We can read books, attend seminars, and implement best practices for time management, but in the end, if we have free will, we will generally do what we want to do. This observation turned into a practical measuring tool for a major California-based architectural practice in deciding its “go/no-go” rules for RFP responses. The practice asks everyone including principals to code their time, and the number of hours principals spent at the pre-decision stage on the proposal became the critical criteria in deciding if it should be pursued. The reasoning: If principals are willing to invest their time and effort in the pre-proposal stage, they are truly interested/committed to the project and are more likely to have the competence and connections to see it through.
I’m reminded of that fact when I review my daily time allocations and have learned to respect that some activities may appear to be time-wasting, but are not because I enjoy the work. The challenge, however, is to know when to let go (delegate or drop) an activity and when some work is so important that it must be done, regardless of its time and stress costs.
However, generally, if the stress is high and it isn’t something we like doing, we should find someone else to do it. If our core work negatively correlates with stress and dissatisfaction, then it is time to find another job (or for the organization to find another job for the employee, which may mean temporary unemployment.) This answer may not be right if you are struggling at a job you hate because you need the money, but in that case I would advocate you work as fast as possible to redesign your responsibilities to suit both the organization’s requirements and your personal needs/values.
I’ve sought to implement these principles in the selection process for our new North and South Carolina publishers. Instead of giving the candidates a fixed trial assignment and determining everything for them to do, I’ve invited them to develop their own work/action plan and goals — and offered them a modest honorarium for their efforts, regardless of success (provided they complete the basic assignment, of course.) The thinking: This is independent work, not closely supervised, and part of the work involves writing proposals and recommendations. Why not let the candidates prove themselves with some practical work that allows them to define their responsibilities with their own vision?