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Getting More Things Done Means Nothing When Nothing Great Is Done

Getting More Things Done Means Nothing When Nothing Great Is Done

It’s an unwritten law of the corporate world, that the better you work – the more responsibilities you’ll gain.

These responsibilities will typically come in the form of more tasks assigned to you, more projects to manage, and more people (clients, co-workers, etc.) to take care of.

You gain these extra responsibilities when people above you on the career ladder feel that you have the relevant knowledge, context and power to do things better than the average employee.

Despite your positive attributes and obvious capabilities, you may find yourself forever prioritizing tasks based on the dates they need to be completed. These dates could be requested by someone, part of a deadline, or something that your co-workers have agreed to.

Just for a moment, put your working life aside, and imagine that you have own business selling hot dogs. You started your business a few years back, simply selling hot dogs from a little food truck that you parked on the corner of a busy street.

    As your hot dogs began to sell, you found yourself beginning to get more and more customers.

      Eventually, business was so brisk that you had to hire a few members of staff to help you out.

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        However, it was at this point that you focus began to change from making and selling hot dogs, to training and mentoring new staff. Unfortunately for you, your newly-hired helpers weren’t as good as you at making hot dogs (despite the training).

          Still, your business was doing okay. As more people came to your hot dog truck, plenty of them asked for drinks too. So you decided it would be a good idea to make and sell your own lemonade.

            You spent several weeks tweaking your lemonade recipe until you found what you believed to be the perfect taste. You then began to make it – spending hours per day in the process.

              Sadly, when it came to launching the drink to your customers, you were dismayed to find that very few of them liked it. And because your new staff hadn’t be able to make the hot dogs as tasty as you did, fewer and fewer customers came.

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                Looking back, you can see that your initially successful business went badly off track. You were producing sub-standard hot dogs, and a lemonade drink that no one wanted. On top of this, you were spending a significant amount of your time just managing your staff.

                The above scenario is a good representation of what happens to most businesses and to the people working in them.

                Turn Things Around with the Little-Known ‘Time Pyramid’

                I’m guessing that you’ve never heard of the Time Pyramid. Few people have. However, it is a super-useful tool for instantly visualizing what you should be spending your working time on.

                Think for a moment about your own work, do you spend most of your time working on tasks with the greatest values? Most likely not, as the majority of people spend little time on things that have the greatest impact. (Think back to the earlier hot dog selling scenario.)

                The time pyramid of how most people spend their time at work looks like this:

                  As you can see from the image, tasks that fall at the tip of the pyramid is of the greatest value, or have the biggest impact when completed. The middle of the pyramid covers tasks that are important – but are still lower in value than those at the tip. Finally, the base of the pyramid is strictly for tasks with the lowest value or impact.

                  In reality, most people spend the bulk of their time on tasks with the lowest value. These tasks are like the lemonade making in the hot dog story – they can be nice to do, but often fail to move the needle in the right direction.

                  Are you wondering how to use the time pyramid to your advantage?

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                  Well, it’s a very good question, and one that actually has a simple answer. You just need to invert your existing pyramid like this:

                    Tasks with the greatest value that you currently spend the least amount of time on, become your priority. Middle tasks stay the same, and tasks with the lowest value that you currently spend the most amount of time on, are placed at the bottom of the pyramid – where they belong!

                    How to Use the Time Pyramid

                    When you begin to use the Time Pyramid correctly, you’ll instantly be able to see the tasks that need your immediate time and attention, and those that don’t. It’ll be surprisingly easy to minimize time spent on low value tasks, while maximizing time spent on those all-important tasks.

                    By making this simple, but dynamic change to your working pattern, you’ll quickly begin to reap significant rewards.

                    As an example for you, imagine that you work as a project manager. Before learning about the Time Pyramid, you found yourself spending the best part of your time in meetings, answering emails and dealing with administrative tasks. While all of these things are useful and needed, they stole your time away from actually working on managing projects. Upon coming across the Time Pyramid, you immediately saw the error of your ways. From that day on, you put your efforts into tasks that helped your projects to reach completion in the quickest and smoothest way possible.

                    It’s truly amazing how much more you can achieve when you spend the bulk of your time working on major tasks. Let’s see now how it’s done.

                    Maximize time spent on important tasks

                    Consider implementing things like time blocking (so that clients and co-workers can’t disturb you), scheduling time for important things, and booking meeting rooms for yourself (so you can focus fully on the tasks at hand).

                    Coming back to the hot dog selling example, time should have been allocated for thinking of ideas to improve and sustain the quality of the hot dogs.

