Managing Up Mistakes to Avoid | Managing Up Training

Managing Up Mistakes to Avoid

While managing up is a critical skill for success, managing up mistakes can be career debilitating. First, let’s define what we mean by “managing up”.  As a corporate trainer and team development consultant, I define managing up as follows:

“A subordinate customizing their work style/behaviors to better suit their manager, taking steps to make their manager’s job easier, and/or proactively striving to optimize success for all.”

Obviously, managing up can have a very positive impact on business results when done effectively, but it could also have a very negative effect when executed poorly.  The key to managing up the right way is avoiding a few classic managing up mistakes.
When Managing Up, an Employee Should NOT…
  • Try to “take over”.  Employees must recognize that managing up isn’t taking over.  Instead, they must always respect their manager’s legitimate authority.  Managing up doesn’t mean swapping roles or telling your manager what to do.  Instead, it’s seeing your manager’s weaknesses and making helpful suggestions and recommendations to improve likelihood for success
  • Offer unsolicited advice.  Offering unsolicited advice could be construed as lecturing your boss (which never goes over well).  Instead, ask them if they’d like feedback on a particular issue or wait until asked. An alternate to offering unsolicited advice could be asking pointed questions.  For example, if you think the project should not use a particular vendor, your thought bubble might be “Dude, are you crazy? We’ll never make our due date if we use Vendor X.  They’re notorious for delays!”   Instead, you might say “Jim, I can definitely give them a call and get the ball rolling, but before I call I just wanted to check to see how much buffer time we have with our due date.  I’m not sure if you’re aware, but Vendor X has been late shipping product at least three times that I’m aware of so I want to be sure you’re comfortable with the fact that there could be delays.  What do you think?”
  • Focus on the boss’ weaknesses or personality quirks. Understanding your manager’s vulnerability areas or quirks is really important, but obsessing on them can be not only futile but counterproductive as well.  The reality is that you’re not their therapist or their parent so stay in your lane!  Focus instead on the task or goal at hand. For example, if your boss is unorganized, role model the desired behavior by offering to develop a structured plan instead of calling them out on their deficiencies.
  • Use the same approach with everyone.  A key element of managing up is learning to customize your behavior to best fit your manager’s preferences.  This might mean opting for early morning meetings with your boss if you know that’s their preference or avoiding your natural temptation to chit chat about the weekend for the first few minutes of a meeting if you know that they have more of a BLUF (bottom line up front) personality.

A huge element of managing up is learning to customize your behavior/techniques to best fit your boss’ personality.  Techniques or habits that might work well with one type boss might not with another.  This video provides valuable tips and techniques for managing four specific varieties of the “difficult boss”.

Dana Brownlee is author of The Unwritten Rules of Managing Up: Project Management Techniques from the Trenches (to be published by Berrett-Koehler publishers January 2019).  President of Atlanta based Professionalism Matters, Inc., Dana is an acclaimed keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and team development consultant. She can be reached at Connect with her on Linked In or Twitter @DanaBrownlee. 

Practical Productivity Tips | Corporate Trainer/Keynote Speaker Dana Brownlee

Productivity Tips to Enhance Efficiency and Effectiveness

As a corporate trainer and keynote speaker, I’m often asked for tips on enhancing productivity in the workplace (and beyond) and I’ve found a few secrets that can make a huge difference in one’s day to day effectiveness.

Schedule All Tasks, Not Just Meetings 

A mistake that many people make is they fill their calendar with other people’s meetings and leave virtually no room for their own tasks or less tangible items (like reading, analyzing, thinking, problem solving, etc.).  Instead of doing this, schedule items that are of most importance to YOU regularly.  If you need to do some filing, make a few calls, plan your summer, research grad school options, populate your Quickbooks, clean out your office, schedule it!  Otherwise, it won’t likely get done.

Avoid Grazing Email All Day

I know it’s tempting (at least for me), but it’s a horrible habit that robs us of critical time.  Instead of focusing on a big task that we might truly need to tackle, it’s so tempting to casually graze emails for hours instead and not make much progress on that big task.  Instead of checking email every minute, set specific times to check it, say 9:00, 11:00, 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00.  This way you’re still able to be responsive as needed, but you have significant chunks of time available to complete real work throughout the day.

