When you try to decide should you stay at your job or should you quit, you probably focus on the part of your job that is not core to you. For example, getting coffee for the boss. You do that and then your boss teaches you, say, how to review a fashion show in Milan. Not a bad trade. For some people.

You can complain about the getting coffee part of any job, but there is not job without its getting-coffee equivalent. We spend a lot of time looking for “the perfect job, but instead of trying to eliminate the bad parts of a job, try focusing on what part of your day is fulfilling core needs for you, and make sure your job facilitates that fulfillment.

Then manage the annoying parts. Do them quickly to make sure you spend your time on what you like. And get out of the type of work that is so frustrating that it would be a deal breaker.

In this respect, finding a job you like has a lot to do with how you manage your time in that job.

I interviewed Ann Althouse a while back for a time management column I was writing. I picked her because she is a law school professor at University of Wisconsin- Madison Law School, and she writes one of the most popular blogs on politics. I thought she’d have good time management tips because she has two very time-consuming jobs.

I thought the interview was a bust, because unlike everyone else I interviewed, she didn’t come up with a list of tips for me. But I realize now, six months later, that she came up with philosophical tips for time management. Her tip is that in order to manage time well, you have to be philosophically clear on what your life is about and where your fulfillment comes from.

Ann wants to write about constitutional law. That’s her field. She wants to get non-legal types talking about the difficult legal issues that are at the core of our country. But she realizes that a constitutional law blog would be dead on arrival: “If I said this is all law all the time I wouldn’t have the lay readers that I like engaging on legal topics.”

So she blogs about politics in order to retain her audience and then she slips in constitutional law issues when they come up. She thinks of her blog as fulfilling her calling – to educate people about constitutional law.

I asked her if it’s hard to blog about topics that are not central to her interest and she said: “You can’t like everything you do.”

This is obvious, yet many of us spend a lot of energy trying to get around this nonnegotiable truth. She inadvertently gave great advice about managing a career: It is worthwhile to do something that is not core to you in order to get to the part that is truly your calling.

But even Althouse has her limits. When it comes to the blog, the comments are the biggest problem for her. So she doesn’t exactly read them. “I spend a second on each one to make sure nothing terrible is happening…There is no amount of time management that can make you do something you don’t want to do.”

13 replies
  1. Dave
    Dave says:

    What you perceive as crappy about a job is often perspective…example, I realized recently that a lot of the mundane tasks I don’t enjoy doing are things I would have to do anyway if I were running my own website instead of supporting my employer’s site. I started to make a list of what I would do with my own site…if only I had time…and how I might eventually translate that into an alternative to my job. There was a lot of overlap.

    When you can see your calling, and you can reframe your daily tasks as supporting that, you can “roll up your sleaves” and do anything.

  2. Anne Z.
    Anne Z. says:

    That’s a really useful insight, Penelope. I am writing an article about achieving goals and this fits right in.

    I don’t like to deal with comments either. I take an Ann Althouse style approach though I feel I should probably do a better job of getting in on the conversation. I’ve noticed you do a great job of responding to comments.

  3. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    I got a real kick out of seeing a political blogger, Ann Althouse on a career blog. (And one whose politics are probably different from yours).

    I don’t know if it’s the appropriate word but I found it a bit “picante”.

    True as your conclusion is, however, (and you laid out your argument well), some jobs are all about slinging coffee. And Ann’s day job isn’t. So she can afford to be more philosophical about the blog.

  4. Ann Althosue
    Ann Althosue says:

    Penelope: You really misunderstood me. “Ann wants to write about constitutional law. That's her field.” No, no, no. As I’ve said repeatedly on my blog and all my regular readers know, I write about whatever interests me and that is what I love to do. I write about constitutional law when it interests me, and I never write about anything that doesn’t interest me.

    “She wants to get non-legal types talking about the difficult legal issues that are at the core of our country. But she realizes that a constitutional law blog would be dead on arrival: ‘If I said this is all law all the time I wouldn't have the lay readers that I like engaging on legal topics.'” No, I appreciate having a wide readership, because it means that when I do write about law, I reach a lot of laypersons. But an all-conlaw blog can be successful too, with a different, smaller audience, and if it was what I wanted to write, that’s exactly what I would do.

    “I asked her if it's hard to blog about topics that are not central to her interest and she said: "You can't like everything you do."”
    Anyone who knows my blog knows this is completely off! I assume I said that quote if you wrote it down, but it couldn’t have referred to the non-law topics. Spend five minutes looking at my blog and it will be obvious that the variety of topics isn’t a way to enable my conlaw writing. I blog for the sheer intrinsic value of it. I have never written a post that I didn’t like writing on the theory that it would help the overall blog project. I just never operate that way and I don’t recommend it. Things I do that I don’t like doing include: going to meetings at work, cleaning my house, doing adminstrative paperwork, fixing technical problems on the blog, grading exams.

    The advice I was trying to convey is that the way to get things done is have things to do that are intrinsically rewarding, as blogging and being a law professor are for me.

    And as for comments, they can take up a lot of time, but I do read them when they interest me, and I often take part in the discussion in the comments. Go check out my blog and you’ll see.

  5. Dave
    Dave says:

    I think Ann’s response illustrates what I was trying to say…I also don’t believe anyone can be happy or effective when they just decide to make tradeoffs: “Even though I don’t like what I’m doing, I’m going to do it because it supports my overall goals.” That’s like saying, I hate what I do at work every day, but it puts food on the table for my family, which means they don’t starve, so it’s great.” You have to find a way to make it interesting and likeable. It’s not just rationalizing after the fact…when you can find the interesting angle, then what at first looks boring becomes interesting. When it becomes interesting, you can do it well. But if you think of things as “paying dues” or a “necessary evil,” it doesn’t work. At least not for me.

  6. m
    m says:

    i like this piece, sometimes I think it’s a good deal to be a grad student than a employee, boz i have my own time to organize things and real free spots for study, I don’t know whether I am too stupid about that. thanks anyway

  7. matchmaker
    matchmaker says:

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  8. Nike shoes ipod
    Nike shoes ipod says:

    She inadvertently gave great advice about managing a career: It is worthwhile to do something that is not core to you in order to get to the part that is truly your calling.

  9. Jonha
    Jonha says:

    “There is no amount of time management that can make you do something you don’t want to do.” haha, I totally agree. Then probably it’s about time to do some behavior management.

  10. Lydiaaram
    Lydiaaram says:

    According to me, Time is wasted doing things that should be done in a few moments or not at all. All of us have the same amount of time the only challenge is using it effectively.

    For effective time management, I would suggest to use good time recording software ( http://tinyurl.com/pukkvrr ) to manage time and tasks. Time management problems often start from poor work habits and therefore, we need to analyze how we spend our time.

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