Hey all! Dave Anderson here.
I've been enjoying a relaxing holiday with friends and family. My free Monday posts are not going to restart yet. For anyone who doesn't know, I decided to take a couple months off from writing my free articles during the holidays to relax. However, I have continued writing my Thursday posts for paid subscribers.
I thought it'd be nice to keep you all in the loop with some recent topics. The below are some brief summaries of articles I've recently written to my paid subscribers.
Goal Setting for Critical Work
During annual goal setting exercises, I don't know how many times I've seen teams setting a goal for every planned task.
That's not goal setting, that's task tracking. There's a difference.
Setting goals on your most important work is a great mechanism for two major things.
One - Identifying what your critical work is.
Two - Keeping a close eye on if you're going to achieve it.
If you commit to achieving everything, you give up the necessary flexibility to change your plans to achieve the most critical things on your roadmap.
How can you make it clear to yourself and your organization which tasks are optional and which are required?
Set goals only on your critical tasks.
Goals should be viewed as commitments, not aspirational targets. They are your way of identifying the work which is worth fighting for.
How can you commit to a goal, when your work is creative, and not easily predictable? You don't estimate when you can get your work done, you estimate when you will get your work done.
If you estimate that a task will take 4 weeks, but could take 6 weeks, what's your goal?
If you're an engineer, you set your goal at 4 weeks, and fail miserably.
If you're a junior manager, you set your goal at 6 weeks, and are shocked when it takes more.
If you're an experienced leader, you set your goal at 8-10 weeks, and aggressively drive it the whole way.
The value in having goals is about commitment, and predictability. When you commit to your goals, and set a predictable and achievable date, they add value to your organization.
Your partners will always think you have too few goals, and your dates are too sandbagged.
If you set your date for April, they'll want an earlier date. When you launch in June, they'll be angry when you miss your date.
If you set your date for July, they'll want an earlier date. When you launch in June, they'll be thrilled when you launch early.
Create goals for your most critical tasks. Give them a buffer, and commit to achieving them. This gives you flexibility, and your organization gets predictability. Everyone wins.
Completely Defeating Procrastination
Did you achieve everything you wanted to achieve in 2021?
I'm pretty damn impressed if that's the case. Either you sandbagged your goals, or you have impressive willpower.
I encounter procrastination regularly. It's been a part of my life as long as I can remember.
I've become more productive despite my inclination to put things off. I don't believe it's because I'm less tempted by procrastination. I've just learned some tools to deal with it.
To begin, it took me time to realize that procrastination isn't the real problem. I'm not putting off the work because I'm a bad person.
I put off the work because my mind is trying to avoid negative emotions. Particularly if I'm already in a fragile emotional place.
Our minds are wired to preserve our mental health. Like a limp for knee pain, our mind uses procrastination to avoid the mental pain of an unpleasant task.
That task might be unpleasant for a variety of reasons.
We might avoid a task because we're bored with the task, we're concerned we might fail, we don't know what to do next, people might react negatively, or it simply takes a lot of energy.
Regardless, the task avoidance is our mind protecting us.
If you have a sore knee, do you try to defeat your limp, or do you try to make your knee feel better? I think we're doomed to fail if we continually fight against our procrastination without addressing our mental health.
Your current mental state impacts your ability to get work done. Figure out how to feel better now, and you'll get more done.
The emotional state of your task impacts your ability to work on it. Feel less stressed about a task, and you'll find the procrastination melting away.
Ideas for reducing task stress.
Fix your mood - Drink a coffee, listen to happy music, and smile. Boost your mood, and work comes easier.
Achieve - Achieve anything. The tiniest success leads to the next one.
Rewards - You're awesome! Plan a success reward!
Being mindful about procrastination is key to building the habits necessary to get past the inevitable mental blocks you'll encounter.
You can't make procrastination go away forever, but you can build a mental toolbox to overcome it in the future.
Read more here: https://www.scarletink.com/completely-defeated-procrastination/
New Job in the New Year?
Between coaching and newsletter writing, I feel the constant weight of explanations with caveats.
"blah blah, YMMV"
"in my experience..."
"...but your interviewer may have a different opinion."
One of the largest caveats I give is related to interviewing.
"The interview is about getting into Amazon, and has minimal relation to being successful there."
Very successful people at Amazon failed interviews repeatedly before joining.
Others flew through their interviews with all thumbs up, only to fail quickly once they joined.
I wouldn't say that the interview process is useless.
Sometimes a candidate clearly doesn't belong at the company ➡️
"What's my management philosophy? Employees are like children. Tell them what to do, give them consequences if they misbehave, and give them rewards if they do what you say."
I'm glad there's an interview filter..
Yet I would bet that a large percentage of rejected candidates would be successful if given the chance.
"I'm not sure that second example demonstrated enough ownership."
Arbitrary rejections are common.
What I tell people is that failing an interview has little to do with being unqualified for a job.
You've demonstrated a gap in interview skill, not job skill. Practice interviewing, and just try again. Chin up! :)