Time management is not about tasks


When I was in high school, the police took me out of my parents’ house and put me at my grandma’s house. (Here’s the story.)

My grandma spent a lot of time telling me I was special. That’s exactly how she’d say it: “You’re special.” And I used to think she was lying, saying that to make me feel better. Now that I’ve read some parenting books I know that you should give specific reasons that your kids are special. As they pop up. Or something. Anyway, her telling me I was special actually made me feel like I was less special. Like she knew I knew I wasn’t and she was trying to fix it.

Of course, this is from my childhood full of trying to get my parents to love me. And of course, this is a problem with the farmer because he married me because he thinks I’m special and I still have a problem feeling special.

I am not sure I can ever fix this stuff. I’m trying. For one thing, I realize that spending time with a person is what makes them feel special, rather than telling them they are special. So I think part of the reason I like the farm so much is that the lifestyle is all about spending time with each other. For example, we go out to our forest (a five-minute walk from our house) once or twice a week.

I know the kids feel special that we are with them because when I first met the farmer, I felt special being there with him. There is nothing to do, really, where we live.

And there are drawbacks to that, for sure, but I like that we just have to be here. Together. It’s not necessarily quality time. It’s just time.

I’m starting to think that there’s no difference between time and quality time when it comes to feeling special. You can’t shortcut it by adding quality to the front.

I was really struck by the book, Abolishing the Performance Review, by Samuel Culbert, professor at the UCLA school of business. Culbert says that complimenting someone you manage does not produce better work from them. Rather, it’s sort of a shortcut to good management that doesn’t work. Like adding quality in front of time for parenting.

This makes sense to me. Because people compliment you only on stuff they think you don’t know. Like my grandma telling me I’m special.

And hearing compliments about stuff I do know—that I’m a good writer, for instance—does not help me. Helpful is someone telling me how to be a better writer still. For instance, an editor told me that I needed to use more research when I used only stories of my life with no supporting research. (And, look, here is research to show that people like research.)

So the constructive advice helps me do better. Compliments don’t make me better. And telling me what I do wrong and nothing else—well, of course that doesn’t help me or anyone because no one tries to do stuff wrong. They just don’t know what else to do, which takes us back to a need for constructive advice.

So—this management book about how you should not compliment people expecting improvement to ensue—I wasn’t going to write about it. It struck me as stupid, because I thought how I love being managed with compliments that tell me something I didn’t know. But actually, I realize now that what I love is someone who tells me how to be better. And all managers should be like that.

It’s fundamentally very caring: To take the time to see what someone is doing poorly and give them advice on how to be better. It’s much more caring than a simple compliment or mere criticism. So really, this comes back to what I’ve always thought: good management is about truly caring.

Too often people talk about time management in an abstract, detached way: Work a four-hour week, disavow your possessions, try polyphasic sleep. But all of time management comes down, really, to your heart, not your to do list. Figure out a new way to manage time, one that divides the day for doing good, instead of just doing.

To confront this issue—as a parent, a manager, or anything else—is the crux of adult life. Who are your relationships with? Who do you care about most? And how do you deal with the heartbreak of not being able to give enough time?

73 replies
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  1. Jess @OpenlyBalanced
    Jess @OpenlyBalanced says:

    “But all of time management comes down, really, to your heart, not your to do list. Figure out a new way to manage time, one that divides the day for doing good, instead of just doing.”

    One of the best things I’ve heard in a while, and totally what I needed to hear today.

    I think another part of managing (or leading) is removing yourself from the process enough to see what the situation needs and then providing it. It may make you feel good to give someone compliments, or vindicated to tell them what they did wrong, but constructive criticism often requires pulling yourself out of the situation and engaging compassionately in finding solutions. Much harder. Much better.

  2. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Oh dear god woman you are a bolt of lightening. I would fly to Wisconsin just to hang out with you. And I say that having seen how annoying you can be, on one of your video chat sessions. So it’s not a praise to make you feel good kind of thing, one that ignores who you really are. Oh, and I don’t even like you for your body.

