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How to better manage your time and responsibilities as a new manager

Managing Expectations
Personal Growth
Internal Communication
Productivity
Juniors
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

19 December, 2018

Cliff Chang
Cliff Chang

Engineering Director–Growth at Asana

Cliff Chang, engineering lead-growth at Asana offers advice on how to better manage your time and responsibilities as a manager so that everything else can fall into place. He shares his strategies of adapting a physical organizer and a new attitude towards delegation into his daily work life.

Problem

As I grew in responsibilities, I became the manager of 14 other people. On top of my other responsibilities, I was only barely able to stay on top of inbound requests and basic managerial duties. A lot of work was getting dropped or left unfinished; even worse, I was missing a lot of opportunities to improve things systematically..

Actions taken

Physical Notebook

  • I began to write in a notebook to organize my notes and action items, rather than relying on memory, especially as I had days full of back-to-back meetings. It was lighter to carry around, less invasive during 1:1s and interviews, and had a lower barrier-to-entry than digital media.
  • In particular, I marked each action item I needed to take with a bolded arrow so it was easy to notice when scanning down the pages.
  • At the day's end, I would check over my notes and write down each action item into Asana (or another work tracking tool). I would add whatever context would be necessary for me to remember what the task was.
  • In doing so, I was able to see all of my outstanding work in a single place and tackle them in priority order, instead of recency or urgency. Change of Attitude Towards Delegation
  • I became more realistic with myself and the responsibilities I was intending to tackle all on my own. Delegating some of my responsibility to, even to people I wasn't entirely sure could handle them, allowed me to free up a good portion of my time and sanity.
  • When delegating responsibilities that may be a big stretch for people, in order to set them up for success, make sure they have clear escalation paths for asking for help. Make it clear that you're not expecting them to be able to handle it entirely on their own, but tell them where you can be leveraged in helping them grow into that responsibility.

Lessons learned

  • No matter the quantity of responsibility you accumulate, the quality of work a report does, on a job they aren't quite ready for, will generally surpass what you will do as an overextended manager. In my experience, it gives reports a sense of ownership and eliminates managers from half-handedly squeezing another task into the margins.
  • In order to figure out how to delegate to, the single most necessary skill is being able to ask for help. Obviously, practice doing the work in simpler situations is beneficial, but it's less crucial than you might think.
  • When given ownership, even the people I hadn't flagged as high performers really grew a lot, and it changed my opinion of them. Things that I once considered their weaknesses had improved, as well as, a change in their attitude. Every manager knows that situation and ownership in any given task matters exponentially, but it's truly striking to see it play out in reality.
  • Delegating higher-level tasks to reports allows you to grow junior managers at a much faster rate because some people really do rise to the occasion.
  • In retrospect, there has been a strong correlation between having enough space to think deeply and strategy, with positive results for the company. Due to the time that I freed up for myself, I was able to devise a new engineering role that has been crucial for hiring and team building. Another important role it has played for me was in the advocation and staffing of a new team before the need became obvious. In the six months after, we were extremely glad we existed six months before. We wish we had even started it six months before because it really allowed everyone to get a glimpse of what was ahead of us. It would not have been possible, however, if my mind had been focusing on a plethora of other projects and ideas.

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