Attack Tasks ASAP

I’m one of those weird people who HATES procrastinating on almost anything (maybe except tax prep :-), but I find that it saves me tons of time.  Particularly with smaller tasks, if it’s something I can get done in less than 15 minutes, I almost always do it right then.  This way it never makes it onto a future to do list.  I do it in the moment while I’m thinking about it.  This way it’s not only done, but it’s pretty impressive to others as well.  In particular, after meetings I try to carve out 5-10 minutes to immediately follow up on action items.  I find this to be easier and quicker because the action item is fresh in my mind and easier to accomplish right then.  Usually if I wait a few days (or longer), I have to remind myself what the task was, shift gears mentally (from whatever I was engaged in before), then take the time to complete the task.  That’s almost always a heavier lift – not to mention, the longer you put the task off, the more likely you’ll forget it altogether.

For additional productivity tips…

Work Life Balance Tips | Keynote Speaker Dana Brownlee

Work Life Balance Tips from Keynote Speaker Dana Brownlee

Virtually every professional woman I know is struggling with the same challenge – work/life balance.  It seems they’re wondering if it really exists or is just a cool phrase that everyone throws around.  As a corporate trainer and keynote speaker who focuses (among other things) on helping clients improve their productivity and efficiency in the workplace and beyond, I was particularly interested in analyzing the issue and coming up with THE BEST, most practical tips to share.  Even more pressing were my reality of trying to juggle mothering a 3 year old and 8 week old while simultaneously running a small business, responding to clients, doing laundry and ummmm showering?  The cup certainly runneth over and all of a sudden I understood what all the hype was about!

I developed the Working Moms’ Work Life Balance Report based on my survey of 500+ working moms.  The report shares amazing findings and some really cool work life balance tips from real working moms.  Here’s a sample of the findings:

  • 2/3 of respondents indicated that work seems to win in the work life balance struggle
  • Probably the most intense/visceral comments received in the survey came when we asked working moms to respond to the question, “What do you think your spouse/partner least
    understands about your day to day struggles?” The responses clearly underscored the importance of the role of dads/partners and just how much moms need help to help keep “the ship” running smoothly. Similarly reflecting this need for connection and support, our respondents also listed their spouse as the person they’d most crave more time with if given a choice.
  • Working Moms Have Lots of Stressors…and Finances are #1
    Top 5 Stressors for Working Moms
    1. Finances – 21%
    2. Childcare/kids’ education – 13%
    3. Career trajectory/upward mobility –12.5%
    4. Marital/relationship issues –11%
    5. Body image concerns – 10.5%
    Just looking at this list of the top 5, it’s clear that the sources of stress are plentiful and varied.
  • Working Moms are Stressed…AND Happy! 83% of respondents characterized themselves as “fairly happy” or “ecstatic”!
  • Many commented that “work life balance is a myth” and even suggested alternate wording like “Work/life integration” or “Work/life harmony”.
  • Most respondents acknowledged the craziness and constant stress of their day to day life but
    also insisted that they appreciate every element of their lives (and really enjoy all the moving parts). Many respondents seemed to suggest that they wouldn’t trade their life
    for anything – they just wish they had more time to devote to each area.

I’ve definitely learned that finding simple short cuts/solutions can make a HUGE difference so I’m sharing some of my favorite work life balance tips in these videos.

For more articles on work life balance and related topics, see Dana’s page on Working Mother.

The NEW Time Management Model for Work Life Balance

Shifting your time management paradigm to encourage work life balance….

