During the busy season, the pace picks up at work: more meetings, calls, emails and deadlines. There are more people in the office and more competing priories, making it challenging to complete projects and feel in control of your schedule. You can find yourself in survival mode and just trying to keep your head above water.
It is time to stop trying to survive, and start thriving. You not only need to survive the flurry of activity, but at the same time advance your career by thriving in it. A demanding work schedule is your opportunity to show people you can handle the demands like a leader. Here are four ways to capitalize on the busy season and demonstrate your leadership in the workplace:
1. Know when to say “no” and when to say “yes.”
There are times when requests come from your manager, peers and reports, all at the same time. You cannot do everything, so you have to make decisions. Before you respond, ask yourself key questions about the ROI, such as: Does it help you to achieve a professional goal? How time-sensitive is it? Does it advance the organization’s financial goals? Is it an opportunity to build trust with a colleague?
If you say “yes” to the request, also determine whether you can delegate the task. For example, if the task is to analyze a set of data and you are not good with detail, consider asking a colleague that has this strength to help you.
Leaders make tough, smart decisions, and sometimes that means saying “no.” Katherine Hays, founder and CEO of the mobile advertising company Vivoom, says, “At a startup, the opportunity is so big and there’s so much to accomplish that it’s tempting to [take on] everything.” But she said “no” to a potential client because she felt, based on the amount of time it takes to onboard a new client, she lacked sufficient time to properly do what the client wanted (i.e., launching a campaign in less than a week). Hays saying “no” helped her control her schedule and ultimately built trust that would win the client’s business for another campaign.
2. Have a flexible mindset.
You cannot control other people’s actions, but you can control your own mindset. If you have an open mind and mentally prepare yourself for the possibility that things will get hectic, you will be able to better accept the chaos and keep your cool.
Let’s say you are trying to finish up a project and leave for home, and your manager says she needs you to shift gears and help her prepare for a client meeting the next morning. You will feel less frustrated and out of control if you accept that additional, last minute tasks or shifts in priorities will occasionally occur.
Leaders cannot be ruffled by a change in plans because this is when their skills are most needed. To manage complexity, leaders must be flexible and prepared for anything that comes their way.
3. Work on a project you like.
Prioritizing and saying “no” to certain tasks can free up some time. Take time to work on a project that both interests you and will improve your company, whether that involves developing something new or fixing something that is broken. Think LinkedIn’s [in]cubator program, which allows employees time to work on their own product ideas outside of their regular work. In giving yourself a license to innovate, you are giving yourself the opportunity to be seen as the forward-thinking problem solver that a leader is.
Working on a side project may require your manager’s permission. Make it clear why you want to work on a particular project, and show that it will not impinge on your other work. The more your manager understands how your project will help the company achieve its goals, the more likely he or she will approve it.
4. Take breaks.
More work than you can handle is the norm these days. Do not be afraid to press pause and take a break. You will be better off for it, as will the people around you. Taking the opportunity to unplug and recharge will help you be more engaged and productive when you return to work. Leaders of their own careers know when they need to take time off to avoid burnout.
Can’t take a week long vacation? Take a day off every now and then. Adam Rifkin, entrepreneur and founder of PandaWhale, recommends “taking a little downtime every day.” Research suggests that even making the “effort to completely disengage from work when the workday is over” will help.
Learning how to control the hectic environment at work will make you a better professional and position you as a leader. Leaders make decisions, are flexible, do something they are passionate about and take breaks from work. Take the opportunity to do this too.
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