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If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life

If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life

I was six when I first saw a street performer. At the time, I didn’t even know the word “juggling”, but I was mesmerized by the parade of colourful balls in the air nonetheless. How quick must his hands be! Tugging at my mom’s T-shirt, I stood there for half an hour and watched his whole performance.

As I grew up, I have unconsciously become a professional juggler as well – only that my performance is not as fancy, and the balls I juggle are much, much heavier. Family, friends, health, work – one slip of the hand, and everything would come tumbling down.

I believe we have all experienced that same feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we have to do, tasks we have to complete and people we need to be with. Therefore, I would like to share with you my take on this matter:

The Four Burners Theory[1]

According to The Four Burners Theory by David Sedaris: family, friends, health and work are the four burners of a stove (which is your life). In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.

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Life is filled with tradeoffs.

In The Downside of Work-Life Balance,[2] James Clear mentioned two methods he tried before:

“Can I succeed and keep all four burners running?
Perhaps I could combine two burners?”

However, after a brief period of experimentation, he realized: life is filled with tradeoffs. As much as we would like to be the best employee, parent, husband/wife and friend at the same time, we simply do not have the energy or time to do so. Should you take on this extra project at work or should you go to the party your friend in college is holding? Should you take a nap to rejuvenate yourself or help your son with his art homework?

It is difficult to choose. However, that does not mean all we can do is throw our hands up and yell in frustration, “It’s impossible!” So get ready to take some notes!

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1. Let go of unimportant things and people.

Have you ever been wondering along the lines of “why do I never have time for things I deem important?” Have you tried to make time for your family but found your schedule filled to the brim by gatherings and parties?

Think. Prioritize. Act.

Think about what is important. Prioritize your activities. Take action and clear your schedule of things that you are simply going out of courtesy. Those six o’clock drinks after work? That golf game that you are not really that interested in? That high school friend you haven’t seen and talked with for years?

Let them go. Get some rest, talk with your kids about school, or even just cuddle with your husband/wife a bit. It might sound ironic, but the fewer things you put on your schedule, the more fulfilling you feel.

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2. Focus on one thing at a time. Be efficient.

It’s too often that we believe we can simultaneously take care of multiple things at the same time. Typing out that proposal while taking side glances at your kid to make sure he didn’t swallow a Lego. Scrolling through Facebook to catch up with everything in the world while talking to a friend.

Earlier research has shown that multitasking undermines efficiency in work because extra time and effort is spent on shifting mental gears as we switch between different tasks. [3]

Therefore, instead of trying to do 10 things at the same time, focus on completing the task on hand. You might find yourself with a lot more time in the end!

3. Reflect, reflect, reflect.

After every day, take a short time to think about what you want to do and what you have done. Do they match up? Is there anything you can do to improve?

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Think about things like: do you enjoy what you are doing right now? If you want to take a step and make a change, what do you want to achieve? Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Do you want to get higher recognition at work?

If you are satisfied with how things are right now – that is great! If it is the contrary though, plan carefully and discuss with your loved ones about how you want to readjust. It might take a little time, but the result would definitely be fruitful.

Every choice has a cost.

In the end, we are all a bit greedy – but just like every story, no one could truly have it all. We need to remember that every choice has a cost, and we just have to make sure that as we juggle in life, we choose the things that are the most important to us.

Reference

[1] LAUGH, KOOKABURRA A day in the bush, a night at home. David Sedaris The New Yorker
[2] The Downside of Work-Life Balance, James Clear
[3] Multitasking undermines our efficiency, American Psychological Association

More by this author

Eamon Suen

Student, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Life Is Not Supposed To Be Fair, We’re Supposed to Learn To Live With It If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life The Earlier You Understand These Truths Of Happiness The Better Accept Where You Are And Happiness Is At Your Fingertips Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

Congratulations, you’re starting a new job! You’re feeling relieved that the interviews and the wait for a decision from the hiring manager is over, and you’ve finally signed the offer.

Feelings of fear and anticipation may surface now as you think about starting work on Monday. Or you may feel really confident if you have plenty of work experience.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones. It’s very common for seasoned professionals to overestimate themselves due to the breadth of their experience.

Companies offer different depths of on-boarding experiences.[1] Ultimately, success in your career depends on you.

Below are 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career.

1. Your Work Starts Before Your First Day

When you prepared for your interview, you likely did some research about the company. Now it’s time to go more in depth.

  • How would your manager like you to prepare for your first day? What are his/her expectations?
  • What other information can your manager provide so that you can start learning more about the role or company?
  • What company policies or reports can you review that can get you acclimatized to your new job and work environment?

You’ll need to embrace a lot of new people and information when you start your new job. What you learn before your first day at work can help you feel more grounded and prepare your mind to process new information.

2. Know Your Role and the Organization

Review the job posting and know your responsibilities. Sometimes, job postings are simplified versions of the job description. Ask your manager or human resources if there is a detailed job description of your role.

Once you understand your key responsibilities and accountabilities, ask yourself:

  • What questions do you have about the role?
  • What information do you need to do your job effectively?
  • Who do you need to meet and start building relationships with?