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                    Minimize time spent on low value tasks

                    Choose to limit the time you spend on these tasks, and schedule specific times to complete them. You should also delegate tasks that aren’t your strength, or that will have more value if done by others.

                    For example, it’s very easy to get caught up with the endless emails that arrive daily into your mailbox. Most of these will not require urgent attention, so instead of trying to reply to them instantly, it would be better to schedule a period of time each day to go through them. By doing this, you won’t become a victim of incessant distractions.

                    In the hot dog selling scenario, it’s obvious that the boss should have delegated the task of making lemonade to someone who was genuinely good at it – or simply have bought existing high-quality lemonade.

                    Getting the Right Things Done

                    I want to wrap up this article by giving you a sample Time Pyramid that you can adapt to your own working situation. Let’s talk about the hotdog business again.

                    I assumed that the boss worked an average nine hours per day. This led me to plan the time this way:

                    • Select five hours per day dedicated to important stuff such as improving and sustaining the quality of the hot dogs, coming up with ideas on how to successfully expand the business.
                    • For the less important stuff, I chose three hours per day. This would be adequate for food preparation, training staff, etc.
                    • Finally, for the lowest priority stuff, I allocated just one hour per day. This time would be for things like ordering food and drink supplies.

                    I can’t state it enough: the Time Pyramid is an incredibly powerful tool. It will help you to immediately prioritize the tasks that really matter to your business, and within days – you’ll begin to experience positive and tangible benefits.

                    Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

                    More by this author

                    Leon Ho

                    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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                    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

                    How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

                    How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

                    Taking your work to the next level means setting and keeping career goals. A career goal is a targeted objective that explains what you want your ultimate profession to be.

                    Defining career goals is a critical step to achieving success. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. Knowing what your career goals are isn’t just important for you–it’s important for potential employers too. The relationship between an employer and an employee works best when your goals for the future and their goals align. Saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll do anything,” makes you seem indecisive, and opens you up to taking on ill-fitting tasks that won’t lead you to your dream life.

                    Career goal templates’ one-size-fits-all approach won’t consider your unique goals and experiences. They won’t help you stand out, and they may not reflect your full potential.

                    In this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with SMART goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples goals for work and career.

                    How to Define Your Career Goal with SMART

                    Instead of relying on a generalized framework to explain your vision, use a tried-and-true goal-setting model. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic with Timelines.”[1] The SMART framework demystifies goals by breaking them into smaller steps.

                    Helpful hints when setting SMART career goals:

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                    • Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests.[2] Short-term goals are those things which take 1-3 years to complete. Long-term goals take 3-5 years to do. As you succeed in your short-term goals, that success should feed into accomplishing your long-term goals.
                    • Be specific, but don’t overdo it. You need to define your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they become unattainable. Instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Apple, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company.”
                    • Get clear on how you’re going to reach your goals. You should be able to explain the actions you’ll take to advance your career. If you can’t explain the steps, then you need to break your goal down into more manageable chunks.
                    • Don’t be self-centered. Your work should not only help you advance, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals differ too much, then it might be a sign that the job you’ve taken isn’t a good fit.

                    If you want to learn more about setting SMART Goals, watch the video below to learn how you can set SMART career goals.

                    After you’re clear on how to set SMART goals, you can use this framework to tackle other aspects of your work. For instance, you might set SMART goals to improve your performance review, look for a new job, or shift your focus to a different career.

                    We’ll cover examples of ways to use SMART goals to meet short-term career goals in the next section.

                    Why You Need an Individual Development Plan

                    Setting goals is one part of the larger formula for success. You may know what you want to do, but you also have to figure out what skills you have, what you lack, and where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

                    One of the best ways to understand your capabilities is by using the Science Careers Individual Development Plan skills assessment. It’s free, and all you need to do is register an account and take a few assessments.

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                    These assessments will help you determine if your career goals are realistic. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets. You may decide to change some of your career goals or alter your timeline based on what you learn.

                    40 Examples of Goals for Work & Career

                    All this talk of goal-setting and self-assessment may sound great in theory, but perhaps you need some inspiration to figure out what your goals should be.

                    For Changing a Job

                    1. Attend more networking events and make new contacts.
                    2. Achieve a promotion to __________ position.
                    3. Get a raise.
                    4. Plan and take a vacation this year.
                    5. Agree to take on new responsibilities.
                    6. Develop meaningful relationships with your coworkers and clients.
                    7. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
                    8. Learn how to say, “No,” when you are asked to take on too much.
                    9. Delegate tasks that you no longer need to be responsible for.
                    10. Strive to be in a leadership role in __ number of years.

