7 Things Keeping You From Getting Work Done
Saying yes to everything. This does a really great job of completely ruining all of your boundaries, and making the one time you DO say no to save your sanity seem like a really big job. I absolutely understand the urge to say yes and to look good, but as somebody who has dug themselves into this hole at multiple jobs, I strongly urge you to take a pause and consider what you are saying yes to. Your time is valuable. I’m not saying that you should say a loud no to everything, or that you should only say yes to the things that serve you. All I’m asking is that you say yes to things that are at least semi in line with where you want to be going.
Coffee dates. Recently I found myself screaming, to nobody in particular, NO MORE COFFEE DATES! In that particular moment I had looked at my calendar for the next day and noticed that I had three fucking coffee dates scheduled in the same 8 hour stretch. A girl can only handle so much caffeine! (Obviously I could order something other than coffee but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here). Networking is incredibly important. Getting to know your coworkers is important. But here’s the thing: coffee dates can super quickly become a time suck. Put a limit on how many you'll say yes to. Don’t leave the office multiple times a day with your work bestie to catch up over coffee. Be intentional about how you are spending your time.
“Exposure”. I can guarantee with 100% certainty that I’m generalizing here, but I see female professionals get asked to work in exchange for “exposure” all the time and it drives me fucking BONKERS. This doesn’t just apply to entrepreneurs and/or creative types, I’ve seen it happen dozens of times in the corporate world, too. It’s so easy to ask somebody for help with something, just really quick and for that to suddenly turn into this weird side responsibility of your job that you aren’t paid for. When I worked in tech I was once asked to help cover for somebody on a different team while she was visiting family. The idea was that I would get exposure to other managers and, as such, set myself up for a promotion. I did get that promotion, but I also got stuck with all of these weird side responsibilities that nobody knew I had and that I wasn’t getting paid for. In hindsight I wish I had asked more about the end date of these helper responsibilities.
As a creative I get asked to do things for exposure all the time. Just last week a pretty powerful sleep company asked if they could send me product in exchange for a few Instagram posts with specific language, a blog post, and some shares on my stories. All of that work combined with taking photos and editing everything would take me a full day, at least. But here’s the kicker: it was just for exposure.
Exposure is a great way to disguise free work. I absolutely have and will done things for exposure if it’s incredibly specific to my niche and the benefits for me are clear. Otherwise I’m just doing free work for somebody who doesn’t care enough about my work to pay me. I’m not saying that you should turn down every opportunity that guarantees some kind of exposure. That would be ridiculous and could potentially put you in some hot water with your employer. What I am asking you, though, is to be incredibly thoughtful about the exposure that you do agree to work for.
In-person meetings. I used to work for a company that would demand multiple full-team meetings each week that lasted an hour or more. Each week during each meeting we would cover about 90% of the exact same subject matter we had covered the week before. Nothing of note ever got done, everyone was irritated, and we were all constantly working overtime to make up for the work that we couldn’t do when we were in pointless meetings. As somebody who is self employed I obviously have more control over this than most, but in general I try to schedule my meetings as a phone or video call. Once I started doing this I realized that it was way easier to stay on schedule - ending a phone call is simpler than walking out of a meeting. Frankly you can pack a lot more in that way, too, rather than running from meeting to meeting. I definitely still have days where I’m driving all over Seattle meeting with clients (today was one of those days!) but I’ve lessoned my in-person meeting load considerably.
If you work in a traditional office setting, try proposing phone or video meetings from the sake of time management and efficiency. I find that, once I have switched a meeting that is regularly in-person to being virtual and can prove that it’s more valuable for everyone involved, nobody wants to go back.
Endless complaining. We have all been that person. I HAVE BEEN this person. We all have been office besties with this person. We all have listened to this person drone on from a few desks away. It’s exhausting. Look - venting and talking things out is extremely helpful. Work can be tricky to maneuver. It’s important to have mentors and confidantes that you can talk with when you need a sounding board. I absolutely am not suggesting that those feelings aren’t valid. That’s a normal part of office culture.
What I am suggesting that you nix, though, is endless work-related complaining. At the end of the day, the only person that’s going to truly advocate for you, is you. If your job is making you miserable to the point that you can’t stop talking about it with your coworkers (or whoever will listen): do something about it. Talk to HR. Talk to your boss. Take concentrated action to fix the situation that’s driving you crazy. If your best efforts still aren’t helping you find the change that you need - start making moves to get a new job. Network your face off. Call in favors to friends. Start a side hustle (that’s how I started blogging!).
When I worked in tech I was absolutely miserable. I cried in the bathroom more than once. One day I came home and, when I thought about my day, I realized that all I had done was complain with a coworker about how miserable we both were. That was pretty much it. I had wasted a full day complaining in between meetings and emails. The irony, of course, is that we spent so much time complaining that I had to work later that night than I would have otherwise if I had just gotten my work done and left to live my life. Complain productively, make an effort to make a change, and then move the fuck on. You’re too awesome to waste your most productive hours complaining to Janet in Accounting about how shitty your boss is.
Constantly checking your email. The last few months I’ve been trying to check my email a handful of times throughout the day instead of staring endlessly into the email void praying that somebody tries to reach me. It saves up a ton of time! It’s insane! Since I’m no longer available at every moment it’s also helped me set clearer work boundaries; people don’t expect me to be available 24/7. I try to check once in the morning and respond to as many emails as I can, once in the middle of the day, and a quick scan at the end of the day.
Obviously depending on my work commitments I can’t always be detached from email. I totally get if you can’t either. All I’m asking is - maybe just shut your email for 30 minutes. Notice if it helps you get anything done. You might find that you feel… free!
Unclear communication. Take a moment and think about all the times you’ve left a long-ass meeting about some big important project and asked yourself wait, what the hell am I supposed to be doing? This is, sadly, incredibly normal. Talking logistics is boring, but getting really jacked up on a big new idea is exciting. Which one would you choose?
As a creator I’m often asked to do projects for clients “using my best judgement”. This client has hired me because they like my work and they trust me to make something great. When this first started happening I was stoked, no rules! Then I quickly started realizing, after a ton of back and forth, that using my best judgement was just jargon for a company not really knowing what they wanted. This would result in a ton of back and forth, lots of edits, phone calls to hash things out, and a ton of wasted time. Now I have a set of questions that I ask each client when we agree to work together so that I’m crystal clear on what I need to do.
Here are some questions you can ask at work that will save you a ton of time in follow-ups:
What are the next steps?
Who all is involved and what are their roles?
Do we have a timeline?
What all is required here?
What logistics, like payment, shipping, etc., need to be coordinated?
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