As I was going to bed one evening last year, I yanked at my nightstand drawer and was completely frustrated that I could no longer open it because of all the unread magazines that I had stuffed in there to read….one day.  I had subscriptions to three great magazines – one for entrepreneurs, one for parents, and Oprah (everyone needs Oprah, right?).  They represented the type of reading that I envisioned myself doing as a professional married woman with two small children running my own training business for nearly a decade.  In that moment of frustration, I also had a moment of clarity – I will NEVER have time to read these magazines.  In the past I’d rationalized to myself that when I’m waiting at the hair salon or the baby is finally sleeping through the night or we take our next vacation, I will take a stack of magazines and catch up (as if it was some homework assignment that I was turning in late).  Indeed, when I did have a rare moment to read one, I found myself feeling so guilty because I’d skim over many articles and in the back of my mind think “I paid for this magazine, so I better read all of it!”  But my thinking had started to dramatically change.  I now had a new clarity and I was going to take action!  I gathered all the unread magazines, marched myself down the stairs (walking ever so carefully to avoid waking my newborn or my 2.5 year old), and threw all the magazines in the trash.  IT FELT SO GOOD!  This was now something that I could checked off my “things to do” list in an instant – without really doing anything!!!  In that moment, I realized that reading those magazines just wasn’t important enough in the grand scheme of my life and should have NEVER made it onto my “things to do” list in the first place.  Within a few months, I also resigned from two boards, got an assistant, and began jogging and doing pilates regularly again for the first time in a very long time.  Yes, my paradigm had completely shifted, and I would not look at “time management” the same ever again.

The NEW Time Management Model

When I had my epiphany experience with the magazines, the big shift for me was in how I thought about managing my time.  Previously, I focused on how I could get more things done on my “to do list” during the day.  I now realized that the key was shortening the “to do list” to begin with!  Many of the tasks on there didn’t deserve to make the cut, and that’s where I needed to focus if I ever really wanted to get a true handle on my time.

As a corporate trainer and leadership coach, I often provide time management training, and once I shifted my paradigm, I wanted to share it with my clients as well.  Indeed, I felt I’d discovered my own small “chupacabra” and I couldn’t wait to tell the world!  I’m not sure if it’s the engineer or the MBA student in me, but I love models.  They help provide structure to a concept and make it more easily digestible – at least they do for me. As I pondered my own personal experience and productivity best practices, I developed what I call “The NEW Time Management Model” that doesn’t focus primarily on how to get more done in a day.  Instead, it focuses on how to get more accomplished that really matters – two really different approaches.

Instead of blindly adding items to your “to do list”, ask yourself these four key questions and you’ll spend your time more wisely.

  1. Should I do this?
  2. How should I do it?
  3. What’s the right level of effort?
  4. How can I increase my efficiency?

Question 1 – Should I do this?

This is THE most important question.  This is where you have a “come to Jesus” moment with yourself and reject the rose colored glasses, perfect vision of yourself that you had 20 years ago and embrace your not so perfect reality to determine where you should really focus your energy.  (For me this meant accepting that I wasn’t really the Harvard Business Review subscribing professional that I thought I was.)  Time is truly everyone’s  most valuable resource because you can’t buy it or create it and we all have the same amount – yes, Oprah and Donald have the exact same amount that you do (isn’t there something divine about that?).  I remember seeing Suzie Orman tell a woman to take out a $10 bill and tear it in half.  The woman hesitated of course, and Suzie explained that we recognize the value of money when we’re holding cash, but when we waste money on clothes we don’t need (or magazine subscriptions we don’t have time to read maybe), it’s the same waste of money.  We just don’t think of it that way.  I feel the same way about time.  There is an opportunity cost factor that is huge when we consider how we spend our time.  Every minute that you spend doing something that’s lower in importance to you (say grocery shopping) is time taken away from something more important to you (maybe reading to your kids).  The key is thinking about this consciously as you develop your “to do list”.  Of course, there are some mundane tasks that we usually have to get done, but usually we give little if any thought to what we choose to take on each day.  This reminds me of something that my wedding planner told me years ago as we drove to check out a wedding venue…”Dana, there are really only two steps to designing a fulfilling life.  Deciding what’s important to you, and focusing your time on those things.  The second step is a lot harder than the first.”

Question 2 – How should I do it?

