I have spent more than a year on my current position as a Senior Professional. During this time, I deliberately kept my mind clear of the promotion process. There was so much to learn and grow horizontally that I did not want to miss the chance to do it by concentrating on something else. Now, I feel that it is time to take a look and architect my way to the Principal level.
This article describes how I approached my promotion by shifting my concentration from the urgent to the important. The culture of my current company praises self-driven, self-service professionals and this is why everybody has their promotion in their own hands. Nobody will take you there but rather you have to convince yourself and everybody else that you belong there. At your own pace.
Time to read
Time to read: 10 minutes (based on 150 words per minute).
First Things First
Like almost anything so far in my life, my actions were initially inspired by a book. I would recommend this book to everyone who wants to take his life back in his hands and shift from the “hot potato problem” to a paradigm where first things always come first.
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
Stephen R. Covey
Click on the link below if you want to learn more about the book (the link leads to Goodreads).
From Theory to Practice
In this section, I will describe how I mapped the wisdom of First Things First to my personal toolkit and how I adjusted the processes that I follow to it. In subsequent sections, I will cover how I am using the new process to get my promotion to Principal.
Daily Most Important Tasks (MITs)
If you have been following my previous posts (or if you go back and read them) it will be very obvious that I am a firm believer in the MIT paradigm. For me, this means that I start each day of my life by reviewing my tasks and determine three of them to be the most important ones for the day. They can change. I may not do all of them. But I strive to concentrate on them during my day. Again, crisis happen and it is not a tragedy if I cannot do that.
To learn more about the MIT process, refer to this article: Task Management – 9 Tips to Improve Your Productivity.
The first process which I adopted after reading First Things First was a weekly activity where I set aside 1 hour on Monday to review all my roles in life (more about this later), the vision about each of my roles, and last but not least a list of short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals which I have set in the context of each of my roles. Based on this list of goals, I determine tasks which feel the most important and which will get me closer to my goals (even with o.ooo1%, KAIZEN)! Obviously, being as organized as I am, I write them down neatly in a note.
As I was using and testing the process, I found that I have a certain set of tasks that I want to “keep doing” (like meditation, physical exercise, and spending time with my family). I started calling these weekly tasks. And there are other tasks (which I want to do for the first time), habits (which I want to introduce), time (which I need to spend on something). I started calling these important tasks.
Mapping weekly and important tasks to daily tasks
After I know my weekly tasks and my important tasks, I open my task tracking app and my calendar, and I assign the weekly tasks as daily MITs for each day of the week. And, I book time on my calendar to actually do them. I experimented a lot and I found that I need only 1 tool active during the day to stay productive and not lose too much time transferring information between tools, so I use the calendar as my primary tool.
Once again, things change, priorities change, hot potato problems emerge with which I have to deal. But just like my MIT process, I strive to accomplish all my important tasks throughout the week and to have enough time for the weekly tasks.
Resist the must-do mentality
However, I am very accomplishment-driven and easy to addict. So, I found that I have to resist my must-do-everything mentality. In the first few weeks, I filled my calendar to the brim with important and weekly tasks. That did not go well because as I said before things happen and priorities change. The optimal way that I’ve found so far is to leave more than 25% of the weekly time as buffer. There are busy weeks (and I try to see that in advance) where I cannot allocate more than 50% of the time. There are less busy weeks where I can allocate as much as 75% of the time.
Finally, without tracking there will be no controlling and succeeding. I set aside 30-min to 1-hour on Friday every week to reflect and review my accomplishments. I diligently mark and
scratch each accomplished tasks but also I bold the not accomplished tasks. This gives me the satisfaction at the end of the week of a job-well-done but also a sense of direction for the next week.
Sometimes I will finish a few of the tasks during the weekend. In this case I would go back and mark it as finished on Monday. And every Monday morning, I review the accomplishments from the last week.
The connection to the promotion process
But how did I connect the process above to the promotion process? I will answer this question in the next section. I started by defining the roles in my life.
Roles in life
We all have different roles in our lives: 1) Parent; 2) Spouse; 3) Child; 4) Professional. And we all spend time in these roles each week. But do we always know why we do it, what our vision for these roles is, and what we are trying to accomplish? The answer for myself was “yes and no” (there is a very good work in German about that jein which is a mix of ja – yes and nein – no).
One of the first exercises that I did when adopting the First Things First process was to define my roles. And most important what is not my roles. Borrowing from project management, I defined the boundaries of my personal projects.
Then, I defined my vision for each of these roles. What I strive for. All that is constant work-in-progress, it will never end. And I always adjust, re-formulate, or delete parts of it.
Then, I read my job description carefully and determined the most important skills that I need to obtain or showcase in order to get to the next level. I scheduled interviews with peers and managers, and I asked them about these gaps. I reviewed the evaluations from the past years and I marked the common topics.
And finally, I defined my short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals for each of my roles to help me bridge the gaps or showcase the skills that I needed to show.
Needless to say, “Promotion to Principal” was one of these goals. Or to be most transparent – two. I see my position as a mix of two roles and I have that goal in both of them because I need the skills from both of them to get the promotion.
If you want to read more about setting goals, read these article: Fail Your New Year’s Resolution and How to Achieve a Long-term Goal with Small Rewards.
Every Monday when I start the First Things First process for the week, I review these goals. And I create tasks that will help me achieve them. Every Friday when I wrap-up the week, I review the goals for the week and I evaluate how closer I have come.
As simple as it is, I make sure that each week I pick as many tasks that will help my promotion as possible. Even if each next tasks gets me only 0.0001% toward my promotion, I am sure that it does not get me away from it.
And after that it is even simpler:
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.
Dory from Finding Dory.
I have initiated the procedure but it will take time. I will come back to this article and report on the progress.
In this article, I described in detail the steps that I am taking to drive my promotion from Senior to Principal. My method may not be conventional but I am positive that it will lead me where I want to be.
If I have to summarize it in a few sentences: 1) Make sure you know who you are; 2) Make sure you know what you want; 3) Drive getting where you want to be with goals; 4) Every week pick those tasks that help your goals; 5) Schedule time to do those tasks; 6) Do them; 7) Schedule time to reflect on the goals, vision, and roles.
What are the next steps?
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