I hear it all the time. “There aren’t enough hours in the day.” “I have too much to do.” “I never seem to get anything done.” I hear it from friends, clients, and even family. It’s a common complaint. One that leaves us frustrated, creatively dry, and exhausted by the end of the day.
Believe it or not, there is a way to build more time into your day. Well, perhaps not more time since we all have the same amount of that. It’s more about the way we decide to use the time we have.
Here’s a bit of advice that might help. Stop wasting it.
One of the common challenges facing my clients is having too much to do in too short a time. It doesn’t matter if they are newly hired managers, if they’ve been on the job for a few years, or have spent decades building their careers. And it’s true. Many times there is too much to do in just one day. Some of that is the nature of the beast, especially in organizations that resist re-staffing after the recession. However, there is another way that we let time slip away during the day.
We try to help.
Now, helping is a great thing. It certainly makes you a team player and every organization seems to have gotten on the collaboration bandwagon. But there is a difference between seeing yourself as collaborative, and seeing yourself as a Fixer. Collaborators work together toward a common goal. Fixers swoop in and take over. They believe they can do it better and faster than anyone else. They take it upon themselves to answer questions, offer solutions, or just solve the problem so everyone can move on.
Of course, the only ones who really move on are the ones who originally brought the problem to the fixer. They have a problem they don’t want to deal with so they knock on her door, ask a leading question, and boom…that problem is no longer their issue. The Fixer takes the bait and suddenly she has one more thing on her plate to solve before she can get back to her own work.
And so it goes. Before long, the Fixer has spent most of the day solving problems that don’t really involve her, but she was just trying to help. And when the people who handed her their problems are leaving at 5:00, she is just beginning to focus on her own agenda from the beginning of the day. It looks like another night of take-out and not dinner at home with the family.
Most of us have a natural inclination to help others. If you are a mother, the desire to make everything right can be almost overwhelming at times. That is one reason many women become Fixers.
Another reason lies in our own insecurities. The more others rely on us to solve problems, the more indispensable we become. Of course, those of us who have been through lay-offs know the truth of the adage, “No one is indispensable.” What we really become is frustrated, overwhelmed, and known for being workaholics.
If any of this sounds familiar (and I’m assuming it does because you probably would have stopped reading by now if it doesn’t), you may be wondering if it is possible to the Fixer. The answer is yes. You can change your behavior and shift your focus back to your own priorities without feeling guilty or leaving people stranded.
The key to fixing your Fixer is recognizing when and why you do it. Why do you step in and take on things that don’t really involve you? If you are just starting out in a job you may believe it is a way to get noticed–to get ahead. And you would be partially right. You will get noticed, but mainly as someone who stays in the weeds and doesn’t see the big picture. You will actually be hindering your career growth, not helping it.
If you have been in your job for a while–or even decades–it may be force of habit. You may feel more secure when you are the one dealing with everything. Unfortunately, when you do that, there is no time left for your own work.
So what do you do? Depending on your situation, the next step is learning to say no. “No, I can’t take care of that, but here is the person who can.”
If your staff comes to you with questions, use it as a mentoring moment. Instead of telling them what to do, ask them what they think they should do. Where would they find the answers to their question? Who else might be a resource? Not only will you ultimately give yourself more constructive time, you will increase the levels of self-efficacy in your staff which leads to higher performance and job satisfaction.
Of course, distilling answers down to two of three bullet points makes solutions sound easy. They aren’t. Behavioral change takes time, effort, and a sense of mindfulness throughout the day. As you become aware of triggers and your reactions, you can take steps to create a more positive outcome.
Once you decide to fix the Fixer, you may just find you have more time throughout the day to focus on your own work. You may also find out why dinner at home with the family is so important to a balanced lifestyle.