Continue to increase your knowledge and do your research through the company Intranet site, organizational charts, the media, LinkedIn profiles, the industry and who your company competitors are.

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This is not a one time event. Continue to do this throughout your time with the company. Every team or project you engage with will evolve and change.

Keep current and be ready to adapt by using your observational skills to be aware of changes to your work environment and people’s behaviour.

3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work

Understanding your work culture is key to help you succeed in your career.

Many of these unwritten rules will not be listed on company policies. This means you’ll need to use all of your senses to observe the environment and the people within it.

What should you wear? See what your peers and leaders are wearing. Notice everything from their jewelry down to their shoes. Once you have a good idea of the dress code you can then infuse your own style.

What are your hours of work? What do you notice about start, break and end times? Are your observations different from what you learned at the interview? What questions do you have based on your observations? Asking for clarity will help you make informed decisions and thrive in a new work setting.

What are the main communication channels?[2] What communication mediums do people use (phone, email, in-person, video)? Does the medium change in different work situations? What is your manager’s communication style and preference? These observations will help you better navigate your work environment and thrive in the workplace.

4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions

You got the job, you’re feeling confident and are eager to show how you can contribute. Check the type of language you are using when you’re approaching your work and sharing your experiences.

I’ve heard many new employees say:

  • “I used to do this at ‘X’ company …”
  • “When I worked at “X” company we implemented this really effective process …”
  • “We did this at my other company … how come you guys are not …”
  • “Why are you doing that … we used to do this …”

People usually don’t want to hear about your past company. The experiences that you had in the past are different in this new environment.

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Remember to:

  • Notice your assumptions
  • Focus on your own work
  • Ask questions, and
  • Learn more about the situation before offering suggestions.

You can then better position yourself as a trusted resource that makes informed decisions tailored to business needs.

5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification

Contrary to common belief, asking questions when you’re starting a new job is not a vulnerability.

Asking relevant questions related to your job and the company:

  • Helps you clarify expectations
  • Shows that you’ve done your research
  • Demonstrates your initiative to learn

Seeking to clarify and understand your environment and the people within it will help you become more effective at your job.

6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand

Starting a new job is the perfect time to set clear expectations with your manager and colleagues. Your actions and behaviors at work tells others about your work style and how you like to operate. So it’s essential to get clear on what feels natural to you at work and ensure that your own values are aligned with your work actions.

Here are a few questions to reflect on so that you can clearly articulate your intentions and follow through with consistent actions:

Where do you need to set expectations? Reflect on lessons learned from your previous work experiences. What types of expectations do you need to set so that you can succeed?

Why are you setting these expectations? You’ll likely need to provide context and justify why you’re setting these boundaries. Are your expectations reasonable? What are the impacts on the business?

What are your values? If you value work life balance, but you’re answering emails on weekends and during your vacation time, people will continue to expect this from you. What boundaries do you need to set for yourself at work?

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What do you want to be known for? This question requires some deep reflection. Do you want to be known as a leader who develops and empowers others? Maybe you want to be known for someone who creates an environment of respect where everyone can openly share ideas. Or maybe you want to be someone who challenges people to get outside their comfort zones?

7. Manage Up, Down, and Across

Understanding the work styles of those around you is key to a successful career. Particularly how you communicate and interact with your immediate manager.

Here are a few key questions to consider:

  • How can you make your manager’s job easier?
  • What can you do to anticipate her/his needs?
  • How can you keep them informed (and prepared) so they don’t get caught off-guard?
  • What are your strengths? How can you communicate these to him/her so that they fully understand your capabilities?

These questions can also apply if you manage a team or if you deal with multiple stakeholders.

8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company

It’s important to keep learning from diverse groups and individuals within the company. You’ll get different perspectives about the organization and others may be able to help you succeed in your role.

What types of relationships do you need to build? Why are you building this relationship?

Here are some examples of workplace relationships:

  • Immediate Manager. He/she controls your work assignments. The work can shape the success of your career.
  • Mentors. These are people who are knowledgeable about their field and the company. They are willing to share their experiences with you to help you navigate the workplace and even your career.
  • Direct Reports. Your staff can influence how successful you are at meeting your goals.
  • Mentees. They are another resource to help you keep informed about the organization and your opportunity to develop others.

Other workplace relationships include team members, stakeholders, or strategic partners/sponsors that will advocate for your work.

Learn more in this article: 10 Ways to Build Positive And Effective Work Relationships

9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

You are part of an ecosystem that has gotten you to where you are today. Every single person and each moment that you have encountered with someone has shaped who you are – both positive and negative.

Here’s How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

Make sure you continue to nurture the relationships that you value and show gratitude to those who have helped you achieve your goals.

Summing It Up

There are many aspects of your career that you are in control of. Observe, listen, and make informed decisions. Career success depends on your actions.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones.

Here are the 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career:

  1. Your Work Starts Before Your 1st Day
  2. Know Your Role and the Organization
  3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work
  4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions
  5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification
  6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand
  7. Manage Up, Down, and Across
  8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company
  9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

Celebrate, enjoy your new role, and take good care of yourself!

More Tips About Succeeding in Career

Featured photo credit: Frank Romero via unsplash.com

Reference

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