You are What You Do

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I talk with people about what they do at work, they usually tell me their job title. I’ve never been a fan of job titles, although I do love a good function title. What function do you fill on the team? How do you forward the goals of the organization? What could I expect to see you do on any given day?

This last questions really strikes at the core of the issue, though. As Emerson puts out there, what your job title says means very little compared to what you actually do on any given day. Most of us spend a disproportionate amount of time doing things that don’t forward our most important goals of the day. For you time management gurus, we simply spend too much time out of quadrant two.

What you do during most of your day commonly becomes a real problem when you are split between managing humans and doing technical work. Take a sales director, for instance. How much time does a sales director actually spend selling, and how much time is spend managing the work of others, attending meetings about servicing, reviewing BEO materials, etc.?

Here’s a fun little activity you can do to see if you’re really doing what you say you are doing:

Take your phone and set an alarm for every hour on the hour you work. Start with the time you leave for work, because I believe commuting is part of work even if you’re not getting paid for it. When the alarm goes off, write down at that exact moment what you are working on. Do this for an entire work week. When you’ve got your list, of 50 or so items, start to group them into categories (eg. administration, training, people management, meetings, what you would consider your primary job function outside of management, etc.).

Another variation on this exercise is to jot down blocks of time you spend doing these categories.

The goal is to identify very clearly what you are actually doing rather than what you think or say you are doing.

If you’re like most people who do this activity, you’ll find that you’re spending a bunch of time doing things that are outside your primary focus.

The question you need to ask yourself is, Is there a different way to make more use of my valuable time?