Tech & Work

5 changes you should make when transitioning into a new work role

When your work role changes, some of your work habits and Google app settings may need to change too. These five suggestions will help you reconsider how you use your current apps and tools.

Photo of hand holding Android phone, with Google Calendar default event length options show (arrow indicates changing from 30 minutes to 90 minutes)
Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

A new work role often brings new time management challenges: new tasks, new meetings, and new types of incoming messages. It can feel overwhelming—especially for people accustomed to completing tasks and responding promptly in previous positions.

A new leadership role can be especially jarring, since the task is dramatically different. Leadership requires not only communication and action, but also requires rigorous self-deliberation to ensure that people are focused on the right challenges and tasks.

When you step into a new role, take some time to consider how you might change your use of tools and settings to better support the needs of your new position. If you use G Suite, consider the following five app settings and habits.

SEE: IT jobs 2018: Hiring priorities, growth areas, and strategies to fill open roles (Tech Pro Research)

1. Review your default event length in Google Calendar

By default, new events in Google Calendar are set to last 30 minutes. Or, as I prefer to think of it, a bit longer than a typical sitcom. That may be the appropriate amount of time for a brief update meeting or entertainment, but that certainly isn't sufficient time for deep analysis, discussion, or engagement with complex strategic issues.

As a leader, you might change the default length of meetings to 90 minutes, closer to the length of a feature film. Every new event you create will, by default, appear to take an hour and a half of your time. Even if you adjust the meeting length, that serves as a reminder that you need to be focused on solving the bigger problems rather than shifting your attention from one set of small problems to another.

To adjust the default event duration on mobile devices, go to Google Calendar > Settings > General > Default event duration. In the Chrome browser, go to Google Calendar > Settings > Event settings > Default duration.

2. Schedule time to think

Too often leaders lack time to think. Google Calendar lets you add events, reminders, or goals. In Google Calendar, events occur on a specific date and time. Reminders are tasks with alerts that can be set for a specific date or location that also carry over to the next day if not completed. And goals are for events, but can move around a bit.

Add a Google Calendar goal when you want to repeatedly and consistently block time for an activity. For example, schedule two hours once a month for strategic thinking, or set aside an hour for a weekly review. If you need to replace your goal with another event, do it. Google Calendar will automatically adjust your goal to another time.

You can add a goal in either the Android or iOS Google Calendar app. Open the app, tap the orange button in the lower right, then choose Goal.

SEE: Time management tips for tech professionals (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

3. Adjust notifications

A new role also merits a review of which people or apps you allow to disturb you. An extreme version would be to turn off all alerts. More often, I suggest for people to allow alerts for calendar events, as well as incoming messages from specific people. The various platforms give you a variety of ways to manage notifications. (See details for Android, iOS, Windows, or Mac devices).

4. A task before messages

One habit I've found helpful is to not check messages until I've completed a task that's important for my goals. Think of it this way: when you check messages, you're allowing the senders of messages to determine your focus. If you're a leader, that can create a situation where you're always responding, meaning you're letting people who contact you determine your focus and agenda.

One way to focus on tasks before messages is to change your browser's home page to open to a Google Doc or other work app instead of email or messaging. Or, if you reach for your phone first, put whichever app will help you complete your priority task on your home screen, and move email and messaging apps to other screens. Tackle an important task first, then engage communications for the day.

5. Focus on tomorrow

A sleep study completed by researchers from Baylor University and Emory University School of Medicine compared how list-making affected how quickly the subjects fell asleep. They asked one set of people to make a list of completed tasks, and the other set of people to write a to-do list. The researchers found that "participants who wrote a to-do list at bedtime fell asleep faster than those who journaled about completed tasks." More interestingly, "the more to-do list items that one wrote, the faster they fell asleep."

Their conclusion: "Rather than journal about the day's completed tasks or process tomorrow's to-do list in one's mind, the current experiment suggests that individuals spend five minutes near bedtime thoroughly writing a to-do list." Those of you who are fans of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) approach will recognize this behavior as a key part of getting things out of your head and into a system you trust.

Admittedly, the study relied on written, not electronic to-do lists. (Surely an excellent opportunity for further future research?!) But I know that when I want to capture an idea before sleep, I scribble or tap it into Google Keep.

Your experience?

What changes have helped you successfully transition from one work role to another? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@awolber).

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About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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