How to Earn a Raise…From a Manager’s Perspective, Part III

Photo by Viktor Hanacek

A colleague of mine named Doug shared an experience he had as a young professional. Doug was frustrated because he had two great years of work and received no word of a promotion. Doug eventually approached his manager and relayed his frustrations and how he felt he deserved a promotion. The manager asked to see his resume. Then he said, “Show me a project on your resume you have led that was not assigned to you by me.”

My colleague was stunned. He realized he was doing a good job with the work he was assigned, but was not taking any initiative to work on his own projects. Doug was a good employee but he was focused on completing tasks instead of adding value to the organization.

DO NOT make the same mistake as Doug! To earn a raise, you will want to work on a project which solves a significant problem that you are passionate about. In order to do that, you need to free up some time out of your day.

Free Up Time

You are probably very busy with your current job responsibilities. So the next step in the process is to free up a portion of your time to work on your project. Here are three actions to help you take back your time:

  1. Delegate

Start by making a list of all work activities that are your responsibility and write the amount of time you spend on each activity per day, week, or month (use the time interval that makes the most sense for your job). Write your name next to all the activities that absolutely must be done by you. Write “Delegate” next to the remaining activities. Look for opportunities to offload every “Delegate” activity. Coworkers, direct reports, and interns looking for more responsibility or professional development opportunities are perfect candidates. You will have to invest time up front to provide proper training. You will also need to set aside a block of time at regular intervals to make sure everything is running smoothly. The checkups will take up a small fraction of the time you used to spend on these activities.

The nature of some roles do not allow for delegation. Do not despair if you fall into this category. The next two actions will be applicable to almost every employee (some creativity may be required).

  1. Automate

Automation is one of the best ways to free up your time. Return to your list of work activities. Search for manual activities and activities that have to be done over and over again. These are ideal activities to automate. Let me give you an example. My first assignment in my first mid-level management role was to create reports that would be delivered to executives quarterly. I had to manually search for and collect data from dozens of sources, compile and analyze the data, then organize the results in a presentable format. My first attempt took 3 weeks. 3 WEEKS!!! I was not about to spend 3 weeks every quarter creating reports. So I created a system that read in all the relevant data, performed the analysis, and formatted everything the way the executives liked it. It took another week to automate the reports, but I only had to spend 30 minutes per quarter on reports going forward.

You may have to develop additional skills to automate your work. Or, if you are friendly and persuasive, you can work with a colleague with technical expertise to help you. I automate everything I can, even if I am only saving five minutes here or there. All that time adds up. And that is time I can be spending where it will make a bigger impact.

  1. Optimize

You probably will not be able to delegate or automate some of your work activities. You can still free up time by optimizing the process you use to complete these activities. Take another look at your list of activities. Of the activities that remain, which require most of your time? Circle those activities and take a look at your process for completing each of them. A friend of mine named Jill did a time study on email. She found out she spent more than 4 hours a day checking her email over 20 times. Email was an important part of Jill’s role but this was clearly overboard. So she scheduled an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon for email every day. Changing the process of one activity saved Jill over 2 hours a day!

Jill related her experience with me by saying, “I realized I was wasting a lot of time on things that were not critical. I thought I would be delayed in taking care of big emergencies by checking my email only twice a day. But I never was. People learned my style and would call me with urgent matters.”

This is just one example of a common activity where most people can save time through process optimization. Even small changing can make a significant impact in freeing up time in your day.

Your time is precious. It is one of your most valuable assets. But you may not have as much of it as you think. Let’s assume you are 40 years old and plan on retiring at age 67. Approximately how many working days do you have left in your career? Assuming you work 5 days a week and will take 4 weeks of vacation each year, you have 6,480 days left. That roughly translates to only 1,296 weeks! Depending on the complexities or your project, you may only have time for 30–50 more in your entire career.

Bottom line, you should be strategic about how you spend your time. You should work on projects you are passionate about. You should spend your time solving problems that make a difference. This is what we will be discussing in the next post, finding a problem to solve that will make a difference and help you earn that raise.

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