Oftentimes once we decide to do something, we charge into action trying to get it done as quickly as possible without giving any thought to how it should be done.  Taking just a moment or two to consider the best approach can be very valuable in the long run.  Should you do this alone or use a small team to help you?  Should you outsource or delegate it?  Could it possibly be automated?  These simple questions can not only significantly decrease the amount of time required but also produce a better end product.  Several months ago I had the wisdom to finally get an assistant.  Even though I’d felt swamped for years and knew somehow intuitively it wasn’t the best use of my time (considering my daily rate) to be spending hours hovering over the copier at FedEx making copies for my training class with one arm while I’m holding my six month old in the other arm while singing “little bunny fu fu”, I’d resisted what seemed like a completely pompous luxury for obvious reasons.  Nevertheless, I finally took the plunge and contracted with a college student to work with me ten hours a week as my executive/personal assistant.  Not only did his help make my life easier, I actually loved writing that check every week because the value I got was so tremendous.  I tried to assign him tasks where I thought he would excel, and he did.  If I needed a flyer updated or newsletter created, he could do it so much quicker than I ever could.  Indeed, bringing him on was one of the smartest decisions I made for my business – and for me!

Question 3 – What’s the right level of effort?

Whoever said, “Perfection is the enemy of good enough” was really telling the truth.  Like many other high achieving professionals (particularly women I’d guess), I had a bit of an over achiever complex.  In the middle of a task I’d often hear my mother’s words in my head “Dana, if you’re going to do something, do it right!” and of course “right” in my mind equated to “perfect”.  However, I’ve also realized that there is a cost (again, the opportunity cost consideration) to taking the time to perfect every single task.  I vividly remember as a young employee with a major telecommunications company working for hours to perfect my estimate for building expenditures for the office that I managed.  When I provided my figures (estimated down to the last nickel) to my management one day during a meeting, they looked at me, laughed and said “Dana, just round to the nearest hundred thousand and let’s move on.  You’ve got more important things to do.” It often takes awhile to break yourself from this assumption that perfection is required for each task, but the time rewards can be huge if you start to push back on the initial urge towards perfection all the time.  Just recently, I completed a school application for my 3 year old and was so proud of myself when I used white out to correct an incorrect address that I’d written instead of reprinting the entire application and starting again (my first inclination).  I reminded myself that an application with a white out correction, indeed was “good enough”.  This may seem insignificant, but that decision easily saved me 20 minutes that evening and if you have just a few of those each week, the saved time starts adding up quickly.  (Not to mention that 20 extra minutes of evening time once the kids are down are like GOLD to me!)

Question 4 – How can I increase my efficiency?

Finally, we get to some of the traditional “time management tips”.  This is all about how you can work more quickly through the items on your list.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to be more efficient.  We all need to do that.  The key though is to not start here.  If you’ve taken appropriate action after asking the previous three questions, you should now have a much shorter “to do list” – yeah!!!  So now, it makes sense to adopt some best practices to increase your efficiency and productivity.  Here are just a few of my favorite tips:

  • Only schedule about 75% of your day (this provides room for the unexpected items that pop up daily)
  • Schedule work time (religiously schedule one time block in the morning and one in the afternoon to do your work instead of running from back to back meetings all day and starting your work at 5:00)
  • Deactivate the chime on your email announcing incoming messages (if you’re performing life saving surgery, you’ll still pause to check your email if you hear that chime and oftentimes the email isn’t important anyway)
  • Schedule specific times during the day to read/respond to emails instead of grazing through them throughout the day and allowing them to constantly distract from whatever you were doing.
  • Keep a running list of quick items to complete during downtimes (e.g. waiting at the dentist, waiting for a webinar to start) but work first on the most important tasks each day. At the end of the day you’ll feel more fulfilled if you accomplished the important items and didn’t get to some of the lesser important ones.

When it comes to time management, I’m as much a student as a teacher, but I can say that my fulfillment quotient has increased dramatically since I changed my perspective on time management.  I heard someone once say that everyone’s headstone when they die will have a birth date, death date, and a dash in between.  The question is…”What will you do with your dash?”

