve always done it this way. Not because we’ve thought about whether we need to do the work.
Once we know we need to do the work, ask, “Am I the right person to do this work?” Is this work only I can do, or is this work I should ask a peer to do because it belongs to him or her, or is this work I should delegate, because it doesn’t belong to me?
I see managers taking work that is not at their level. That means they’re not doing the management work that they need to do. That’s a big problem.
If you aren’t sure if someone can take the work, you can ask, “I (or my team) can’t do this work. I’d like you to do it. Do you have the ability, time, and knowledge to take this work? If not, how can I support you?”
You have to know what you’re doing, make conscious decisions about it and eliminate the work that doesn’t add value. If you’re not thinking, how can you do this?
Now, add the think time. Some people, like me, believe you should add think-time first, then add the tactical work second. The think time will always get scrunched by the tactical time. Never worry—you will always have a to do list a mile long.
Dear fellow adaptable problem solvers, the question this week is: Are you taking time to think?
- Are You Sure You Don’t Have Enough?
- Where Did the Pencils Go?