  3. Howard Stein
    Howard Stein says:

    Penelope, this is a REALLY good post, a fresh take on an old saw that has been driving back and forth for so long, it is never given fresh consideration. I have just come out of a six month stretch of being trashed by one of my oldest friends because I happen to have moved in, broke, and needing to get on my feet. And the more he pushed me to lower myself, to abandon my dreams, the angrier he got when he saw his “advice” not being taken.
    Needless to say the 35 year friendship has ended. And I won’t miss it.

    What you pointed out is crucial, not just to better performance but to keeping relationships strong.



  4. Amy
    Amy says:


    On one of your webinars I asked you if you thought your blogging played a role in your divorce, to which you replied that, while you weren’t really sure, you DID notice that every picture of you taken in the last two years of your marriage you were sitting in front of a computer. (I’m paraphrasing a bit..). I have thought about that a lot because, as much as I could be on my computer 24/7, I don’t want to be in the last two years of my marriage. This post is a reminder…even if I didn’t really need it. Thx.

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm.com

  5. Irv Podolsky
    Irv Podolsky says:

    Now this essay REALLY got me thinking! (I should be working).

    I admit, compliment too much, and it’s not always sincere. It’s manipulative, especially in the workplace, and now I realize “THEY” know it’s manipulative. I will stop that practice. Thank you.

    Another point you mentioned – good management involves CARING, and that implies managing a relationship as well. We can’t fake caring. As you explained, it can only be expressed by doing good deeds for people, by helping them, and as I have also learned, by LISTENING to what they have to say, about their needs, about their fears. Listening… I can never do enough of that. You reminded me how important that is.

    One more point I’d like to add: My gifting advice can certainly be a kind and beneficial gesture, but only when the advice is ASKED for. When I volunteer it, my words are sometimes taken as a lecture. And maybe it is. Maybe there’s too much judgment involved. So I gather, when it comes to compliments, I the most rewarding one I can bestow, is a sincere request for an opinion.


  6. Zom G.
    Zom G. says:

    I would forward this to our upper management, but it would be taken as criticism and not as caring. I have enough past research to support that.

    The tough lesson that booms from every direction these days is that shortcuts are rarely productive. They may be immediately profitable but are often not worth much for very long. Time is not the enemy.

    (Useful info: your jpgs aren’t showing up in my firefox, mac driven broswer.)

  7. sheena
    sheena says:

    Great post on management – you’re right; it comes down to caring. I believe you’re special because of what you write about and how you engage the reader. I like that you’re posting more frequently these days, or so it seems to me. I subscribe to tons of blogs but I think you’re the only one that i actually open up the page and enjoy reading the entire post (I never post comments on anyone’s blog either). You’re also special because you’re honest and open about a lot of things others are thinking about or dealing with but don’t want to confront or talk about. I read your story for the first time from the link in this post and i think you’re even more special now because you survived and you shared, so hopefully others can learn. thank you.

  8. Lee
    Lee says:

    I have a friend who used to work for a large Japanese company and she said that whenever they gave a compliment or feedback about her work, it always included some kind of reference to a deficiency. Eventually she was told that it was a cultural difference and to the Japanese, there is no such thing as perfection, even going so far as to deliberately add an imperfection to a “perfect” piece of pottery. Not sure if that is true but her point was that always receiving these qualified compliments left her feeling inadequate.
    Constructive criticism is good. Yes, tell me how I can do better. But sometimes I'm just looking for a sincere thank you or acknowledgement without the added pressure of immediately looking to the next job or to-do item.

  9. Ben
    Ben says:

    “But actually, I realize now that what I love is someone who tells me how to be better. And all managers should be like that.”– Could not agree more. Although, it’s typically thrown back in my face as a manager, so I presume you and I are in the minority with this thought.

    Surround yourself with smart, generous people you’ll do well.

  10. kristi
    kristi says:

    It may seem trite, but this has been at the bottom of every personal email I send for the past couple years:

    The greatest expression of love is time.
    The greatest use of time is love.
    The greatest time to love is now.

    I put it there to remind myself – and the loved ones who receive emails from my personal address – that there is no substitute for being around. And to help me realize that if someone is making time for you, that’s as powerful as any words they may say.

  11. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    Wow I agree, great advice from your editor, “For instance, an editor told me that I needed to use more research when I used only stories of my life with no supporting research.” Is he or she for hire? ;-)

    Who are your relationships with?
    My relationships are with my son, my friends and my extended family.
    And a really cute terrier, who reminds me to stop working and go for a walk.

