Instructor Tip: Mastering Multiple Projects, Priorities & Demands
Focus on mastering your work; not just getting the work done. Move beyond being an accomplished, results-driven task doer, to become a longterm-relationship builder and master of your work.
Step Away From the Cliff. I have this vision of the elite employee, the perfect co-worker – always prepared, totally dependable, right there to lend a hand . . . and headed straight for a cliff.
This person is committed to the organization, loyal to employer and colleagues, devoted to excellence, unerringly competent, eager to take on any and all problems.
The cliff part comes in because this wonder-worker is incapable of saying “No.” The wonder-worker can’t refuse to help, is unable to resist jumping in when something needs to be done.
There is a huge, enthusiastic market for such people. Their managers and fellow employees love them. They put in long hours, working nights at home, coming in on weekends.
No one can keep that up forever. Sooner or later, this person runs down or runs out.
If you are this person, don’t try to tough it out. It can’t be done. You’re going to have to make some changes.
First, adjust your activities, not your attitudes. Vow to retain the habits of focus and discipline that got you here. They will serve you well no matter what you do in life.
Second, devote some time to an accounting, an analysis of how you spend your days:
- What are you doing, and how long does it take?
- Why are you doing these things? Each of them?
- Don’t have time to do this examination? That, my friend, is a strong sign that you’re closer to the cliff than you thought.
However uncomfortable it makes you, step back and take stock. There are simple tracking formats that take little time – although they also reveal the frightening volume of work you are asking yourself to handle.
Third, take a good look at your relationships:
- What goes on between you and other people?
- Who does what for whom?
- Are there sensible ways to re-order responsibilities?
- Should you work on your communication and negotiation skills?
Finally, set up more productive ways to use your time. Make collaboration just as important as individual effort. Think relationships and results, not familiar old processes.
This is called mastering multiple projects, priorities and demands. It helps you become a teamwork devotee more than a task doer. You train yourself to derive deep satisfaction from collegial rather than individual results. It is a more ordered, less driven way of working.
You don’t go over a cliff. And there’s a bonus: you get a life.
Jim Millikin, has provided management and communication consultation to business, industry, and nonprofits throughout the United States since 1986. His specialties include project management, in which he holds the PMP (Project Management Professional) certification, problem solving and delegation, business writing and advertising, and negotiation and presentation skills. His work combines organizational skills with nearly thirty years' experience as a newspaper editor. www.millikenproject.com
This fall, Jim is teaching USM’s Professional Development Certificate Program in Project Management.