The Good-Enough Manifesto: Tasks That Deserve Our Attention
We know it is no longer cool to blame the pandemic, but let’s blame the pandemic for some things it deserves blame for, at least.
Over the past few years, have you noticed your days getting longer, your calls getting more frequent, and your cabs becoming harder to find?
It would seem that we are all busier than ever before, yet we are getting lesser and lesser done. We are going to fewer places and are ticking off lesser than we could. Who is to blame for our never-ending, ever-expanding task list?
Supremely tempting as it is to blame a wayward client, a boundariless boss, or a clueless colleague, there may be some blame here that rests squarely but surely on our shoulders.
Why do we sign up for things we don’t need to do
We’ve discussed this on Small Talk with RainKraft before- at least some things we sign up for at work are because we are trying to impress someone. Maybe this is a boss; perhaps we are trying to fit into a new system. In any case, we are driven solely by the need to be seen and validated. Don’t get us wrong- this isn’t always a bad thing to do. If we have the skills and the time to pull something off, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking on a bit more, even if only to gain brownie points. The problem arises when we do not plan for how this commitment might affect us in the future. Our circumstances might change, or we might move on to more challenging roles, at which time these side hustles may be impossible to keep up with without breaking a few hearts. The solution? When signing up for something, have a timeline in mind. How long will you do it for? What happens if your circumstances change meanwhile? Having an exit strategy just makes a commitment easier to keep.
We all suffer from this problem- we cannot say ‘no’. In our minds, turning down an offer triggers our scarcity mindset- if we don’t take this on, we may not make enough money to survive. When we articulate it like that, it is easy to see that the argument is inherently flawed- we signed up for a specific task to be done, and as long as we do it well, everything else is an outlier that we aren’t getting paid for anyway.
Unnecessary, unscheduled calls often fall into this realm. We say yes just to get someone off our back, or we pick up a call because we know we cannot just leave it unattended. Under such circumstances, taking a minute to consider the commitment usually helps. By taking this call, what deep work are we interrupting? By agreeing to do a Zoom call to understand the scope, explain work outcomes, etc., what are we giving up on? Time with family? The chance to cook a good meal? The solution, thankfully, lies in automation. Of course, only an introvert could have invented a tool like Loom, one of the few tools we like to pay for and use. Recorded videos instead of Zoom meetings help us avoid interruptions, get the point across better, and can be saved and accessed as many times as needed, all in the interest of fewer distractions.
This last one is a bit tricky. Companies are trying virtual offices, physical workspaces, and everything in between. It is easy to get stuck in the experiment, and quite frankly, ‘two days a week’ of office presence makes no sense if every team member shows up on different days. That said, physical facetime is important. It helps us bond with colleagues and understand work outside of the task assigned, even though it means commuting to work, which can be a nightmare. How do we solve this? Communication helps. It is okay to take the initiative to discuss with team members and understand what days of the week work best for them. We don’t always have to leave the planning to someone else. And what if different days work for different people? We forget that not long ago, all days worked for everyone. The purpose of flexibility is to be flexible for everyone within reasonable limits. Can you try a different monthly schedule so everyone’s preferences are accounted for? Can you plan more facetime with a colleague you work more closely with?
Prioritise the tasks that deserve attention
There is no end goal here or a milestone to be reached. The very definition of important tasks evolves over time and differs by role.
Nearly every task is important for a C-suite executive, but some can be delegated to competent team members. For execution roles, timelines and due dates are important, but the quality of the end product is vital. All plans for delivery, and commitments therein, can be made based on the quality of expected output.
How do you chuck out the urgent and make space for the important? By
Knowing that certain fires will have to be fought, no matter how well you plan.
Making space for tasks, even if that means blocking out your calendar.
Scheduling a clean-up time every week to actively remove what does not serve you and rearrange what you want to be doing.
Considering, on a monthly basis, what you would like to delegate and to whom.
Unscheduling your time- eight working hours in a day do not need eight hours’ worth of tasks. It is okay to leave a couple of hours free for things to creep in and maybe even have lovely conversations with people.
What steps are you taking to be good enough at work? Have you tried any of these tips before? How have they worked for you?