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Lesson #5: On Managing Your Workload
Hello and thanks in advance for reading lesson #5 (not #4, because I can actually count to 5) of Lessons in Engineering Leadership! After a brief hiatus for December, I’m back in your inbox. Thank you to the 1,216 of you who have subscribed so far! If you’re new here, Lessons in Engineering Leadership is a bi-weekly newsletter on a variety of engineering leadership topics that can be read in under 5 minutes.
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On Managing Your Workload
I'm a juggler. Not the type you see in the circus - more of the type you see in this beautiful stock photo:
There was period of time only a few months ago when I was getting to my computer on Monday morning and asking myself, "which balls will I drop this week?"
As you can probably imagine, that's not a really healthy mindset when you're starting off your week knowing you'll slip.
So let's reframe this. Instead of going in with a negative mindset, flip it to positive (or hell, even neutral). Ask yourself, "knowing what I already have on my calendar, what can I get done this week?" It's a small tweak in my thinking, but it has helped loads.
I wrote about this in my old entrepreneurship letter, but I find structuring my weeks (and sometimes days when things feel really chaotic) with my 1-2-3 method:
1 thing you absolutely must do - if you do this, your week was a success.
2 things you'd like to get done, but won't feel bad if you don't get to them. These shouldn't be high stakes, and they shouldn't take up your entire week.
3 backup items to fill your time. "But Kelly, you just said you have too much to do - why in the world would you want backup items?" Well, dear reader, I don't know about you, but my brain isn't super focused all day. These backup items are very low stakes but give your brain a break from the other work when you need to step away. Things like cleaning up your email, checking in with a few people, making sure your calendar and to-do lists are up to date, etc. The world won't fall apart if you don't get to these items, but you're helping your future self out by taking some time for yourself.
If you find yourself attempting to juggle a lot of tasks during the day, stop. Multitasking has been prove in multiple studies to not be effective. Write down what you need to get done. Choose an item to be your #1, and two more to fall back on. Write down three additional tasks you'd like to do if you need a brain break. And most importantly, write down what you WON'T be doing this week. Make sure you're communicating your won't-do list to appropriate parties so there are no surprises when something doesn't get done.
Happy New Year - I hope this is our best year yet :)
What I’m reading
I’m still reading Team Topologies - I hit pause on it after finishing the reorg because I wanted to pick up Measure What Matters and WOW - this book is good. I’m only ~4 chapters in and it’s already making a huge impact on my thinking.
Check out the full book list for recommendations and an ever-growing reading list.
Note: Links to books in this section are affiliate links to help support the purchase of the rest of my books :)
What I’m working on
Does a SOC 2/HIPAA audit ever end? Stay tuned to find out. (This is my “#1 thing” for this week - trying to get our audits wrapped up.)
This is also annual and quarterly planning time for us, so I’m applying a lot of the principles from Measure What Matters to my dreaming and goalsetting to put together the engineering vision for the next year.
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