Gaining a sense of accomplishment as a manager

Leadership Oct 11, 2021

Do you often feel like you got nothing done by the end of the day? That you lack any sense of accomplishment, which you had as an individual contributor, but now cannot find as a manager? That you approach things reactively instead of proactively? That you are not feeling in control or on top of things? Are you simply overwhelmed?

Let’s fix that with some practical steps that helped me on my journey to management! 😊

#1 Shift your values to value managerial work

Before you apply any practice, there is one crucial thing to understand: As a manager, your feedback loop is now a lot longer than it used to be. Your mission is no longer to implement features but to develop and guide people. And that does not happen overnight. You cannot feel your work has value if you value the wrong work. Stop thinking about yourself; start thinking about others.

You cannot feel your work has value if you value the wrong work. Stop thinking about yourself; start thinking about others.

You need to start valuing managerial work, not just your teams’ operational results. Value people’s growth. Value creating the right culture. Value motivating people and making your organization more scalable. If you do not make this shift, management might not be the right job for you.

#2 Start an Event Loop

If you are familiar with the checklist manifesto, this is nothing new for you. An event loop is a periodic checklist of everything you need to do to ensure things are going in the right direction. It is usually formulated as a matrix of frequencies (daily, weekly, monthly) and categories (people, projects, processes, yourself). It may contain entries like “Check certain project status every week” or “Plan an outing every month”. This way you ensure nothing slips through your fingers.

How do you start with one? There is no universal template. Event loops should be different for each role and should be constantly evolving, but to get you started, I have attached a screenshot of my current event loop.

Tip: Do not leave it as a table. Put it in your tools like your TO-DO list or calendar to ensure it gets done. I personally use recurring calendar events and tasks in Asana.

#3 Focus on what matters and block time for it

If you only work reactively, people will fill your day with ad-hoc meetings and small administrative tasks. The well-known analogy of “big rocks first” applies here too.

Start your week by clearly stating what one important thing you want to achieve and allocate time for it. Block your focus time and do not let people distract you during it unless it’s critical.

Moreover, review your week at the end. Did the change happen? If not, then why?

#4 Start a work journal

One trick to remember your achievements is to simply write them down. I always start my Monday by choosing a goal of the week and note it in my journal. At the end of the week, I append any additional achievements or remove the ones that I did not get to.

Just by looking at it, you can see what success you had in past weeks or even months. It can also help you to prevent recency bias in performance reviews.

#5 Use your calendar as a TO-DO list

Constant decision making is one of the biggest sources of procrastination. “What should I do next?” To prevent asking this question too often, plan your day ahead. Use your calendar to lay out tasks at specific times. It will also serve as small capacity planning and prevent you from overcommitting.

To make the plan realistic, also block time for obvious activities like mailbox processing or responding on Slack.

Tip: To minimize decision making even more, have multiple to-do lists—one for focus time (bigger projects) and one for smaller times (things you can do even when distracted). For example, creating a new job post is something you need dedicated focus time for, but straightforward tasks like giving access to someone in a software can be done when distracted between meetings.

#6 Analyze your time

Nowadays, everything is data driven, and your productivity and time management can be as well to truly see what stops you from being productive. There are several extensions and apps to track your browser or app usage (like this one). The numbers you get out of it can be surprising... especially regarding Slack.

Another way is to categorize your calendar events and assign a color to them. Then you can visualize your calendar in an uncomplicated way and answer the question of where you spent most of your time.

#7 Be prepared to break it

Be prepared that there will be times where you will not be that effective. And that is ok if it does not stick. But hopefully these tips will help you avoid that!  

Do you have any other tips? Let me know! 😊


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Josef Starýchfojtů

I am a passionate engineering leader with a focus on people, learning, and continuous improvement. Previously (and still in the spirit) passionate functional programmer.

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