I’ve heard a few different interviews where companies are asked what they look for when hiring new employees or promoting staff and often at or near the top of the list is time management skills.
I’ve worked hard to make this one of my top skills but I’m far from there yet. Some days, I’ll have worked a full day while spending less than 20 minutes away from my desk but leave feeling like I haven’t accomplished much of what I had planned that day. The issue isn’t motivation or work ethic as I work with purpose and put 100 per cent in each day. The real issue, for me anyway, is taking on tasks which don’t provide as much overall benefit as other tasks I’ve had to forgo because I had agreed to do the less impactful tasks at some point. This is a tough one because I’ve often found I won’t know how good something is until I’ve trialled it. Sometimes these methods of trial and error provide more efficient ways of doing things. Other times it’s a flop and waste of time. While I think it’s important to constantly look for ways of improvement, I try not to spend more than five per cent of my working day on experimental or untested methods as work can quickly backlog.
I’m what some people would call a ‘Yes man’. If somebody asks me to do something, I’ll typically say yes. Part of the reason is because I like to be helpful, another reason is because I like taking on new challenges. Saying yes has allowed me to discover and learn some really interesting skills and meet some great people so it definitely isn’t a bad habit. The issue is when too much of a good thing becomes bad for you. Water is good for you, we should drink several litres each day. Although, if we have too much, we can end up drowning. Saying yes to all requests can land the volunteer in a similar situation.
When you can demonstrate that you are adept at certain skills, people may ask you to help with their tasks. It can be great to use these skills as trade and serves the purpose of reciprocity in a purposeful way. For example, if I’m a baker and help you by baking you a loaf of bread, you may be willing to help me with a service I need that you happen to be proficient at. Again, in this respect, agreeing to assist is fine.
The issue is when the baker has agreed to make more loaves in a day than he is capable of or needs to take shortcuts to try and meet demand – quality drops and the people requesting your service don’t receive the quality of product or service you or they intended. I heard an interesting comment from an interviewee who said he barely ever says yes to anything. His skills are so sought after that his immediate response is to say no as his time is so precious and limited that there must be extreme circumstances for him to take on any new tasks or clients.
When people start in a new profession this isn’t too much of a problem. At the start, we try to build our brand, reputation and gain exposure. Just look at all the graphic designers on Airtasker willing to do jobs in exchange for a five star review as an example of what I mean.
I think it’s wise to always build upon your skills which will in turn build your reputation, just be mindful of not taking on too much as it could lead to an opposite effect. Sometimes less is more and if quality of service is a factor, I would rather have 10 very satisfied clients than 15 clients who were somewhat satisfied. Bigger isn’t always better.