Advertising
Advertising

Impressing Your Boss with Time Management 2.0

Impressing Your Boss with Time Management 2.0

20090504-clock

    You know you are in a bit of trouble when your boss tells you that you need to improve your time management skills.

    In times past, when training budgets were somewhat normal the solution was easy. Sign up for a class in New Jersey, make sure that the boss is involved in the planning, offer a one page post-course “summary,” and email a thank-you for the life-changing opportunity.

    Simple.

    Nowadays, however, the boss is likely to deny the cost of the tuition, flight, hotel and meal expenses while still expecting to see some improvement.

    No-one has time to read one of those books filled with “The 1001 Crazy Tips of Abnormally Anal, Obsessive People.” What is an already over-worked professional to do?

    Advertising

    Making the task more difficult is the fact that time actually cannot be managed by anyone – the term is misleading. What is called “poor time management” is more of a judgement that your boss is making about delayed responses, missed appointments, broken promises, stressful behaviour and un-replied emails. Are those really about time?

    Aside from faking a sudden boost in motivation, there are actually some simple changes in behaviour (i.e. habits) that anyone can implement that actually do make a difference because they are quite visible to the One in Charge.

    Habit #1 – Own Your System

    It’s important early on to demonstrate to your boss that you are taking charge of the situation. The easiest way to do that is to first convince yourself that you indeed have a time management system, and that you are about to give it a serious review, and a possible upgrade.

    Your system is comprised of your habits, the time demands that come into your life, and it’s overall objective (for most people the goal of their system is to produce something like “greater productivity” or “peace of mind.”)

    Give your boss updates on your progress in changing your system, and some idea of the upgrades that you are effecting. Before you run out and purchase a $500 organizer, however, make sure you implement the other habits below.

    Habit #2 — Write it ALL Down

    Write everything that your boss gives you to do in a pad that travels with you everywhere.

    Advertising

    Never, ever rely on your memory, and at those moments when it’s tempting to do so, never do so. When you are with your boss and are shooting the breeze over drinks, bring along your pad in order to catch that cool idea you come up with between martinis.

    At some point, your boss will ask — “What’s up with the pad?”

    Explain: “It’s the most important entry point to my new time management system.” This might very well be one of the ways that you can demonstrate to him that your system is undergoing a serious overhaul.

    Habit #3 — Never say “Yes” Without Checking

    When your boss asks you do something, never, ever say “Yes” without checking your calendar.

    This is a critical habit to develop, and one that will serve you for a lifetime.

    The point here is simple — as a professional, your time is valuable, and employees that always say “Yes” without considering the rest of the work they need to complete are either under-worked, or irresponsible. Either of those opinions, if left to linger for too long can be a kiss of death.

    Advertising

    The point is not to be a jerk.

    Instead, the point is to demonstrate a willingness to jump on the task immediately. At the same time, show an inability to commit without knowing exactly what the due date is, and how the task needs to be scheduled ahead or behind your other commitments.

    This is such a powerful practice that many fail to implement even after many years in the office that it’s worth starting now — even when you know your calendar is empty.

    In the beginning, the end-result might not change much in terms of your saying “yes” or “no” but your boss will get the point: You are someone who takes their time seriously.

    For extra points, let your boss know that in your new time management system you never schedule yourself without considering all your commitments. This practice ensures that you give yourself a realistic chance of meeting all your commitments.

    Habit #4 — Only Check Email on a Schedule

    The fourth habit is perhaps the hardest to implement, because your boss will only know that you are using it when a failure occurs.

    Advertising

    Implement the practice of checking email at scheduled times throughout the day. When the scheduled time comes, spend enough time to read and process every single piece of email.

    Between the scheduled times to read email, stay out of your email inbox, and only visit it if you have extra time on your hands.

    The crunch moment will come when your boss sends you a piece of email that you have not read, at which point you’ll explain “I haven’t read it yet. In my time management system, I’m scheduling the specific times at which I read email so that I can process each and every item in some way. It’s best to call me on my cell for urgent items.”

    The good news is that if you keep this practice up, it will become easier to achieve the goal that so many desire –an empty email inbox.

    When that goal is accomplished, you can also tell your boss “My new system is allowing me to keep an Empty (or Zero) Inbox. I used to have 10,000 unread emails and it’s been empty for six months now.”

    Most bosses will either stare in amazement because they have 20,000 unread items and they want what you have. Or, they’ll give you a conspiratorial smile and a wink that says “Welcome to the club.”

    Either response will tell you that have turned the perception around and done what was asked of you. Your boss has seen your new skills in action, and you have reversed a damaging perception.

    More by this author

    Francis Wade

    Author, Management Consultant

    How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets The New Lifehacking #5 – Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need

    Trending in Productivity

    1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 3 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 4 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 5 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

    Advertising

    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

    Advertising

    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

    Advertising

    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

    Advertising

    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next