A while back a friend sent me this post from Mark Suster – Some Sage Advice For Young Employees Early In Their Careers. The post has some great stuff in there, although in my opinion a lot of it is more applicable for folks in bigger companies and not startups. There was one particular piece of advice I would add for entry-level – middle management people at companies of all sizes:
Get really good at estimating how long tasks take you and have the confidence and organization to honestly communicate those timeframes.
“Bad Management” Isn’t Always the Fault of a Crappy Leader
Sometimes unrealistic expectations are unintentionally assigned when unrealistic expectations are communicated up. If you say something will take you a half hour, it looks like there is still time for another thing to do that afternoon. So guess what? You may get another thing to do. Be honest with yourself and others. Don’t agree to have a blog post and a Powerpoint done by 3pm out of a knee jerk reaction/insecurity complex/over-eager need to please. (I’ve done this before – moreso saying yes to myself than anyone else though.) Show awareness, focus, ownership and a commitment to quality by honestly communicating how long it will take to complete a project. You’re not saying no to an assignment from a manager – you’re saying yes to spending your immediate time on the highest priority one, which your manager can help choose based on the most pressing goals of the company.
There are blog posts that have taken me 5 hours to complete. Screenshots, research and editing take a lot of time. There are others that I have thrown together in 30 minutes. For me, product screenshots and step-by-step instructions…very tactical stuff… take the most time. Anything technical takes me more time to research. Stuff like this comes out faster for me though. I’ve gotten a lot better at estimating how much time content takes me, and right now I’m trying to get better at estimating how long various parts of email marketing take me so I can better manage myself.
It’s About Self Awareness
This kind of awareness gives you a leg up when you grow from entry-level to manager. Having a sense for how long the tasks I did before take helps me work with the (very talented) person who does them now. She already does a great job of tracking her time and it makes my job a lot easier. To continue with the content example, I take stuff off her plate if there’s a blog post to get done and we have determined that that is the priority for the day.
I am not sure if this is a common saying or mentality or whatnot, but you know the phrase “I would never ask an employee to do something that I have not done myself before?” I can only speak for marketers, but if you’re in a more entry-level position in marketing today, there actually is a really good chance that you are owning digital marketing tasks that your boss never did because the technology wasn’t around back then. (Trust me though, they worked their butts off. How do you think press releases got sent before email? Stuffing. Envelopes.) For example: They may not know that it takes you an hour every morning to schedule Tweets for the client Twitter account. They never did it. And that’s one task you really don’t want to eff up, right? So speak up when prioritizing your tasks and make sure you’re getting the time you need to do a great job.
Take a look at the clock. Pay attention to what you are doing. Use this awareness to help drive prioritization and focus between you and your manager today and develop a sense for these timelines so you can grow into an effective and fair manager tomorrow.