How to not “feel” out of control at work

engineering-management-training-online-man-choosing-hats

So your work life feels a bit out of control? Here’s the first lesson from my years of mistakes…

The most significant lesson in stress management I have learnt over the years is not a tool or a habit.

It is a mindset. When I am aware of this lesson, I can set up my work life so it causes less stress.

I call it the Two Hats mindset.

Most of us wear multiple hats – many jobs these days require us to fill multiple role descriptions. That’s not what I’m talking about. Let me explain.

Two approaches to work time

When you were first a graduate or cadet, did you notice this is what your weekly calendar looked like this?

Graduate calendar

Lots of empty space…

 

And have you noticed that most managers’ calendars look like this?

Managers schedule

No big spaces for doing…

 

I’m not going to talk about which one is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Different people and roles work better with each one. Some people procrastinate without the tight schedule, others feel suffocated by too many meetings.

I want to talk about how to work within any calendar. It’s all about the mindset.

Doer versus Manager

If you have to produce a document or a drawing (i.e. you have to be a “doer”), you need large chunks of time with little interruption. A 30-minute meeting in the middle of chunk really messes it up.

working uninterrupted

When I’m “doing” I need at least 2-hour blocks of time, uninterrupted by meetings.

 

If you are managing people to produce the document or drawing, you need regular updates from them, and to keep clients and bosses informed.

Too many meetings

The manager can deal with multiple 30 min meetings spread through the day.

 

So these people wear these hats:

Doer schedule

You either wear a “doing” hat…

 

Manager schedule

… or a “managing” hat.

 

Pretty simple, right?

The Crunch

Yes, each of those hats is simple to wear. But the crunch comes when you have to wear both.

Wearing two hats

Wait… I have to help the graduate, report to my client, AND do the design?

 

It’s the Two Hats mindset.

Most technocrats find themselves wearing two hats after a few years experience until… well usually forever, or until they get completely out of the technical field.

But how does that help?

It only helps if you make sure you are aware of wearing two hats.

The more people you are managing, the more time you will have to allow for wearing the Manager Hat.

Example of good manager

The light blue is “doer” time – blocked out from meetings, to get on top of workload.

 

But if you are primarily producing documents and drawings, you need to make sure you make time to wear the Doer Hat.

Better doer schedule

The light blue is “doer” time. The majority of the schedule. Meetings are clumped together to not break up the “flow” of the doer time.

 

Whichever it is, you will need time set aside to wear both hats.

Your turn…

So – look at your calendar. Have you got the right balance of hat wearing?

There is no ideal – everyone’s job is different. But if you consciously make an effort in the coming weeks to make your calendar reflect the right hat wearing balance, I promise it will help your stress levels.

Take 30 seconds at the end of the day before you run out the door. Ask yourself: did I have the right mix today, did I wear the Doer Hat and the Manager Hat at the best time? Seriously, ask yourself every day. You’ll be amazed by what insight you get from that little practice of awareness.

Next time…

I can hear the protests already:

  • “But I’m not in control of my calendar!!!”
  • “Too many other people make meetings and then I have to go to them!!!”
  • “It’s all out of my control!!!”

I hear you.

Next time we will have some tricks to fix that. Just work on the mindset this week.

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