Friday, August 26, 2011

A Career Poker Hand: Play to stay in the game.

So you are in a position that you never thought you would be in. Whether it is a job that pays less or possibly new assignments that you do not feel deserved. Or quite possibly you are in a place where your manager and you do not see eye to eye. Maybe you are uncertain of a future - or worse, worried about changes you think may happen. Simply put: Don't gamble.This week I have found myself handing out misc. advice that was handed to me by a very wise person in addition to what I have learned through trial and error.

Some time ago I realized what my mentor was saying and how impacting it was! I was used to being a key player but found myself slipping through the cracks. At the time, of course, it was all my manager's fault; worst manager ever - had to be... I realized later that was not the case I had a lot of learning to do. If you find yourself struggling here are a few quick tips to get you through the tunnel.

1. Play to stay in the game. There will be points in your career that you will never feel like you are ahead. Other times may be working in a position you dislike. Regardless, this is the time to manage your poker hand. Don't put all your loot in the pot making big risky decisions; be conservative. You simply want to focus hand by hand and outlast the other players or issues.

2. Learn how to prioritize and maintain tasks. This is usually the beginning of the dominoes. When people start missing fundamentals it is a good indicator that a priority system is failing. I am still trying to grow in this field but have developed a couple of tricks that have worked well for me.

Organize your emails by folders. I have several folders that help me to keep up with emails needing reply, outstanding follow ups etc. A couple examples are Follow up, Follow up - completed, My Manager, Safety, etc. However, be careful not to create so many folders that you lose track of where you actually filed it! For the My Manager folder, I have set up a rule in Microsoft Outlook to place a copy of each email my manager sends. My thoughts are this, in the event that I miss an email, I chose for it not to be one that my manager sends. In the Follow up email folder I drag to do's; as they are completed I move to the Completed folder. With a few clicks I can delete those to avoid taking up any space. In addition I put routine tasks on my calendar so they will "pop up" to remind me. For items with action items and dates (usually longer term than the follow up folder) I drag the email to my calendar and set up a due date. A good source for how to use Microsoft Outlook, follow this link

Understand the difference between urgent and important and urgent, but not important. For example if there is a shortage of a production supply or presentation deadline I would propose that to be pretty urgent and important. A ringing phone is also urgent yet even though the urgency is there it is most likely less important than what you are doing. Use a quick check to see: If you were in a self review meeting with your boss - would you answer that phone call? If the call is your boss I would probably answer it, yet I may ask him or her if I could call her back. Next, remember to make a note to call him or her back. Covey explains this very well.

3. 3P (Cache). I use a clipboard to keep up with the things that I need to accomplish. You may use a briefcase, or a portfolio style organizer. On the clip board I have three folders. One is labeled people, another process and the last is the current project that I am working on. The people folder is a combination of things to do with my staff. As I collect things I place them in this folder and then pass out or complete them as needed. The process folder is the same as people but daily operations. As emails, forms, audits etc. are handed to me they go in there; again they are emptied out as they are completed. Lastly, the project which is dedicated solely for the current thing I am focusing on. The project folder will most likely contain the most data as it will continue to grow. Once the project is finished it will be stored away in a file cabinet. There is a warning though with these folders. Aside from the noted project folder the others are TEMPORARY. As items are completed they need to be shredded or filed but not stay in the folder. If you do not use the cache as designed - it will become an overwhelming mess. Much like an unattended email inbox. Longer term files need to be stored in a cabinet or like device. Name the files whatever you wish - the cache concept is the key take-away.

Even with the ideas that have worked for me; I am still continually adapting and growing my discipline to stay on top of things in this multi-social-communication world. Sometimes in the chaos of the current situation, no matter how dismal there is a solution that will solve it all. Other times, however, one must go back to the basics, get some discipline and play to stay in the game.

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