7 Tips for Better Time Management and Productivity

Tips to Enhance Time Management and Personal Productivity

I’ll never forget one evening hurriedly trying to prepare pork chops (because they’re quick and easy) while fussing at my husband to grab the DVD remote control and turn on Baby Einstein so my son would stop crying.  After 20 minutes of searching for the remote control to not avail, I opened the refrigerator only to find that I’d conveniently dropped the it in the ice cube tray while getting some ice for my daughter’s juice earlier – simple mistake J  After all, doesn’t everyone drop the remote control in the ice cube tray every once in awhile???  Actually, the more I talk to busy professionals (particularly women), the more I hear a resounding YES!  I’m no psychologist, and I certainly won’t label myself insane, but on a bad day, my life certainly reflects pure insanity.  At least it did until I learned to make some simple changes that made a huge difference in not only my sanity and happiness but also my productivity and efficiency.

A new year is unavoidably a time of reflection – how can I do things better, smarter, faster this year?  Invariably women particularly commit to decoding the perpetually insolvable mystery of how to “have it all”.   If you’re like me, your New Year’s resolutions are filled with strangely familiar déjà vu like items like lose 10 pounds, save more for retirement, attend church regularly, volunteer at your child’s school, etc. and those are all great goals, but after years of consulting individuals and teams on improving their efficiency and effectiveness, I can’t help but suggest a new resolution – make this year, THE year of sanity.  The year that you really do stop running around like a chicken with your head cut off and begin strategically, proactively living a life that’s balanced, focused, and sane!  The real question of course is HOW do you do that?  I fully admit that I don’t have a panacea (no one does unfortunately), but I have learned that simple changes can make a HUGE impact.  Once those small changes have been implemented, try a few more…then before you know it….sanity.

