Friday, February 07, 2014

How Reviewing Your Roles Will Help You Focus & Be More Effective


I've found in life that it's important to remember who you are. Regular reminders are key to relieving misplaced pressure and focusing on what really matters. 

Some people are extra-talented at simplifying life; they hop out of bed and go.  Focus. Attack. Accomplish.

Once upon a time that was me, and if that's your natural state of mind - way to go.  But for a long time, that me seemed far away and irrecoverable.  When life gets complicated - multiple jobs, juggling work, school and family... When the possibilities to do something new are endless and opportunities to reinvent yourself present themselves daily, the mind can get confused.  If you find yourself occupying a few different roles simultaneously -- for instance, as a student, a mother, and an accountant -- there are days you're just going to wake up in a state of discombobulation.


Who am I today?  What really defines success for me today?  Where do I need to focus my energy?

Your conscious mind often can't even utter those questions out loud.  But they are surely there, behind the thoughts that pummel you as you try to enjoy your morning coffee... Should I do that thing today or tomorrow? What errand should I run first?  It feels like someone is throwing rocks at you.

Like the giant Tyrannical Emperor of Productivity is standing over you with a sledgehammer. Whack. Get that press release written. Whack. Your brand's social media profiles are dead. Whack. There's nothing worse than a dead blog. Whack. You should have done your laundry a week ago; serves you right you have no socks on this -10 degree morning. Whack. You could ace that exam if you holed up and put 4 hours of undivided attention into your review tonight. Whack. Seriously - you don't work, you don't eat. Press release comes first. Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack. 

What a way to start the day.

Ridiculous, right?  And yet, it happens all too often. No wonder we go crawling to Facebook in search of a few distractions. No wonder we idolize people who are portrayed as extreme, one-dimensional versions of themselves (read: pop stars, sports heroes, industry moguls). They seem to fit so well in the context they're in. They know what to do, how to walk, how to act. They seem to have it all together.  Well, it turns out no one is the perfect pop music goddess, mother, sister, fitness guru, and entrepreneurette all wrapped into one. People's increasing eagerness to broadcast bad behavior over the internet is helping the rest of the world to see it all so clearly.



Roles are one of those things in life. It can feel silly to "practice" them, and you wouldn't dream of walking into a room and stating your title, duties, and intentions for the day.  And yet, THINKING these things as you walk into a room will help you get past some major brain blocks. 



Try writing out job descriptions for every role you take on.  

First, list your roles. 


  • Student
  • Entrepreneurette/Financial Professional
  • Researcher
  • Industrial Brand Manager

  • Principle Purpose is a nice opportunity to write a few paragraphs about the reason that role exists.  You might also remind yourself of why you took on the role.  It could be dreamy and idealistic, or down-to-earth and harshly realistic.  Who are you leading?  Who are you supporting?

    The Qualifications section is a good place to boost your confidence (you're probably pretty qualified for your roles), and it's also helpful for setting personal growth goals in the places you see you could be a better _________.

    Duties & Responsibilities is where it's at for me. In addition to listing everything I am responsible for, I list the things I'm NOT responsible for and should stop worrying about.

    Relationships to Nurture. So what if the receptionist butchers your name and just can't wrap his head around your product. You're not selling to the receptionist.  General etiquette and politesse is nice, but sometimes you just can't worry too much about the people who don't factor into your role.  When you have limited time at work, build up the relationships that really matter for work.  If the receptionist coaches your kid's soccer team.... well, nurture that relationship on the field, when you're "mom".

    Key Success Factors can be a bulleted list of the 3-5 things that matter most -- both in the long run and for today.  These are your key words to memorize.  When you're feeling under pressure to perform or nursing a faceplant you took on one of your projects (or literally nursing a faceplant after tripping over your toddler's toy truck), the key success factors will help you sum up what you should be doing and why.


    In this land-of-a-million-apps, 

    you have tons of different ways to remind yourself of who you are.  I keep my Bible app on my phone's homescreen to remind me of who I am for eternity.  And for all my major roles, I have Word docs or Evernote notes saved on my laptop and also accessible via my phone.  En route to a big negotiation or presentation is always a good time to review those.  When stress and deadlines and confusion creep up, you'll be glad you have these job descriptions - to remind you what you can do, but also to remind to you relax because their are limits to what you must do.  

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