This is a guest blog post by Anthony Fasano, P.E. Anthony is a civil engineer, engineering career coach, bestselling author and founder of Powerful Purpose Associates.
Anthony is giving away a special webinar for CivilEngineeringCentral.com readers on his Powerful Purpose Associates website. Read until the end of the post to find out how to get it.
WARNING: You most likely will have to work on more than one project at a time in your civil engineering career, except for maybe the first few years.
I remember when I first graduated from school, I started doing structural engineering because it seemed cool to me at the time and I didn’t even know what site engineering was yet, which would eventually be my chosen discipline. I was designing the footings and abutments for a bridge. The design lasted for months (it felt like years) and I couldn’t wait for the next project. If I had to sketch out one more rebar layout, I was going to jump off a bridge (no pun intended).
Fast-forward about 10 years, I was now an associate partner at a reputable engineering firm, heading up their private/site development engineering department. The department wasn’t too big, maybe 10 people or so, however I found myself managing 15 to 20 projects at one time. 15 to 20 projects meant 15 to 20 clients, 15 to 20 budgets, 15 to 20 bills to be done, 15 to 20 bills that haven’t been paid, oh yeah and my favorite, 15 to 20 Town Planning Board Meetings! I loved what I did and I was good at it, but it was very stressful and took a toll on both my health and my personal life.
A few years ago, I made a bold decision, and left my design-engineering career behind to become an engineering career coach. Since that time I have coached and helped hundreds of engineers to get clear on their goals, increase productivity and improve work-family balance. I have also given seminars to thousands of engineers on the same topics. Through all of this work, I have found that there is 1 HUGE OBSTACLE that engineers face in their efforts to achieve career success (which means something different to everyone).
First let me give you the biggest make-believe obstacle that everyone uses as an excuse – TIME MANAGEMENT. Time management isn’t really the obstacle that most engineers face. The obstacle leads to poor time management, but it is not related to time management. The #1 obstacle that engineers face in their career is LACK OF FOCUS. That’s right LACK OF FOCUS. Sound familiar? Are you able to read through an entire e-mail without getting a phone call? Are you able to finish a design task or report on one project before a client calls with a fire that you have to put out?
The answer to those questions is probably “NO!” How many of you would love to go back in time, just for a day, to when you started your engineering career so that you could work on just one task all day long without interruption? Go ahead and raise your hand – I have mine raised!
So what can we do to try to improve our focus? Here are a few recommendations based on my work with engineers and my study of this topic:
1. Establish some of your most important tasks for the day and do them before you do ANYTHING else. When deciding on these tasks, assume that you would only be able to get those tasks done that day – if that was the case would the day be a success?
2. Try to do less things. I know what you are thinking, if my job is to manage 15 projects, how can I do less. Make a list of everything you do and wherever possible start delegating tasks.
3. Space meetings and phone conferences out. Engineers try to be as efficient as possible and schedule phone calls and meetings one after the other to avoid dead space in their day. Unfortunately this approach often leads to rushed meetings or missed conference calls and keeps you in that “I have to hurry because I have something right after this” mentality.
4. Don’t let other people manage your time (as much as possible). Check e-mail and phone messages periodically (even if it’s every 30 minutes) but not as they come in! This one habit alone can change your life. I know because I made the change.
That leads me to an important word – HABIT. Implementing changes like these listed above would mean creating new habits in your career and life. Easier said than done. Through my studies and work with engineers I have discovered some ways that you can implement powerful new habits like these into your life. There isn’t enough time in this post to explain them, however I have recorded a special brief webinar for Civilengineeringcentral.com readers where I review the key steps to take to implement these or any career and life changing habits. You can download this webinar right now on my Powerful Purpose Associates website.
Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP, ACC
Civil Engineer, Author, Coach and Speaker
Author of Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating an Extraordinary Engineering Career
Anthony is also the author of a FREE e-mail service for engineers called A Daily Boost from Your Professional Partner. Click here to read about this service.