I often hear people talking about impostor syndrome and time management issues. Sometimes I hear about these issues from a friend, a direct report, and occasionally from myself. We are always challenged by them and they can affect our mood, our ability to be productive, and our judgement.
We have days where everything works great and also we have bad days, where everything seems to go wrong. This emotional roller coaster can make us doubt our accomplishments and can create a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.
There a few things that you can do to remember that you are great:
- Keep a daily journal with notes of achievements: this daily exercise will train your brain to feel more confident.
- Focus on your strengths, especially when you are in a new role at work, use your natural strengths to add value to your position.
- Find quick wins, they will help you build a reputation of someone adept in a particular skill.
Issues with time management also impact our feeling of getting the job done. Sometimes the problem starts early on when we are assigned a task that may not make much sense.
Let's step back for a moment and think about the levels of uncertainty of a task:
- Well understood
- Have a few questions
- Understood, but unfamiliar with the approach
- Know the area, but not the direction
- Generally unclear
How does uncertainty affect time management?
If something is well understood, it is very unlikely you will get lost in the woods and things will take as long as expected.
Starting with the level of "have a few questions", you need to be careful because the uncertainty will affect your time management and your sense of achievement.
The good news is, you can always use this problem as an opportunity to improve.
- Have a few questions: Find the best person to answer your question. If the description is unclear, go to the person who created that task. If the question is technical, talk to a developer on the team that can help you.
- Understood, but unfamiliar with the approach: If you understand the big picture but you are not confident with the approach, talk to another developer and ask for help. This is a good opportunity for pair programming.
- Know the area, but not the direction: This is a good opportunity to talk to another developer and hear their initial thoughts. They may have an opinion on how to get the task started or be able to suggest a good resource to review.
- Generally unclear: If the problem in the task is unclear, ask for clarification. If the technical approach is unclear, talk to other developers, think about having a pair programming session, and speak with other members of your team to understand how they approach their work.
Overall, facing imposter syndrome is something that we all face at some point in our careers. It is an issue that I have certainly struggled with, but find that facing these struggles provides an excellent opportunity for me to reflect on my skills and discover new areas of potential learning.
With these suggestions in mind, I hope that you are able to improve your sense of confidence and self-efficacy in your professional life.