Clients increasingly must make time on their own to prepare for their career’s future. But how many times have clients said to you, “I just didn’t have time this week?” People need to make time – BUT HOW?
Time Management vs Energy Management
Here are two tips about time management that are off the beaten track:
1. Instead of focusing on time, focus on energy outlay. People who feel stuck in their jobs usually expend a lot of energy fighting in various ways. What can be done with the client about this?
Identify energizing parts of the current job situation and their lives in general. Find ways to expand those aspects of their work and life – it will give them more energy to handle their challenges.
Look for the energy sucking people and situations, and develop strategies to off-load as many as possible and manage the rest.
A great book, focused on this kind of energy management and how to marshal energy for change, is The Power of Full Engagement by Loehr & Schwartz, 2004.
2. Identify the critical paths at the employer and align the client’s work with those priorities so the employer gets the biggest return possible for the 40 hours it pays for. The two questions you and your client want to find the answers to are:
How does the current employer make a profit now and how does management expect it will make a profit in the future? Or, what is the organization’s competitive edge now and in the future? This will show your clients where their work will be most valued.
How do these managerial priorities impact your client’s unit/department? Ask the client:
If your unit has a direct role to play in achieving profit now or in the future, how do your job responsibilities contribute?
If your unit is a service/staff unit (i.e. the work is necessary but does not have to do with making or selling the primary product/service), how does your unit plan to serve its internal customers better and/or more efficiently?
Doing this analysis allows clients to set their own “smart” job priorities rather than just doing everything that is part of their job description.
Historical Assumptions about Employment
I tell people that they only “owe” their current employer 40-45 hours. Obviously that amount will vary with busy times and deadlines but then there should also be light weeks in terms of work hours. With the other 5-7 hours of productive work time, individuals should be thinking about and building their careers independently – exploring, experimenting, learning new areas/skills, etc. Many people I share this with respond only tentatively – “Really?” they say, “Is that really a good idea? Won’t that make my employer mad?” These people are caught in an old assumption – one that made sense when the norm was long-term employment -- “I owe my current employer all my productive time 24/7 and I need to be loyal in terms of time.” This old assumption doesn’t make sense in an era of more mobile, short-term employment. Now loyalty needs to center around contributing to the employer’s goals and keeping proprietary information confidential.
When faced with similar assumptions from clients, work with them to think through possible responses. For example, to a concern from a manager along the lines of:
“You're not spending enough time on the job,” a client might say: “I’m very committed to doing a good job here. Let’s review my activities and how they fit with management’s priorities. Perhaps I have misunderstood what is most important now and in the near future.”
“You're doing things that are not in your job description,” a client might say: “I really enjoy the job I’m doing now, but I think I need to experiment with new areas and learn new things to build my career.” And if the client can point to ways the activity is related to the organization or the work, that can help answer the manager’s concerns as well.
Career Development Time AND Full-Time Work
Helping your clients be intentional about how they spend their time is a “magical” first step in career development on-the-job – it’s like making time! In a sense, your clients learn to “make time” -- not from nothing, but from the time they already have. Intentionally spending some time working for their own view of a better life is affirming and produces its own energy. This provides added momentum for personal career success.
Sally Power, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Management and now an independent blogger on career management in the new economy. The Blog can be accessed at www.sallypower.com