Do you feel undervalued, or bored with your assignments or projects? Then maybe there’s a way you can juggle your calendar to work on more meaningful projects. No, I don’t mean taking on MORE work in addition to your current assignments. I mean juggling your calendar so that you’re able to work on more meaningful, exciting, and challenging projects, and taking off some of those insignificant and “less filling” projects.
Take a look at your calendar. Is it filled with meetings and projects driven by other people that are their priorities? Or is it filled with projects and initiatives that are your priorities?
Is your schedule filled with meetings that are YOUR priorities, or someone else’s priorities?
The key to having an enriching and satisfying career is to work on projects that excite, challenge and motivate you. And the first step in doing that is taking ownership of your calendar. You own your schedule – not your manager, nor your clients, nor your partner, nor your kids. It is your schedule, and yours alone to manage, juggle, and prioritize.
Your schedule is yours alone to manage, juggle, and prioritize.
One of the best career strategies I ever learned was from a teacher who taught me to prioritize my rocks. Let me explain. I was sitting in a training class thinking, “I don’t have TIME to take a class on time management.” I was leading global teams and managing high budget projects so what could I possibly learn? I was feeling overstressed, overwhelmed, and extremely frustrated that I had to waste an hour of my time to attend a training class on such a silly little topic. But something happened in that class that had a permanent effect on the way I manage both my time (and my career!), and I’ve been on the fast track ever since!
The instructor sat a large glass jar out on the table and started filling it with large rocks that he pulled out of a box underneath the table. After several minutes, the jar was piled high with these big rocks. Then he asked the class, “Can any more fit into the jar?” A few people said the obvious, “No”.
The teacher then pulled out a second box filled with little pebbles that he started dropping into the jar which filled up all the gaps between the larger rocks. Kur plunk, kur plunk, kur plunk. After a few minutes, he looked up and asked the class again, “Can any more fit into the jar?” Someone responded again with an obvious, “No.” He then reached under the table and pulled out a vase filled with sand and started pouring it into the jar filling up all of the tiny little holes.
By this time, I was really getting irritated with his 2nd grade analogy that you can always cram more into your schedule. But, that wasn’t his point at all. “The point is,” he said, “that you have to take care of the BIG rocks first.”
“A secret to having an enriching and meaningful career is that
you must take care of your BIG rocks first.”
If you don’t take care of your big rocks, or big initiatives FIRST, then your day will fill up with a bunch of tiny insignificant tasks. And when that happens, you simply won’t have any time to fit in your biggest priorities, and you’ll be left working on less meaningful projects that leave you feeling bored and unfulfilled.
Make a commitment today, right now, to put your big rocks first.
Pull out your calendar and start looking ahead to next week. Ask yourself, “What do I need to accomplish in the next 7 days?” Begin by scheduling 1-3 hour chunks of uninterrupted time you need to work on a client presentation, proposal, report, campaign, etc. Then, take a second pass and fill in those smaller yet still important tasks that will take you an hour to complete such as meeting with a customer, making progress on a project, or preparation time for an important meeting. Finally, block off time to complete the smaller initiatives such as doing some on-line research, filling out an expense report, sending out an update memo to your team or senior managers, etc.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you just stop showing up for meetings and working on assignments given to you by someone else, but perhaps you can start negotiating your time and projects. Maybe you can say to someone, “I’m sorry that I can’t give you an hour tomorrow, but how about if we meet for 15-minutes, and then if you still need more time we’ll carve out 30-minutes next week.” You’re setting the tone that your time is important and that you have your own set of priorities, but that you’re still a team player.
You’re setting the tone that your time is important, you have your own set of priorities, but that you’re still a team player.
Be protective of your precious time and energy. Negotiate your time so that you can work on those highly valued, highly visible projects that you actually enjoy doing. This doesn’t mean taking on MORE projects and responsibilities while KEEPING the same projects and responsibilities that you already have.
Negotiate with managers or clients so that you can get off those lower valued projects, and instead devote your time to projects that allow you to flex your professional muscles, stretch yourself in a new direction, or work on those projects that excite you!
You will find that by implementing this simple strategy of owning your schedule, establishing your priorities, and putting your big rocks FIRST, you’ll be more in control of your career, feel more energized, and able to drive your career on the fast track!
Sherri Thomas is the author and President of Career Coaching 360 (http://www.CareerCoaching360.com). Sherri has successfully transitioned into the radio, television, advertising, finance, professional sports, and high tech industries, and now she teaches others how to do the same. Career Coaching 360 provides tools, resources, and personal coaching to help professionals take their career up to the next level.