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Scheduling Time To Go The Extra Mile

Published 5/9/2022

What was the last time you prepared for a meeting?
I'm not talking about the times when you were forced to prepare. I mean, when was the last time you put thought and effort into a meeting that most people just show up to?

In this episode, we talk about simple ways to go the extra mile. Also, this involves no extra work on your part.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone, you're listening to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. In today's episode, I want to give you some of the simplest career advice that you'll ever get. Before we do that, I want you to take a moment and think about the people in your career. Managers, co-workers, maybe leaders in the company, or people who are working on distant teams, maybe in a role that's similar to yours. But think about people who have either made an impact personally on you, or they've set some example that you admire them for. The way they work, the way they think, maybe the way that they stand up for themselves in the workplace, or maybe the way they stand up for others. Maybe someone has backed an idea that you had. Maybe they helped you grow. They could peer through all of the noise and figure out the things that were most important. Now, I want you to keep these people in the back of your mind as we talk about this very simple, subtle shift in how you approach your week. We talk about calendars on the show a lot. The main reason for this is because the calendar turns out to be a big lever in our behavior. Often, we look at our calendar in order to find out what we're doing that day. Very often, our calendar ends up getting filled up. We don't always take ownership over our time. In today's episode, we're going to talk about a specific way that you can take over your take ownership over your time. A specific subtle shift. This isn't a comprehensive view of what it means to be the owner of your time. We can cover that in a different episode. We have talked about this in previous episodes when we discussed things like the ideal week. There's a bigger conversation to be had about that time ownership concept. But the simple and subtle shift I want you to think about with your calendar maybe in front of you even. I want you to think about scheduling time to go the extra mile. Think about this for a second. Scheduling time to go the extra mile. I'm not telling you that going the extra mile means working over time. Quite the opposite. In fact, many people who do work over time still are not going the extra mile. Going the extra mile is about focusing and limiting the work that you do so that you have the time to put the proper amount of focus into those things. I'm willing to bet that most people listening to this podcast right now, you have meetings on your calendars. Many of those are recurring. Some of those happen at the last minute. If you were to go through your calendar and provide some kind of arbitrary score, identifying the meetings that are most critical, the highest leverage ones, most people listening would probably turn out about half of those meetings to be critical. What if you took 10 extra minutes? Only 10 minutes. This is talking about only half of your meetings. Count all those meetings up and add 10 minutes per meeting to prepare specifically for that meeting. Write notes in preparation. Maybe write. Let's say you have one-on-ones with your manager, which by the way, could absolutely be a very high leverage meeting for you. What if you took 10 minutes to prepare and write notes in whatever kind of HR management tool that your manager uses? Here's the important factor. Not only does this improve the quality of the meetings, which is the core of the value that we're talking about here, but it also sends a signal. To the people that you're meeting with, that you're paying attention, that you're reliable, that you are actually interested and committed to doing something meaningful with the time that you're spending in this meeting. It doesn't take much. Going the extra mile is not about doubling or tripling the amount of work that you do. Instead, it's about optimizing on fewer things. It's critically important that we get this specific point across. Going the extra mile is not about the amount of work you do. It's about the quality of work that you do. It's about what you choose to do with your time. Preparing for meetings is an easy, high-leveraged thing that you can do. Scheduling time to prepare for meetings. Whether this is, as we've already mentioned, a one-on-one with your manager, maybe you are the manager and you're doing one-on-ones with your reports, you can absolutely go the extra mile for your reports. Maybe you're a hiring manager. Going the extra mile to be prepared for the interview is going to make the quality of the conversation and the quality of your evaluation of that candidate that much better. The quality of your work will improve if you think specifically about doing the extra things. What those things are, dependent on what the work is, what are the things about? It really is up to you. Some of the things we've already mentioned. Preparing for those meetings is a very simple one. Other examples might be writing a little bit of extra documentation. Taking time to do thorough PR reviews and formatting your comments, providing follow-up on the tasks, the cards, whatever your particular management system is, actually managing those cards with some level of detail. All of these things are the extra mile. Any one of these actions is not going to measurably totally change your career. But this will have an impact both on the quality of your work, the actual output that you have, and on others' perception of you as an individual, as a worker. Now I want to get ahead of people who might be pessimistic of this viewpoint because it does sound like we're talking about doing the work that makes you look good. That's not the point here. We're not talking about just a preening style of work just to make yourself look good. Looking good to your peers, looking good to your boss, looking good to your reports. These are all side effects of doing good work. Going the extra mile is not about making yourself look good. This isn't about doing busy work. Finding things that are actually valuable, for example, things that might reduce the amount of time that others have to spend to understand the code that you've written. Or bringing a clear agenda to a meeting so that the meeting doesn't run over time. Or bringing valuable information to a primordom or a post-mortem so that you actually have something meaningful to discuss rather than trying to do it on the spot. So much of this is about thinking thoroughly about your work. It's about preparing or following up. These are the extra mile, whether the extra mile is before or after the main chunk of work that you're talking about there, those extra details make a huge difference in the quality of work that you're doing and on other's perception of that quality. That will be a game changer. It will absolutely revolutionize your career. Both in the short term, you'll likely be given more opportunity, more trust, more autonomy. And in the long term, because that trust and autonomy that builds up over time. The great part is through all of this. We're not talking about working harder. We're not talking about extending your hours, finding ways of working over your lunch break. None of that is there's no hustle necessary in this discussion. It's about paying attention to how you're working. What you're working on and limiting your focus. So you can work with higher quality on fewer things. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I'd like to encourage you, if you enjoyed this discussion, if you want to learn more about how you can grow in your career as a software engineer, one of the best ways you can do that is to bounce your ideas off of other engineers. Not just sending me questions, but the whole community of people who are listening to this podcast. That community is growing every day. You can join it at developertea.com slash discord. That's totally free for you. We have no plans of trying to monetize that. We ever release things. We talk about them in that discord, but that community is completely free. Go and check it out at developertea.com slash discord. Thanks so much for listening to this episode. If you don't want to miss out on future episodes, if you haven't yet subscribed, now's the time. In whatever podcasting app you're listening to right now, here's the challenge. If you found this episode particularly valuable, right? And hopefully another one will be valuable. There's not really anything lost by subscribing. The worst case scenario, you remember that you subscribed in about three months from now, and you decide that you want to unsubscribe. But you could miss out on an episode that can change your career for the better. That's the goal of this show. Our goal is to help you grow in your career. So if we do that even a few times, it could be inflection points for you to keep on growing. So I encourage you to subscribe so you don't miss out on those discussions. Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, enjoy your tea.