Some days feel like the work of a high ed administrator never ends, doesn’t it? Between meetings, reports, e-mails, conference calls, grievances, deadlines, presentations, and conferences, administrators rarely feel caught up and in control.
Being overworked and overwhelmed is so common that it is often considered normal. Before you agree to work 60 hours/week, please ask yourself if the rewards are worth the cost.
If you believe your hard work pays off, then by all mean, continue. But if your sacrifice creates any level of dysfunction, it is important to be aware and choose deliberately what you want to do instead. Doing more of the same is rarely the best option.
Here are 3 myths that keep administrators overworked. Ask yourself if any of them are influencing your choices and making your work life much harder than it needs to be.
#1 You have to solve everyone’s problems
People come to you to ask you to solve problems and make decisions. Chances are, that is a big part of your job. Because you choose to be a strong leader and an effective manager, you don’t shy away from solving problems and that is a good thing. However…
It stops being a good thing when people rely on you so much that they stop trusting their own ability to solve problems or when they lean on you excessively because they can’t find the courage to do what’s uncomfortable.
You can solve problems by making executive decisions when you are the one with the authority to do so and it is important for you to be involved. However, in some cases, instead of rescuing people by giving them all the answers, it would be more beneficial to help them build confidence and come to the solution themselves.
Being a true leader implies empowering others to develop their leadership skills too. So no, you don’t have to solve everyone’s problems for them. It would be more valuable and more admirable to guide people to grow personally and professionally.
If you find this difficult to implement, it could be that you enjoy helping others so much that you want to be everyone’s hero. It might make you feel important and appreciated but it hurts people’s initiative, resourcefulness, confidence, and competence. Look at the bigger picture and decide if you want to be indispensable or if you want to be influential and empowering.
#2 You have to be accessible at all times
You keep an open door policy and check your emails and voicemails constantly because being accessible is essential to your job function. I agree. As a leader, your job is to give people the environment, information, and tools they need to perform. But you need to create your own definition of “accessible” or you could go too far and create problems.
Imagine this: You get a very young intern who has no work experience. Let’s call him Jim. Jim is very polite and means well but he walks into your office every 10 minutes to ask you a question. At first, you allow interruptions because you know it takes time to train someone new. But after a day or two your level of frustration is so high that you fear you are going to snap at Jim, so you tell him he can ask you questions at 8 am, 11 am, and 3 pm but no other times.
When questions come up, Jim writes them down to ask you later. Interestingly, Jim starts to feel like he knows what you are going to respond. His mind tries to problem-solve on its own. Having to wait a couple of hours before getting the answer from you actually gives him time to figure things out independently. Jim starts to build confidence, to feel more engaged at work, and becomes a greater asset to your department.
OK, that was a rather extreme example but you can get an interesting perspective from it. Now imagine what would happen to your current co-workers if they had to wait an hour or two before getting answers from you.
Would they become more empowered and self-reliant? Possibly. Would they be hurt if they needed something only you can provide? Most likely not. A couple of hours isn’t long enough to be a problem.
Take a moment to reflect on what being accessible means to you. I bet you can meet your own definition without being glued to your desk and your phone. Accessibility isn’t an all or nothing sort of thing. Find your balance.
#3 Things will fall apart if you’re gone for several days
Some managers have difficulty going on vacation or even taking a couple of sick days when they are seriously ill. They think if they are gone, their department will fall apart. That is, until they take a new job or retire, and see that life goes on without them. Why wait until you are gone permanently to test whether you are truly indispensable?
Will things fall apart if you take a two-week vacation? Maybe. If you have let the first two myths control your life, your absence will create problems. But if you have done a good job at empowering others, building leaders, communicating clearly, and establishing systems so that people know what to do in your absence, things will be ok.
No matter how hectic things are on your campus, there are always things you can do differently to keep your workload from being excessive. The key to time management and effectiveness is mindset. You start by believing that you can get things under control and you develop a plan to make it happen.
It’s time to discover and implement a system that will make all this possible and easy. Click here to learn about my self-paced coaching program on time optimization for higher ed administrators. It’s now available for only $47 and it takes less than one hour a week for only 5 weeks. Do it! There will never be a better time.
If you don’t trust yourself to follow-through on a self-study program and prefer to work with me one-on-one, please click here to schedule a time for us to talk.
About the author: Since 2010 Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.