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Managing expectations: The key to success

You now understand that managing time isn’t the solution. You have 4 options that we’ve already explored…. and now we’re going to discuss the fifth: managing expectations.

Managing expectations is the key to success. It’s about setting realistic goals and objectives and communicating them clearly to others. It involves understanding what is expected of you, what you can realistically achieve, and how you can contribute to the team's success. This clarity ensures that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal. It eliminates confusion, reduces stress and anxiety, and improves focus and productivity.

Managing expectations

I’ve given you several exercises to complete throughout this playbook, but I feel that this one may pay the most dividends right out of the gate. Why? Because when you manage expectations, it creates clarity around what you need to do and frees you up to do more of what you want to do.

After you complete this exercise, I wouldn’t be surprised if tasks just disappeared from your to-do list, meetings got eliminated, and you no longer encountered an inbox teeming with emails that drowned your attention and focus.

Let’s get to it.

  1. Start by identifying the goals and objectives of a project or task that you are currently working on.

  2. Communicate the goals and objectives clearly with any stakeholders.

  3. Prioritize the most important tasks and align them with the goals and objectives.

  4. Use tools like a project charter or a goal-setting template to establish clear expectations and keep track of progress. You can use software such as Notion (here is a template to use), Airtable, ClickUp or even a paper-based bullet journal to track this.

  5. Reflect on your progress after each milestone and evaluate how managing expectations affected your productivity and effort. This should be done internally, much like an After Action Review (AAR). There’s a nice breakdown of how that works here. You may also want to keep a journal for this type of reflection so you can have a record of what worked and what didn’t. Remember that every action you take begins and ends with reflection.

  6. Adjust your approach and expectations for the next project or task based on your evaluation.

The first two steps are going to provide the most clarity. The second two steps will provide you with the information you need to best approach the tasks involved (which directly relate to some of the other elements we’ve discussed in this playbook). The final two steps refine that clarity so that you and those you’ve communicated with can move forward in the best way possible.

Moreover, managing expectations allows individuals and teams to align their efforts and work towards common objectives. It helps to identify potential roadblocks, define responsibilities, and allocate resources effectively. This alignment leads to a more efficient use of time and there is no duplication of effort or wasted resources. Additionally, communication helps to build trust and transparency and leads to better collaboration and cooperation.

Managing expectations in practice

A marketing team is  struggling to meet their targets. They’re working long hours, but still falling short. After a one-on-one session with me, the team leader decided that above all of the other things that could be managed better than time (processes, effort, attention, and cadence) they would focus on managing expectations.

He established clear and realistic goals for the team and communicated them effectively, setting up both internal and external communication platforms. He also set up regular check-ins and reviews to ensure that everyone was on track and aligned. There were some growing pains, but by managing expectations and aligning their efforts, the team was able to improve their productivity and exceed their targets.

While you may not have a team to lead, you will have people that you need to deal with on a regular basis. Clients, colleagues, and even family members and friends. Managing expectations around all of those relationships is important, and this next exercise is designed to help you get started.

In this step, we learned that managing expectations is an important strategy for improving productivity. This is because setting clear and realistic goals and objectives allows for better communication, alignment, and goal setting. This step also emphasizes the importance of alignment in managing expectations. When everyone is working towards the same goal, it becomes easier to track progress,make the necessary adjustments, and prevent duplication of work.

One more thing

You made it! In essence, the truth about time management is that it’s a waste of time.

There are far better options for you to manage. Things you have a greater command over and you can direct more efficiently and effectively. The various strategies we have explored in this playbook can greatly enhance productivity and help you achieve better results. By managing processes, effort, attention, cadence, and expectations, we can optimize our work and achieve success.

However, it's important to remember that not all strategies will work for every situation, and it's essential to select the most suitable ones for each specific task or project. This playbook has given you the ingredients and some recipes to follow, but it’s up to you to do the cooking!

Constantly reassess to get greater outcomes

This is not a “one and done” project. You’re a project. So is your work. Frankly, so is your life. That means you can’t just set it and forget it. You’ll need to reassess from time to time.

Through regularly assessing and adjusting your approach, you can refine your productivity techniques over time and achieve even greater success. The key is to stay open to new ideas and be willing to make changes when necessary.

Additionally, it's important to maintain a healthy work-life balance, as burnout and exhaustion can be counterproductive.

Overall, productivity is not about managing time, but rather managing ourselves in a way that allows us to work efficiently and effectively towards our goals. By using the strategies outlined in this playbook, we can maximize our productivity and achieve the success we desire.

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