One Way to be Happy at Work

 Lady workingA new client, an attorney, recently admitted to me sheepishly that she often didn’t get to complete a client’s work until her client called to see if it was ready. I admired her honesty if not her time management skills.  She was feeling frustrated at that moment and definitely not happy at work.

I’ve had times in my past career as a sales professional when my work load got so out of control I worked in a similar fashion – on the priority of the moment.  This method of work gives real meaning to the saying “The squeaky wheel gets oiled.”

Recently I sent some chairs out to be reupholstered.  The fellow who picked them up said they would be done by the end of April.  On May 15th they still had not arrived.  I’d been calling about them since May 1st.  On the 15th I called again.  The person who answered the phone said that the upholstery work had been completed but the painting was not.

Most of us have had times when we have promised something to a client or manager only to have life happen and we miss the date.  When it happens regularly and it is making us crazy it would be best to examine our work habits so that we can find a solution to the problem.  Our goal?  To be happy at work.

Under Promise and Over Deliver

“Promise Little, Deliver Everything” is the tenth Principle of Attraction in Thomas Leonard’s book The Portable Coach. 

“Every step of the way, I made a point to under promise and over deliver.  In the long run, that’s the only way to ensure security in any job.” says Howard Schulz CEO of Starbucks Coffee in his book Pour your heart into it 2Pour Your Heart Into It.    Under promising and over delivering” it is a way of work that is so much easier said than done.

When a client or your manager asks, “When will that be ready?”  What is your response?  If the client or manager doesn’t ask, do you just let the work go to the bottom of the pile?

As a sales professional my customers always wanted their system as soon as they ordered it!  I had to quote a reasonable time for me to get the order in and the factory to deliver the product.  Some work I did myself and other parts of the order I needed others to do.  Everyone had to adhere to a schedule to get the job done on time.

Even with the best of intentions this system sometimes doesn’t work because the unexpected happens.  According to the upholsterer the painter needed to put more coats of paint on the frame than he originally thought he would.  The problem was that they told me this on May 15th not on May 1st so I had two weeks to feel frustrated and angry.

Most business owners don’t intend to disappoint clients.  Sometimes it is the unexpected that gets in the way.  Other times it is our inability to grasp all the other priorities we have and to see how this particular job fits into our work schedule.

Time Management

Having a way to regularly review what is outstanding and what the priorities are for the day, week and month helps to get realistic about what can be finished and what cannot.

If however you wait to do the work until the client or manager asks you about it, you are using a very stressful and exhausting method.  If you have a lot of work that you manage this way, you are constantly under the gun to get something done.  That’s a recipe for burnout!  It’s definitely not a way to be happy at work.

Life will be so much easier if you start using a good time management process.  Hiring a coach or adviser to help you find the right time management skills for you and then keeping you accountable to use them will also ease the burden.

Take Action:

  1. Take stock of your work habits.  Do you under promise and over deliver?  Where are you doing the reverse?  What can you do about it?
  2. How do you review your work load?  Do you read your mission/vision weekly so you are clear on your goals?  Do you do a weekly review of your priorities? Do you proactively let your manager and clients know the work will be delayed?
  3. How do you decide the date by which you can promise to deliver?  Do you co-ordinate it with other people’s work schedules?  Are you good at forecasting and then delivering?

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Time management coaching

Need some help with time management?  I work with professionals and managers to learn new ways to get focused on their life priorities. By working with me you will learn to forecast delivery dates and deliver quality work on time and on budget.  Hire a time management coach to be happy at work.  Not everyone is ready for coaching.  Call me at 781-598-0388 or email me at to request a coachability assessment.  Together we will see if coaching is right for you.


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