In this episode of The Engineering Career Coach Podcast, I outline two different approaches to professional development. I explain the advantages and disadvantages of each of these approaches, and how you can use them to increase your overall success in your engineering career and life.
One of the challenges I hear about from a lot of engineers is how to stay focused when there are so many distractions vying for their bandwidth. I can relate, the same problem exists for me! I think that any engineering professional today is going to have to come up with ways to protect their “space” so that they can generate quality focus time on the tasks before them. This is really important for doing work that requires the minds full engagement. I remember doing design work early in my engineering career and how frustrated I would become when I was interrupted by a phone call or someone stopping by to chat. It became even worse when later in my career when I sat in a cubicle farm. Trying to concentrate on writing a report or putting a presentation together with ringing phones, conversations all around and unfettered access to anyone walking by nearly drove me insane. So how do you create the space necessary to be focused?
Before I get into the five things you can do to increase focus in your engineering career I have to ask: do you want to increase your focus? I ask this because some of these suggestions will require you to not be immediately responsive to another person’s desire to communicate with you. You may also have to learn how to tell people “no” when they want to stop by to chat. And you will also need to train yourself to be focused on single tasks. If you’re willing and able, then here are the five things you can do to increase focus in your engineering career: [Read more…] about 5 Things You Can Do To Increase Focus in Your Engineering Career
Normally I end my articles with a quote, but this time I’m starting with one instead. We’re focusing on, well, focus this month. This quote does an awesome job of reminding us of the importance of prioritization in our lives. Most days we’ll have a challenging or tough task that we need to accomplish. When one of these is on our task list, Twain’s reminding us to knock-it-out immediately.
When we do the hard stuff first thing in the morning, every other task we have to deal with becomes easier. I believe there are two reasons for this:
- We’re rested and better able to concentrate on tasks/matters that require our full mental attention and energy.
- Emotionally, once the hard stuff is done, everything else is a cakewalk in comparison.
Boosting Your Focus
The following post is based on a true story of a walk my son and I took one evening a few weeks ago. It is meant to inspire you to focus more on the things that matter most to you in your career and your life.
Not Your Average Walk
My five-year-old son has a lot of energy, so every so often after dinner, he and I will take a long walk along a path that we have dubbed “the Secret Passageway.” A few weeks ago, while out for our walk, we saw something that was both scary and eye-opening. [Read more…] about Are You Too Focused on the Wrong Thing in Your Engineering Career?
Effectively managing projects requires several skills and characteristics. If you’re already a project manager you know that communications, scheduling, leadership and command authority, and the ability to set, observe, and revise priorities frequently are just some of the abilities the successful project mangers employ for success. While these are important, there are 5 skills that you absolutely need to hone to ensure you’re successful in managing your projects.
1. Streamline your work processes. Nothing saps energy from you and others like poor work processes. What do poor work processes look like? Meetings without agendas, run entirely from slide presentations, or held without a clear objective. Multiple email accounts, calendars, or task lists. Lack of a process for accepting, vetting, assigning and scheduling tasks. In short, being unorganized. Successful project managers are efficient at what they do, why they do something, when they do it, and how they accomplish it. [Read more…] about 5 Skill’s You Need to Hone to Ensure Successful Project Management
Unlike money or aptitude, time is the one commodity that every person on earth has the exact same amount of each day. Most expend an amazing amount of effort trying to expand this non-renewable resource. Multi-tasking, out-sourcing to another (a.k.a. using a secretary), and back-to-back scheduling are undertaken to cram as much as possible into a 24-hour period. The belief being that if we can somehow manage our time effectively, we can get it all done.
But is this true? When was the last time you felt that you had adequate time to get it all done? My guess is that if you are operating on a full schedule between family, profession, and volunteer work, you never feel like you get everything done that can be done. For those in that position, time management doesn’t work. What is needed is time leadership.
Leadership Versus Management
The leadership versus management distinction found in organizational dynamics shows-up as well in how we approach our relationship with time. When managing time, you’re controlling a finite element, small-slicing it to get as many things accomplished as possible between sunrise and sunset. Your feeling of self-worth and accomplishment comes from accomplishing all, or at least a large majority, of the items in the schedule and on the task list. Accomplished successfully, you feel good about yourself and that you have control over your time and work. However, enter any unplanned interruption – a sick kid, unforeseen business opportunity, a crisis phone call – and your well-planned day can fall apart. Unless, that is, you’re leading your time. [Read more…] about Time Leadership