The Biggest Problem New Managers Face in Managing Their Time

I think this answer is relatively on target, from the book :Managing Time: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges (Pocket Mentor):

You cannot successfully manage your time if you don’t know how you should be spending it. The biggest problem new managers face is understanding their goals and priorities. They are not really sure what they should be doing.

Because of this uncertainty, new managers often spend time working on the wrong things or let others pull them into activities that aren’t directly tied to their priorities and goals. To better understand how you should be spending your time, work with your supervisor to clarify expectations and responsibilities.

At the same time, start to get a handle on how long your new responsibilities take so you can better estimate and plan your time as you grow in your new role.

Both Work Distractions and Productivity are on the Rise

We talk a lot about distractions, but it is helpful to realize that overall productivity is actually up from what it was 30 years ago. This is from the book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Things Done:

Without offering an involved and wearisome discussion about rising productivity levels, let me simply say that today’s career professional, frittering and all, could beat the pants off of yesteryear’s career professional in terms of getting things done.

Today, workers in all types of organizations, including government, non-profit sector groups, health care, and education as well as private industry, devote a slightly higher percentage of their time to the tasks and responsibilities for which they actually were hired, and they have advanced tools that aid them in ways that the workforce ancestry could hardly imagine.

Although I wasn’t around thirty years ago (at least in the workforce), it seems to me that in spite of all the complications and information overload of the modern work environment, people do indeed get a lot done.

There’s still a lot of improvement that we can make, and our execution could become a lot smoother and more fulfilling, but the current work environment has a lot of good news. It’s worth keeping in focus that we don’t have before us simply (or even mainly) challenges to overcome (although there are a lot of those), but rather opportunities to capitalize on.

Two Methods of Motivation

The Now Habit does a good job of articulating the two methods of motivation we often use (on ourselves and others) when it comes to challenging tasks.

Push Method
The first is the “push method.” This method is “designed to stimulate action through fear of punishment.” It is not as though this method is always inappropriate; but in general “the ‘push method’ of management assumes that humans are basically lazy and that scaring the heck out of them will create motivation.”

Pull Method
The second is the “pull method.” This method, on the other hand, “assumes that we are naturally inquisitive, and if we are properly rewarded for our efforts we can persevere with even the most difficult of tasks.” (I would clarify that by “reward” here we should include both intrinsic and extrinsic dimensions.)

Here’s an example of the push method. This example is why I’m writing this post — I find it pretty funny:

“This freshman class had better learn now that you’re in for a lot of hard work. By the end of the semester you’ll have read this entire shelf of books; and by the time you graduate, this entire wall of books.”

Scary, but not very motivating — and I like to read! Here’s an example of the pull method:

“Imagine that, as you read one chapter of your textbook, you place it on this empty shelf. Chapter by chapter and book by book, you’ll be filling this entire shelf by the end of your first semester. By the time you graduate you’ll have read enough books to fill the shelves on this entire wall.”

I Get To vs. I Have To

Do you have to exercise or do you get to exercise? Do you have to work on that long project or do you get to work on that long project? Do you have to rise at 5:30, or do you get to rise at 5:30 so you can have a good start on the day?

There are many things we may not directly choose — for example, I exercise primarily for my health, and not because I intrinsically enjoy it. But given that we will be doing them, we might as well change our mindset and view them positively.

That way, these things aren’t something we have to “get out of the way” in order to get on with “real life.” First of all, that’s a recipe for procrastination. Second and more importantly, though, I don’t have time to fill my life with things that aren’t “real life.”

When your mindset is “I get to” rather than “I have to,” you are more motivated because now you are doing it because you choose to. You will also find that there are many aspects of those activities that you do in fact enjoy, in spite of the difficulty.

You don’t have to run — or do that project — simply for the benefits. Difficult activities aren’t something to just get out of the way so that you can get on with what you really want to do. But you won’t see that if your mindset is “I have to.”

Is it Impossible?

I haven’t read much John Maxwell, but I am intrigued by the subject of thinking, so I recently picked up his book How Successful People Think. Here are two good quotes:

“Nothing is so embarrassing as watching someone do something that you said could not be done” — Sam Ewing.

“Never tell a young person that something cannot be done. God may have been waiting for centuries for somebody ignorant enough of the impossible to do that thing”– John Andrew Holmes.

The Value of Design

Well stated, from a Time article from a few years ago (but still very relevant):

Most high-tech companies don’t take design seriously. They treat it as an afterthought. Window-dressing.

But one of [Steve] Jobs’ basic insights about technology is that good design is actually as important as good technology.

All the cool features in the world won’t do you any good unless you can figure out how to use said features, and feel smart and attractive while doing it.