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3 Tips For Succeeding On Assignments

You made the promise to get your part of the project done. Remember? In all the flurry of excitement about accomplishing great stuff, YOU stood up and said, "I'm in. You can count on me. I can do it."


Then today, your alarm went off, and you had that oh cr@p moment. "It" is due today. You have made no progress. As a matter of fact, you didn't even think about "it" again after raising your hand.


How'd you end up in this situation, and what are you going to do about it?


Well, more than likely, you are hosed. That's it. Deal with it.


How do you prevent this from happening again?


Here are three tips that may save your bacon next time.


Tip 1 - Agree or Don't Agree

As simple as it may sound when volunteers are assigned tasks, you have the opportunity to say, "No, thank you. I have a lot of deadlines."



If it's your boss asking for volunteers, start with that response and then add, "I'd be happy to move my priorities around to help with this project. Can you help me with what I can move?"


We're human, and as humans, we have a built-in desire to seek approval and recognition from each other. Set aside the desire for approval or recognition and focus on the here-and-now. After all, wouldn't you prefer to be recognized as the person who got "it" done?

We also worry about how saying "no" could be interpreted as "I can't do my job." Don't focus at all on the do-my-job. Communicate openly and honestly about your current workload and priorities.


If you agree to take on the assignment, remember, you are IN, and others are going to count on you.


“Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan.” – Winston Churchill

Tip 2 - Plan to GSD

You are IN. You said, "Sure, I can do that!" and you're now apart of an organism focused on an outcome.

It's time to Get Stuff Done (GSD).


First and foremost, don't assume that your meeting leader, project manager - or boss - is going to write down the details of your assignment for you. It's unlikely. Take the initiative and do these two things:

  1. Write down as many details are available to you. What are you doing? Who are you doing it with? When it's due? Where are you doing it? Who else is impacted by your task? What tasks are you dependent on (and who has them as an assignment)? Write it down

  2. Then, send the person who assigned you the task (and maybe even the team) your notes and ask for a confirmation! Are your assumptions correct? If you don't get a "hell yes" it's time to go get clarity. Never ass-u-me.


Once you have confirmation, talk to the project manager and review the project timeline again. Confirm, yes, confirm, one more time on dates, milestones, and deliverables.


If there is not a project manager assigned, YOU own this task for YOU.


In either case, take the time to sit down and time block your calendar to GSD. If you do not do this, I can guarantee that someone else will busy-search your day and schedule a meeting, or a sales call, or beers, or any of a thousand other things that happen every day. Block your time. It does not mean you cannot stop to have a chat and have a few minutes of brain-relief. But, firewall your day and protect your time.


“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker

Tip 3 - Communicate

Your Project Manager may ask for status reports, or you may even have a SCRUM Master who conducts a daily standup. You may have no one asking what the heck you are doing with your time.


Make it a point to consistently and inconsistently give updates on the status of your assignment.


Consistent reports are things like a daily or weekly email or with clear and concise bullets on your status. I happen to love the SCRUM daily standup format of:

  1. What did you work on yesterday

  2. What are you working on today

  3. What are your roadblocks

The three simple components of this update provide a wealth of knowledge, quickly, to your project manager or boss or client (if appropriate).



Inconsistent communications are equally important. These take place in the break-room or at the virtual water cooler.


Take the time to reach out to your team members and let them know how you are progressing. It is your opportunity to see how they are doing, perhaps offer some advice or assistance, and get a reality check on and dependencies that may impact your progress.


Let's summarize:

Tip 1 - Agree or Don't Agree - Be clear on your availability and workload

Tip 2 - Plan to GSD - Getting stuff done requires time blocking

Tip 3 - Communicate - Do more than just your "weekly status report"


Now set your alarm and get ready for a much better day tomorrow!


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