I have started the new year with a sense of optimism. For the first time in a long time, I have had the luxury of time to stand back and take a longer term view of my career.
It’s important to take stock of all of the things that you commit your precious time to. I have always been happiest when I have my fingers in many pies. But not all of those pies have served me well over the years. And it’s often difficult to acknowledge this and then cut those activities loose. But unless I let go of something, I won’t have the time to embrace an opportunity that may be the next step forward for me. Time is finite.
I mentor a young woman who is self-employed and has managed to stretch herself very thin by saying yes to everything and everyone. Now, I know that I am constantly advising women to ‘say yes and then work it out later’ but I am referring to opportunities to move your career forward, rather than just any little opportunity that comes along to distract you and nip away at your time.
Not surprisingly, this young woman is suffering burnout and dissatisfaction as she is overcommitted and doesn’t feel as though she has achieved a lot in the past year. So I am helping her to focus and declutter her life by ruthlessly letting go some of those projects that do not serve her well.
This is the process that I have asked her to follow:
Step 1: Write a list of every work-related project that you have committed to.
Step 2: Write the key benefit to you next to each of the projects. For example financial, skills-building, profile-enhancing, social/community service.
Step 3: List the benefits on a new page and then next to each of them, determine what percentage they should be contributing. For example, depending on your financial situation and lifestyle aspiration you may want 80% of your working time to be contributing to 100% of your income. That leaves 20% to devote to building skills (e.g. training) and profile (e.g. networking), as well as a pro bono project. If any one of the projects doesn’t have an obvious benefit to you, then it needs to go straight away.
Step 4: Compare the percentages against your current reality. That should help you determine what needs to go. My mentee discovered that only 60% of her work activities were contributing to an income. She was spending a lot of time on new ideas that were not yet contributing.
Step 5: Sometimes in order to move forward you need to give up activities you enjoy because if you are honest with yourself they don’t add any long-term value to your career. So go ahead and cull.
We should all endeavour to do this on an annual basis. It forces us to refocus on what matters most in our career.