I’m convinced 95% of cubicle workers who work over 60 hours a week constantly can cut it down to 40-45 hours by sending 2 emails a week to their boss:
Email #1: What you plan on getting done this week
Email #2: What you actually got done this week
That’s it. These 2 emails will prevent you from working 60 hours a week, while improving your relationship with your boss and getting the best work you’ve ever done.
Here’s what Email #1 looks like:
Subject: My plan for the week
After reviewing my activities here is my plan for the week in order of priority. Let me know if you think I should re-prioritize:
Planned Major Activities for the week
1) Complete project charter for X Project
2) Finish the financial analysis report that was started last week
3) Kick off Project X – requires planning and prep documentation creation. Scheduled for Thursday.
Open items that I will look into, but won’t get finished this week
1) Coordinate activities for year-end financial close
2) Research Y product for our shared service team
Let me know if you have any comments. Thank you!
“But Robbie, my boss is the one that assigns me the work! He obviously knows what I’m working on! Why would I send him this email?”
You are so wrong you disgust me. Seriously I want to throw up. OK, not seriously but let me clue you in on a little secret. Your boss barely has an idea of what he is spending his time on let alone knows what YOU are working on. How self-centered of you to think he knows everything you’re spending your time on at work.
Tips for email #1:
Limit yourself to schedule 40 hours of planned work.
“But Robbie, I have at least 60 hours of work to do. How in the world am I going to do it in 40 hours now? That’s impossible; you have no idea how busy our group is right now.”
Take a look at my sample email #1. Did you break down your tasks into Must be done vs. Nice to be done or did you put everything into the must be done category?
Did you schedule yourself for 60 hours a week or did your boss schedule you for 60 hours of week? I want you to think about this.
Your boss’s responsibility is to assign you work that you should complete. It is not your boss’s responsibility to also help you manage your workload. That’s YOUR job!
Think again. Where did this thought of you have 60 hours of work to do come from? Did it come from your boss, or did it come from you?
I didn’t believe you had 60 hours of work to do, and neither should you.
“Robbie, I’m being honest with you. I have at least 60 hours of work to do. I work non-stop and I work through lunch. I’ve tried your stupid little categorization trick too, and it doesn’t work. My workload just isn’t going to get any lighter any time soon. I’m pretty sure you live in this fantasy world where you can tell your boss that you would only like to work 40 hours a week and he’ll be happy with it. I am THAT busy and my boss EXPECTS me to work non-stop.”
OK, OK. I believe you. I’ve been there. But before I accept that there is nothing you can do, let me ask you one question:
Let’s say on Wednesday afternoon, a family emergency pops up and it forces you to take the rest of the week off immediately until the upcoming Monday. Everything you were working on Wednesday came to a halt. Meetings were cancelled and deliverable dates were missed. The rest of your workweek was ruined.
What happens on Monday morning when you come back to the office?
Are your files still there? Do you still have a job? Are your co-workers still there?
What about the deliverables that were due on Thursday that you couldn’t complete and you were the only one that knew how to complete it?
Did the building burn down because you couldn’t complete them? I’m guessing none of this happened.
On Monday morning, you picked up exactly where you left off and guess what: Everything was OK. The deliverables are late, but it’s OK because everyone knew you had a family emergency to take care of. Expectations were set and because of your family emergency, you could not complete the deliverables. So, in reality the deliverables were never late because you set expectations that you couldn’t finish them. New expectations were set on when you could deliver them.
Take that same exact scenario and replace a family emergency with you just disappearing for 3 days without telling anyone where you went.
How does that change your Monday morning when you arrive?
It will probably end up something like this.
Because you didn’t complete your deliverables you messed up everyone’s schedule! They relied on you, and you just ruined it! They waited every day to get the files and you never sent it. Now you’re working extra hours because everyone is waiting on you. What a huge disappointment you are.
Expectations are powerful. Instead of a family emergency, set expectations on Monday morning and watch how everyone around you adapts to YOUR schedule. Watch how your 60-hour week turns into a 40-hour week and nobody will notice a thing.
The better you are setting expectations at Monday morning, the easier your life becomes. If you plan for 40 hours, you can get your planned work done in 40 hours and nobody will complain that you aren’t working 60 hours. In fact, you have made everyone else’s life easier because they can now plan around you!
Email #2 on Friday: What you got done this week.
It looks something like this:
Completed this week
- Completed X Report
- Started the planning for the big project
- Finished the month-end analysis and sent to financial controller for review
- Created a first draft of the project charter, which is currently being reviewed by Project Manager Z
- I have some questions about the start date of Y Project, but should get confirmation by Tuesday morning
- We need X Report signed off by EOD next Wednesday. Can you follow up with Jane to get this signed off?
That is all for now. Have a great weekend.
This Friday report is so simple and effective; it’s amazing that people just leave on Friday without sending this report.
This report does 2 things very well: It provides closure to the week and gives your manager an idea of what you can complete in a week. In other words, it sets expectations!
Tips for Email #2
Focus on what you completed first and open issues second.
Always end Friday on a good note. If you have issues bring that up on Monday morning. Don’t stress your boss out all week, and it will stress you out as well.
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