Monday, September 20, 2010

Being you own boss

This idea started when I was thinking about my work duties as a self-employed professional, and then I realized it is also applicable to every aspect of life.

I see individuals as being their own bosses. This means they are responsible for deciding what needs to be done, motivating themselves to do these things, providing quality control and feedback, and rewarding themselves for successes.

Have you ever thought, “If I were my boss, I would fire myself”? This sort of disappointment in one’s performance often results from things like procrastination or doing something with less than one’s full attention.

Imagine the sort of boss you would like to have. This person would be responsible, sensitive, fair, and would provide appropriate, constructive feedback. You would like your boss to take all aspects of your life into consideration, be aware that apart from work you also have a family, friends, hobbies, and your own personal needs. At the same time, your boss needs to help you keep your priorities straight. A good boss doesn’t accept excuses, and is aware of the difference between genuine reasons for avoiding doing something and the avoidance that results from “just not wanting” to do it.

Now, imagine the sort of employee you would like to have. This employee has a clear set of priorities, does what is most important first, takes responsibility, manages time efficiently, and is honest.

In our lives, we have both these roles. We are our own bosses and our own employees in living our lives. To function well, we have to take responsibility for all our actions, thoughts, and feelings. We have to decide what is important at each given moment, and act accordingly.

For example, what started me thinking along these tracks is a particular piece of work I have been procrastinating about. I find myself sitting down and doing other things instead of starting working. I know that I need to finish it and get it out of the way. I know I am capable of doing it well. I also know that I don’t particularly enjoy it, and so I find myself avoiding it. So I started imagining a boss observing my actions.

Self-employed people can benefit from imagining they have a boss standing behind them. This will encourage them to spend more time working and less time engaging in the sort of avoidance activities that have become so common: checking email, visiting social networking sites, reading online news sites and blogs, and so on.

Extending this metaphor from the work arena to the management of our entire lives, we can think about ourselves as having bosses watching over us at all times, motivating us to do what we know is important. We can be benevolent bosses to ourselves, balancing what we need to do with what we want to do. This should help both productivity and happiness, as avoiding the things we need to do but don’t want to ultimately leads to pressure, guilt, and stress.

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