Illustration: Oscar Ramos Orozco

Shifting Expectations: How to Adapt to New Job Responsibilities

Creatives have the hearts of artists. Many would gladly set aside all practicalities and immerse themselves fully in learning, exploring, and creating if a benefactor would kindly rid them of the need to attend to trivialities like keeping track of time, making money, or doing laundry.

This passion for expression generally serves us well when our main work goal is the production of stellar projects. But, when job descriptions change (and responsibilities increase), this abandon to the creative process can quickly lead to mounting frustration for you and your team.

For example, when a graphic designer becomes an art director or an employee becomes a business owner or a top performer becomes a trainer, their previous methods of allocating time just won’t work anymore. As Marshall Goldsmith explains in What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, your career advancing to the next level also means that your skills need to advance to keep up.

To help you understand how different career changes have an impact on your schedule, I’ve laid out common shifts I’ve observed in my coaching clients’ lives and suggestions on how you can measure and respond to them.

Your career advancing to the next level also means that your skills need to advance to keep up.

More Responsibility

Despite popular opinion, the number of hours in a day doesn’t expand in proportion to the growth in your job description. In order to fit in more activity without losing your balance, you need to think differently about your time allocation.

To help you assess how you should be approaching activities given your new workload, I’ve developed a simple routine that I call “INO.”

First, write out all of the activities related to your job. Then, categorize each of them as an investment, neutral, or optimize activity:

  • Investment: Spending more time on these activities could lead to a significant increase in the benefits you receive. Example: A significant career-enhancing project that helps you grow your skill set.
  • Neutral: These activities give back as much as you put into them. Example: Billable hourly work, where you aren’t building out your portfolio or developing new skills.
  • Optimize: More time spent on these activities results in decreasing benefits. Example: Routine email or paperwork.

As you scan your completed list, you will want to:

  • Complete the “Optimize” activities as quickly as possible.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend on “Neutral” activities.
  • Maximize the time you spend moving forward on “Investment” activities.
  • Re-evaluate as necessary.

More Management

Increases in the number of people who report to you should mean that the overall output of your team increases, IF you’re delegating properly. But more management responsibility also means, of course, that you have to “let go” of some tasks.

To understand how much of your time different staff members receive from you and what you can delegate to gain back time for your creative projects, try this type of assessment:

  • Make a mind map or list of all of the different people reporting to you.
  • Detail out what each one of these people needs to receive from you such as:
    • Monthly one-on-one meetings (1 hour/month)
    • Weekly feedback on their current projects (2 hours/week)
    • Emotional support when they have a setback (varies)
  • Brainstorm all they could give back to you. The possibilities are endless. Your list might include things like:
    • Absorbing regular maintenance tasks, which could be anything from managing social media to writing blog posts to prepping files to answering customer emails, and so on. (4-8 hours/week)
    • Completing a major research or archival project. (5 days)
    • Taking over leading a committee or a regular meeting. (3 hours/month)
    • Attending a professional conference or seminar on your behalf. (1-2 days)
  • Calculate how much time can be spent on getting your own projects done by subtracting out what others are receiving from you and adding back the time you are gaining from delegating to them. Example: 40 hours-20 hours+10 hours=30 hours spent on moving forward your projects (20 hours that you do and 10 hours that someone did for you).
  • Assess whether you feel that you have the proper balance of giving and receiving and adapt as necessary. The goal is to maximize the total potential output of your team and the time you personally spend on top quality “investment” activities without anyone burning out.

More Travel

Jet-setting seems glamorous—you get to explore new places, engage with new people, and gain premier status. But after a few months of trotting around the country or the globe, travel can lose its luster if you don’t practice a few simple strategies to keep your life in order:

  • Always block in time on your calendar before a trip for prep and packing and after a trip for wrap up and rest. If you don’t take care of submitting receipts and following up on leads immediately, those details can cause huge stress later.
  • Keep to the essential routines for your health and happiness. If meditation is a must, wake up early enough to make it happen or download a recording you can listen to in transit. If exercise has to happen, spend your 30-minute break between meetings walking around the hallways and going up and down the stairs.
  • Split up your to-do lists using David Allen’s Getting Things Done location-focused method. For instance, you could make these kinds of categories: At Home, In Waiting Rooms, On Planes, When Driving.
  • Decide on certain personal, yet location-independent, activities to do on the road such as: reading books, calling friends, or researching a new gadget. Planning these type of personal items will give you a reason to stop working in the evenings and make sure that you have time to recharge and refresh.

Recognizing and adapting to these expectation-changers gives you greater clarity on what’s possible, allows you to feel good about how you’re spending your time, and helps you make—and keep—the right promises to yourself and others.

What’s Your Perspective?

What external job changes have required you to adapt your internal expectations? What new standards did you set for yourself?

Elizabeth Grace Saunders

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Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training and author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success With Less Stress. Find out how you can accomplish more with peace and confidence at www.ScheduleMakeover.com.
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