Suggestions for increasing day to day sanity…

  1. Restrict the daily “things to do list” to 5 items. Emotionally, it feels draining and a bit debilitating to NEVER accomplish your “to do list”.  (At least it did for me.)  Most of us set ourselves up for failure by creating a “to do list” that Hillary Clinton on her best 30 hour day couldn’t even complete.  So, let’s try being honest with ourselves.  No, you’re NOT going to get all 12 things done ANYWAY so why not just get into the habit of restricting your daily list to no more than 5 items (that you really can accomplish – ok 6 if you’re a complete list addict) and feel good about completing them!  If you’re scratching your head saying that’s completely unrealistic, don’t turn the page…see suggestion #2.
  2. This week pick 3 things to STOP doing. Everyone has recurring activities that don’t really add much value, but we do them either out of habit, guilt, or pure insanity.  Instead of continuing to methodically plod through each task or activity, ask yourself “What could I stop doing tomorrow/this week with minimal impact on my life?”  Here are a few potentials for the chopping block:
    • Cancelling a magazine subscription that you really don’t have time to read anyway
    • Extricating yourself from Board or another volunteer activity that isn’t terribly fulfilling
    • Eliminating 90 minutes spent on Sundays scouring for/clipping coupons that only end up saving you less than $3 because you typically forget to bring them with you shopping anyway
    • Stop attending random professional organization meetings that might have been great for you earlier in your career but you’re now attending out of habit.
  3. Get help! Sometimes we’ve become so used to doing everything ourselves, we forget that we can actually get help for most tasks these days.  If you’re a small business owner, consider paying a college student $12-$15/hr a few hours a week to prepare presentations, blog for you, format newsletters, or assist with other time consuming administrative tasks.  Possibly consider hiring someone a few hours in the evening to help with domestic activities like cooking/cleaning, running errands, helping with kids, etc.  I’ve found that when I get help, it not only frees me up, but oftentimes produces a much better result because they can often do a better job than I could!  Remember, help helps!
  4. Institute strict Blackberry/iPhone restrictions to enable you to be fully present when you need to be. Start with “MAD” (meetings, eating, and driving) restrictions – Get into the habit of putting your phone in a closed drawer while meeting, eating, or driving.  When we’re partially attentive, we not only lose productivity (and possibly risk safety), but we also send a signal to the other person that they’re not important enough to require our full attention.  Whether the other person is our boss, client, a colleague, our spouse, or our kids, we’re chipping away at our relationship with that person little by little.  Honestly, it’s rude to type on your Blackberry while you’re in a meeting or talking to your spouse.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because the behavior is commonplace, it’s not offensive….it still is.
  5. Check email three times per day – and that’s it! Unless your job absolutely won’t allow the restriction, decide that you’ll only check/manage email three times per day.  Suggested timings for someone working a typical 8-5 shift would be approximately 10:00, 1:00 and 4:30.  If that sounds like complete lunacy, let me explain…Most of us are constantly tied to our email throughout the day and instead of reading and sending emails as we really need to, our email serves as an ongoing distraction in many ways keeping us from completing more important tasks oftentimes.  What’s worse is that oftentimes, we have either a chime or a blinking red light on our phone announcing every incoming email which triggers an automatic Pavlovian need to check the message.  For me I know that I could be in the midst of performing life saving heart surgery but if I heard that chime from my inbox, I’d feel compelled to stop and lean over to check the message.  Truth be told in most cases, the incoming message is spam (or something nearly as unimportant), but it would still disrupt the mental flow of whatever I was working on.  When you multiply this interruption effect times 10, 15, 20 checks/day, you can easily see how this simple habit dramatically impacts our overall efficiency.  I also suggest NOT checking email first thing in the morning (difficult I know) to provide you a buffer period of time to proactively decide what is most important for you to focus on first (and not fall into the trap of automatically reading and responding to emails which can often consume much more time than is truly warranted).  Also note that when you check email at designated times, you will have accumulated several emails and can run through them much more quickly and truly focus on those that require attention.
  6. Commit to giving yourself small gifts daily. Oftentimes, we fret about the big things that we can’t seem to get done (take a family trip, refresh a wardrobe, getting a massage), but we don’t appreciate the very small touches that we can reward ourselves with without much time or effort.  The key is to think about those small things that really pick you up for whatever reason.  It could be having fresh cut flowers on your desk, sprinkling lavender oil in your car so you can enjoy the scent while driving, rewarding yourself with a yogurt with your favorite topping mid afternoon, or calling an old friend who always seems to make you laugh.  The great news is that once you consistently implement the first five suggestions, you should regain critical time to begin rewarding yourself with the big things too!
  7. Schedule daily meetings with yourself! This might sound odd, but it’s really not.  Most of us don’t “schedule” time for our most critical activities (like thinking, analyzing, planning, reevaluating) or for non urgent (yet still important) projects like tax document prep, creating a shadow box for your first child, minor home improvement projects, etc.  Instead, our days and weeks are typically filled with other people’s priorities – responding to their emails, attending their meetings, etc.  Many of my clients complain that their day is filled with so many conference calls, emails and other appointments that by the time they exhale at their desk to tackle some of their priorities, the day is nearly over.  Change your paradigm!  Set aside “work periods” throughout the day for you to work on your most important items – maybe 7:30-9:00 and 2-3.  (Having trouble finding the time?  See Tip # 2).  Some clients tell me that even if they are forced to cut into their personal work time during one period, they feel tremendous relief knowing that they’ve got another work period set aside that day.  Also, many of us have non urgent projects lingering that seem to never get accomplished.  That’s because instead of scheduling time to complete them, we have them on our back burner list and are waiting for “free time” to get them done.  News flash – THAT TIME WILL NEVER COME.  You must schedule the project if you want to complete it.  I have time blocked out on my calendar during the first week of January to create my family’s annual photo book and time in February blocked for tax preparation.  Block time for you – it really works, and when you get more accomplished, you’ll feel so much better!

Long ago I realized that “having it all” isn’t necessarily “doing it all”.  It’s like the “all you can eat” buffet.  Do you really want to have everything on the buffet?  Of course not, but you want to really enjoy what you do put on your plate.  I think that the same is true in life.  Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to do everything – pick the most important things…and enjoy!

Here are some of Dana’s practical tips for enhancing productivity and time management…

4 Flawed Time Management Techniques | Time Management Training

4 Flawed Time Management Techniques

Without question the most precious resource on the planet is time.  The reality is that you get the same 1,440 minutes in your day that Oprah and Donald Trump get, and they can’t buy more!  The only thing any of us can do is learn to use it more effectively.  Unfortunately, so many of us don’t realize that we’ve fallen into horribly ineffective time management approaches.  Are you falling victim to one of these 4 flawed time management techniques?

