We all get overwhelmed at work sometimes. But if you take a good look around, you can usually spot a few she-women totally rocking their careers in their natural habitat — the office. You know who I mean: the women who seem to have everything on lock. Well, I’m spilling the tea: These SheEOs aren’t as perfect as you think! They just have plenty of hustle, and the ability to make it look easy, even when it’s anything but.
Without a doubt, Natalie Gulotta, CIO of UroPartners LLC (the largest urology group in the Midwestern United States), is one of these power femmes (#goals). Her advice for women in business? “Speak confidently! Some young women end every sentence with a question mark. It’s OK to say you don’t know something. We are all a work in progress. But when you do speak, do it with confidence,” she says.
Other SheEOs have career habits that have made them stand out in the office throughout their careers. So listen up, because we’re leaking the girl boss hacks.
No. 1: X by Y
Always. Set. Deadlines.
Obvious? Maybe, but I guarantee you have a project right now with no clear due date attached to it. Believe it or not, deadlines are less about urgency and more about communication. It doesn’t actually matter WHEN the deadline is. All that matters is that everyone agreed to it. It’s really easy to disappoint when you don’t know what the expectation is.
You might be thinking, “I can’t commit to timelines for everything! My job is chaos!” No worries, Felicia. Renegotiating a deadline before it passes doesn’t make you look like a hot mess (even if you feel like one). Plans change; it happens! People just want to know ahead of time so that they can respond accordingly.
Why it works: Deadlines help you build trust and let people know that they can count on you.
No. 2: The New 5-Second Rule
Don’t send a fully baked reply to every email right away. Send something like this instead:
“Thanks for letting me know. I am looking into it and will be able to follow-up with more information by (date and/or time).”
You can send one of these templated replies WAY faster than you could a full response. The clock stops “ticking” in the recipients mind, because now they know when to check back for a full answer.
Why it works: Quick replies and timelines make everyone feel like they are your priority, even if their problem doesn’t get fixed right away. This also stops you from saying a quick ‘yes’ to things you shouldn’t be doing anyway.
No. 3 Making Emails Useful
OK, so your email response time is now at Usain Bolt status, but how the heck can you keep track of the follow-up? Don’t worry, I got you. Right after you send your quick reply, turn the email into a “to do” item.
Most email providers have free tools built in to help a girl out:
- Use Gmail to turn an e-mail into a task. You can even add deadlines (*swoon*) and sub-tasks.
- Use Microsoft to create tasks, add deadlines and manage them by priority.
- Use Microsoft Outlook to set follow-up deadlines for emails and reminders.
Want something fancier, or just need a little extra help in the inbox department? I bit the bullet and paid for ActiveInbox which Andy Mitchell, founder of ActiveInbox, describes as a “Gmail productivity plugin that seamlessly integrates into a users email interface, turning [your] inbox into an intuitive task manager.”
Why it works: Emails are the devil. Emails as tasks that help you keep track of your workload, though, are useful little devils.
No. 4 : Set Your Hustle Playlist and PRIORITIZE
Yes, it is overwhelming. No, you aren’t going to get it all done. There, I said it.
If no one has told you yet, let me be the first: You can’t do everything, and THAT’S OK! But you do have to prioritize effectively, so that the right things are getting done, and you’re working your way to a completely clean slate. Over your morning coffee, ask yourself: “If there is one important thing that I want to work on today, what is it?”
The concept is based on “The One Thing” by Gary Keller, who describes the concept as identifying the one, most important thing that will make everything else easier once it’s complete. If you looked at Gary’s calendar, you’d see regular appointments with himself that he’s scheduled to knock out his most important work, according to an interview in Forbes.
So, ask yourself — What’s the one thing you want to get done today? And before you finish your morning coffee, block off time for whatever that is.
Why it works: You make headway on tasks and projects that actually move the needle without allowing you to get distracted by things that seem urgent but are really unimportant.
No. 5: Group Dates (But the Good Kind)
One of the things I admire about workplace goddesses is that if you need to speak to them, you can. How on earth, on top of ruling land and sea, are they finding time to help me? Turns out the secret is pretty simple: They have open office hours, because they prioritize face-time with colleagues and learning from one another.
“You need to be accessible to the people who need you,” says CIO Natalie Gulotta. “All of my front desk staff have my business card. We spent a year directing staff to the correct channels, and training end users about when it is appropriate to contact me. When they do need to reach me, they can, and they know their issue will be taken seriously.”
Block off time at regular intervals to be available for questions. Then, when someone drops by to just chat, and you’re in the middle of something, set up a meeting instead. This stops the constant flow of interruptions throughout the day.
Why it works: Knowing when they can speak with you next gives your colleagues the impression that you’re there for them, even when your calendar is chock full of appointments.
No. 6: Ending the Reply-All Contagion
I hate group emails, you hate group emails, we all hate group emails! Can we all collectively agree to stop replying-all with, “Thanks!”?
If everyone you work with already gets too many emails, then you’ll be everyone’s hero when you switch your team over to “Action Item Trackers.” What is that exactly?
As a baseline, an effective Action Item Tracker has these columns:
- Brief task name
- Details (or longer description)
- Due date
- Next Step
- Owner (or the person responsible for the next step)
If you’re looking for a template, I like to copy this one from University of Illinois into Google sheets.
Another solution — getting the office to embrace the amazing chat tool Slack, if they haven’t already.
Why it works? You’re still in the know, but you can save that prime inbox real estate for urgent issues. Shared documents spare you the back and forth of 700 e-mails when you’re collaborating on a project.
To us mere mortals, it can seem like an insurmountable challenge to keep it all together at work. No matter who you are, adopting these habits can make the corner office seem a little closer than you think! Pretty soon, you’ll have all the new people wondering, “How does she make it look so easy?” and being the awesome person you are, you’ll teach them!
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