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Important skill

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In my previous posting, I highlighted that the most important skill that every employee must acquire is the ability to sell. You can be a sales manager, engineer or accountant in your organization but no matter what your job scope is, it is important to know how to profile yourself and be seen as able to sell your ideas effectively to your colleagues.
But then again, to be successful in our careers, what other skill-sets are needed? Recently, BBC wrote to me and asked me to write an article on what is considered to be the most important skill. I thought hard about it and decided to blog down some of my thoughts with regard to the skill indispensable for people just entering into the workforce.
Singapore economy
Many people claim that they understand the importance of prioritizing their work but not many know how to practice it effectively. For fresh graduates just entering the workforce, mastering the art of work prioritization is of utmost importance. This is especially so in Singapore context, where employees are expected to multi-task and take on additional assignments not related to their core duties. Those with positive mindset may treat such challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.
But then again, even the most energetic and positive employees will grow weary and fatigue if they are continuously expected to take on time-consuming tasks or projects. So to be efficient, there is a need to focus on the task priority and accomplish them in the order of importance.
Mediocre workers would often complain shortage of time to complete their tasks but actually, it is a matter of sorting out work priorities. Many of us don’t have discipline when it comes to managing time effectively at work. We often overlook the fact that the ability to manage time effective is an important skill in the workplace. Through my working experiences, I have gained the following concept on time allocation which I would like to share with my readers:

1) Important and Urgent TasksThese are usually major assignments with tight deadlines or urgent tasks assigned by your boss. Typically these are time-critical tasks that require your immediate attention. It is important that you ignore other noise and distractions in your work and focus on completing tasks under this category.

The reason is simple: if you messed up and made your boss looked real bad during management meetings, you are likely going to get a bad appraisal. This was what happened to me during the early days of my career in one of my ex-companies. I missed the project deadline and the worst thing was that I actually confessed during the management meeting that I had not even started the project because of heavy workload.

Needless to say, my ex-boss blew his top and gave me a terrible appraisal. Thinking back, I was indeed at fault because firstly, I didn’t manage my time well and secondly, I should have been more candid and updated him on the progress of the assignment. If I had kept him informed, at least he could have salvaged the situation and allocated more resources on the project.

2) Important but not Urgent Tasks
These are milestone projects that are not so time-critical and can help you gain visibility within the organization. You do not need to work on these projects on a daily basis but make sure you plan sufficient time to meet the project schedule. Also, always remember to update your boss so that he has an idea on the progress being made. Many people, including me, tend to “drift off” and neglect this category of tasks when there are other competing important tasks to accomplish. Make it a habit to work on these projects every now and then, otherwise, you will tend to procrastinate.

3) Urgent but not Important Tasks
Many employees, including myself, tend to make the mistake of giving priority to urgent but not important tasks. Most don’t realize that focusing on these routine stuff will not get you ahead and very often, the credits will not go to you. Most of the times, you are only helping others, specifically your colleagues, to achieve their goals. So to be an efficient worker, make sure you work on the tasks that come under your direct responsibilities first before helping others. You don’t want to spend too much of your resources attending to phone calls or emails. Indeed, it is important to be helpful and be seen as a team player, but not at the expense of your limited resources.

4) Not Urgent and Not Important Tasks
Some workers are easily distracted and developed the bad habits of taking long coffee breaks on a daily basis. I am not saying that one should refrain from small talks with colleagues or taking time-out from work at all but we should do so only during lull periods. Socializing with colleagues is essential but not considered important. You can always do so during lunch breaks or after office hours. So try to limit the hours spent on office bonding.

Secondly, in our jobs, we are often tasked to take on secondary appointments like being coordinators for office events or managing the office’s pantry snack or stationary. Give the lowest priority for these extra-curricular activities. Remember to stay focused on the urgent and important tasks!

In short, to be a successful wealth builder, you must manage your time effectively in your job. This is an important skill. Mastering the art of prioritization will enable you to climb up the ladder and gain promotions faster. Knowing is one thing, you must put it into practice!

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Updated: May 5, 2017 — 2:54 pm

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