2 habits that show you are trustworthy and mature

I know a developer who lusts after all the sexy projects. He asks for them and he wants to talk about them. You might think this kind of enthusiasm makes you a star in your boss’s eyes. And it can, up to a point. But what if my developer wants to talk about the sexy projects with a handful of unfinished ones still on his plate?

That’s a dangerous habit for your career because it can give your boss the impression that you’re a lightweight – someone who will try to take on everything that comes your way leaving unfinished and half-ass work in your wake.

Those who really succeed, do so by handling a few important projects really well. Below are two critical ingredients to making that happen.

the importance of knowing your bosses priorities1. Know your boss’s priorities and live by them. He’s the one who decides what’s important and what’s not. If you are not getting clear guidance, you’ll need to ask questions until you really know how to rank what you’re working on. Help your boss understand the trade-offs.

If you want to talk about something that’s not  currently near the top of your list of important projects, make sure you first give an update on the top projects presently underway before bringing up a new subject.

2. Say ‘no’ when low priority items will degrade your performance on important projects. Just as it’s tempting for you to take on every project your boss mentions, it’s also tempting for your boss to give you too many projects. We all have eyes that are too big for our stomachs. When you say ‘no,’ you are simply introducing some reality into the discussion and that’s a mark of maturity.

You’d be wise to say ‘no’ gently, however. You might say something like “Eric, can you help me prioritize that in relation to my other projects?” and follow up with “Based on those priorities, I’ll probably be hitting that project next quarter, does that work for you?”

When you focus religiously on your boss’s priorities, you’ll earn a reputation for strong execution, for accepting guidance well and good teamwork. Your boss will know that you understand the meaning of ‘less is more’.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove.”

–Antoine de Saint-Exupery

< previous  work smart  next >

Email This Page
Print Friendly

  • Carlos Arias

    In today’s day and age, multi-tasking is erroneously put up on a pedestal. To be good at multi-tasking is to be good at being mediocre. It is much better to place ALL your focus on one task at a a time. By doing so, you’ll have the confidence to ignore the distractions and your judgment will be keen.

    In my younger years, I prided myself on being a multi-tasking machine. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned the more commitments I made, the less effective my results. Since then, I’ve learned to prioritize based on chronological importance. “Just in time” is much more important that “just in case”. Today, in my thirties, I am a husband, father of two, full-time business owner and taking 18 credit hours at the University of Miami. Needless to say, I have had no choice but to trim the fat off my daily schedule.

    One of my favorite techniques is to take a “Brain Dump” once a week, where I jot down everything I have on my mind and want to accomplish. Once I have listed all my items, I prioritize them from 1 through 3. The 1’s will get all my attention, while 2’s will be maintained. 3’s are either erased from my list or delegated to a capable teammate.

    When it comes to working for a team (or supervisor) it is imperative you learn your leader’s priorities so that you can be measured by his/her standard. Nothing is worse than working your butt off only to find your Priority-1 item is really Priority-3 on your bosses list. By knowing your target you can take better aim. When you know what you need to accomplish it helps to know what to ignore, and therefore, it will improve your performance along with your team’s.

    Of course, all these decisions are made based on where you fit into your organization. At the end of the day all that matters is team results. Much better to say “no” and let someone else handle it gracefully then for you to say “yes” and lower the team’s performance. Saying “no” tactfully followed by strong reasoning will be appreciated by every good boss in the world. Not to mention, you’ll be perceived as someone that can be trusted and relied upon.

  • Trisha Uy

    My preceptor once told me to “work smarter, not harder.” As a new nurse, I’ve always found myself focusing on the little things that leads me to forget to look at the bigger picture. I am always finding myself needing more time of the day to finish my work load. I have been a perfectionist that it was hard for me to let go of the small details. This advice from my preceptor has resonated with me since then and I found myself finishing my task earlier, being more comfortable delegating tasks to my nursing aids, and managing my day better. I found the sense of accomplishment knowing that working harder does not always mean better.

JustJobs.com chosen for Forbes.com top 75 websites for your career

Follow JustJobs on Twittervisit our facebook pagesubscribe with RSSFollow Me on Pinterest

Job Search

About the author


In 1997, Eric Shannon launched the first job board for bilinguals who speak English/Spanish at LatPro.com. Eric still serves as CEO of LatPro Inc., developer of JustJobs.com. He lives in Boulder, CO with his wife and two girls.