The Checklist Checker

This type is OBSESSED with their checklist in an almost unhealthy way.  They’re more focused on extra checks on their “to do list” than real accomplishment of important items.  If you add items to your list that you’ve already completed to just mark them off, you might be a checklist checker.  Although keeping track of items is definitely an important part of any time management system, this approach can be deceptive because there may be a tendency to focus on smaller, more tactical tasks and overlook or delay more complex, harder to define tasks (like reevaluating your small business strategy) or less time sensitive tasks (like planning for summer camp months in advance or building critical relationships).  Unfortunately, these more complex tasks that may not show up on our daily to do list are oftentimes some of our most important activities.  Indeed this approach is a dangerous one as it can give the illusion of progress when you may be checking off lots of little things while missing the big things.

Tips for the Checklist Checker

  • Devise two lists instead of one – short term and longer term (for more complex or strategic activities).
  • Break more complex activities into smaller, more manageable tasks that can be checked off more easily so that you can see progress towards the larger goal/task.
  • Print out your monthly/annual goals and display them prominently so that you can easily compare your list against them to ensure you’re focusing your energies in the right areas.
  • Schedule time on your calendar for personal activities that are important but may not show up as traditional tasks (e.g. reviewing documents, researching, thinking, etc.)

The Manic Multitasker

This type is convinced that they are more productive doing 2-3 things at once so they pride themselves on constant multitasking.  The problem is that they’re oftentimes not as productive as they think.  Since they’re almost never giving full attention to a single task, it takes them much longer to complete things, they often make errors (and spend additional time in the editing process), and relationships may be damaged as they constantly inadvertently send the message “You’re not important enough for me to give you my full attention.”  In addition to the lack of efficiency, their work quality often suffers because they rarely harness their full mental energy in a single area.  It’s a dangerous approach because instead of completing a few things really well, they may be giving insufficient energy to virtually everything.

Tips for the Checklist Checker

  • Adopt the opposite approach where you avoid multitasking and instead strive to pay complete attention to a single task until it’s completed.
  • Adjust email settings to turn off the chime announcing incoming emails and put your phone in a drawer when you’re working on important tasks and need to focus.
  • Save multitasking for activities that are unimportant (e.g. folding clothes while watching reality TV).

The Plate Spinner

This type deludes themselves into thinking they can schedule an insane amount each day, and they’re shocked when everything isn’t accomplished.  They notoriously overschedule themselves and their schedule is often packed to the gills with little time available for interruptions, unexpected items, down time, or even their own work time.  They seem to have a “more is better” attitude and may not step back to consider other more strategic approaches (e.g. outsourcing, delegating, simplifying the task, etc.) to completing their work.  They’re often quite frustrated because they may only accomplish a small percentage of their “to do” list on a given day.

Tips for the Plate Spinner

  • Review your previous month’s calendar and find at least five activities that could have been declined, outsourced, or delegated. Use this knowledge to decline or redirect activities going forward.
  • Don’t schedule more than 75% of your day (allowing time for interruptions and unexpected issues that may require attention).
  • Prioritize your to do list and work on the most important items first (so that if you don’t complete everything, you’ve at least addressed the most important items)

The Fire Extinguisher

This is the person who has no real plan.  They just focus on the latest fire or the most recent request in front of them and they may feel like they’re getting a lot accomplished, but their approach is very reactive and they lack any sense of true planning or prioritization.  They don’t have a defined system for tracking/managing tasks so items often fall through the cracks.  They rely on others making repeated requests for items because they’re only responsive to the latest requests and thus need lots of reminders.  This attitude has impacted not just their productivity but also their credibility.  This approach is definitely a ticking time bomb – things will explode as soon as something really important falls through the cracks.

Tips for the Fire Extinguisher

  • Shift your mindset to approach your day proactively instead of reactively.
  • Designate time to prioritize tasks weekly, then reassess daily.
  • Develop a task management system and religiously rely on it to track status on all tasks. Establish reminders to alert you when a deliverable due date is approaching.

Dana’s time management training centers around the NEW Time Management Model