                    For Switching Career Path

                    1. Pick up and learn a new skill.
                    2. Find a mentor.
                    3. Become a volunteer in the field that interests you.
                    4. Commit to getting training or going back to school.
                    5. Read the most recent books related to your field.
                    6. Decide whether you are happy with your work-life balance and make changes if necessary. [3]
                    7. Plan what steps you need to take to change careers.[4]
                    8. Compile a list of people who could be character references or submit recommendations.
                    9. Commit to making __ number of new contacts in the field this year.
                    10. Create a financial plan.

                    For Getting a Promotion

                    1. Reduce business expenses by a certain percentage.
                    2. Stop micromanaging your team members.
                    3. Become a mentor.
                    4. Brainstorm ways that you could improve your productivity and efficiency at work
                    5. Seek a new training opportunity to address a weakness.[5]
                    6. Find a way to organize your work space.[6]
                    7. Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week/ month/ quarter.
                    8. Become a better communicator.
                    9. Find new ways to be a team player.
                    10. Learn how to reduce work hours without compromising productivity.

                    For Acing a Job Interview

                    1. Identify personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.
                    2. Identify steps to create a professional image for yourself.
                    3. Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.
                    4. Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.
                    5. Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.
                    6. Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.
                    7. Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.
                    8. Ask to be trained more relevant skills for your work.
                    9. Ask for opportunities to explore the field and widen your horizon
                    10. Set your eye on a specific award at work and go for it.

                    Career Goal Setting FAQs

                    I’m sure you still have some questions about setting your own career goals, so here I’m listing out the most commonly asked questions about career goals.

                    1. What if I’m not sure what I want my career to be?

                    If you’re uncertain, be honest about it. Let the employer know as much as you know about what you want to do. Express your willingness to use your strengths to contribute to the company. When you take this approach, back up your claim with some examples.

                    If you’re not even sure where to begin with your career, check out this guide:

                    How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You

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                    2. Is it okay to lie about my career goals?

                    Lying to potential employers is bound to end in disaster. In the interview, a lie can make you look foolish because you won’t know how to answer follow up questions.

                    Even if you think your career goal may not precisely align with the employer’s expectations for a long-term hire, be open and honest. There’s probably more common ground than they realize, and it’s up to you to bridge any gaps in expectations.

                    Being honest and explaining these connections shows your employer that you’ve put a lot of thought into this application. You aren’t just telling them what they want to hear.

                    3. Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should I play it safe?

                    You should have a goal that challenges you, but SMART goals are always reasonable. If you put forth a goal that is way beyond your capabilities, you will seem naive. Making your goals too easy shows a lack of motivation.

                    Employers want new hires who are able to self-reflect and are willing to take on challenges.

                    4. Can I have several career goals?

                    It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it. (Of course, you can still have goals in other areas of your life.) Having a single career goal shows that you’re capable of focusing, and it shows that you like to accomplish what you set out to do.

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                    On the other hand, you might have multiple related career goals. This could mean that you have short-term goals that dovetail into your ultimate long-term career goal. You might also have several smaller goals that feed into a single purpose.

                    For example, if you want to become a lawyer, you might become a paralegal and attend law school at the same time. If you want to be a school administrator, you might have initial goals of being a classroom teacher and studying education policy. In both cases, these temporary jobs and the extra education help you reach your ultimate goal.

                    Summary

                    You’ll have to devote some time to setting career goals, but you’ll be so much more successful with some direction. Remember to:

                    • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, and Realistic with Timelines. When you set goals with these things in mind, you are likely to achieve the outcomes you want.
                    • Have short-term and long-term goals. Short-term career goals can be completed in 1-3 years, while long-term goals will take 3-5 years to finish. Your short-term goals should set you up to accomplish your long-term goals.
                    • Assess your capabilities by coming up with an Individual Development Plan. Knowing how to set goals won’t help you if you don’t know yourself. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are by taking some self-assessments.
                    • Choose goals that are appropriate to your ultimate aims. Your career goals should be relevant to one another. If they aren’t, then you may need to narrow your focus. Your goals should match the type of job that you want and the quality of life that you want to lead.
                    • Be clear about your goals with potential employers. Always be honest with potential employers about what you want to do with your life. If your goals differ from the company’s objectives, find a way bridge the gap between what you want for yourself and what your employer expects.

                    By doing goal-setting work now, you’ll be able to make conscious choices on your career path. You can always adjust your plan if things change for you, but the key is to give yourself a road map for success.

                    More Tips About Setting Work Goals

                    Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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