    Who do you care about most?
    My son, because he has taught me what it means to be patient, kind and loving for all the right reasons – and to grow up.

    And how do you deal with the heartbreak of not being able to give enough time?
    I remember the special moments with my own father – like rainy days when he wouldn’t be working and he’d have hot cocoa ready for me and my brother when we got home. He worked so much in construction when it wasn’t raining (4 am – 7pm) that I learned to adore rainy days.

    He died when i was 18, so part of me still wishes it rained everyday for 4 years so I could have had all that time with him, but I do cherish those moments when time stopped and we enjoyed hot cocoa and listened to rain.

    So I try and have those “moments” with my son too and maybe he will have those when he needs me someday and I’m not longer here.


  12. Sally
    Sally says:

    Your post bears out a theory I’ve always had as a parent: it’s scary for kids to hear how (unspecifically) special they are or even worse, that they can do anything. Of course they can’t. Honesty and reality are in short supply, right along with time. I tried very hard to let my kid be bored and not to cave into pressures to ‘keep up’ with all the activities on offer and the accompanying pressures. Living in the Northeast (an aside, the f word and not the d word=fine by me, too, must be cultural) anyway, the Northeast is a tough place to raise a kid if you are prone to anxiety and think your kid might miss out on….what? Not get into Harvard? Uh, good luck with that. My kid (in college) did better than fine and is absolutely capable of figuring out some hard stuff on his own. I didn’t schedule the living bejesus out of him the whole time he was growing up, so maybe that helped. To me “quality time” says “I really don’t have time for you, but let’s do this special thing.” Might as well give them cash.

    Like the link to the Times article. Lots of good stuff to think about here. Thank you.

  13. Simon Hay
    Simon Hay says:

    I think time management with children is about being available and authentic. My children can interrupt me and if I say I’ll be there soon they know that I will. It only takes a minute to pay attention. I touch my children when I walk past so they feel noticed, but it also relaxes me. I think leadership is the same. Be observant and attentive, direct don’t reprimand. It’s unproductive to watch someone with a critical eye.

    I used to be a farmer and there’s always something to do. Being a part of your environment and not an intruder is good management. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Ann
    Ann says:

    I disagree that compliments are not useful. As long as they are specific, knowing what you are doing right as well as what needs improvement is very useful. In the Toastmasters program, which helps improve public speaking and communication, critiques are called evaluations. An evaluation describes what worked and did not work about a speech, always ending on a positive note.

    In a corporation, a post-project evaluation where evaluating what worked and what didn’t would definitely be more useful than an annual evaluation.

    • KateNonymous
      KateNonymous says:

      Agreed. In both cases, specificity is the difference between effective and ineffective evaluation. A vague compliment tells you nothing; a specific one tells you what to do more of. Similarly, a vague criticism is meaningless, while a specific one tells you what to correct.

      I’m starting to see posts that seem to suggest that motivation should be all stick, no carrot. I’m not sure I agree with that, and I know from experience that approach doesn’t work with me.

    • KateNonymous
      KateNonymous says:

      Oh, and I mean that I see posts on other blogs as well as Penelope’s, not that Penelope has written about this a lot lately.

  15. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    When it comes to children, this is my experience and relationship between time and quality time with them from Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality_time ) – “In terms of critique, it is occasionally pointed out that true quality time with children cannot be rigidly scheduled, but that "quality moments" can happen if there are sufficient opportunities for sharing time and adults adapt to their children’s needs and interests.”
    I think the Wikipedia entry also does a good job of defining quality time in general.
    I also think there are times quality time is something that just can’t be achieved no matter how hard you try and then other times it’s happening and you really didn’t try that hard to make it happen. Some things you have control over and other things you don’t. Take it as it comes and make the best of it because whether it’s time or quality time, there’s only so much of it.

  16. Emily
    Emily says:

    I disagree entirely. When the “constructive criticism” is coming from someone with the power to fire you, it is no longer a sign of caring. I say this as someone who just got through an hour and a half meeting which consisted of nothing but listening to a scattershot of things I should change, from my [perfectly appropriate] appearance to my [never impinging on work time] athletic pursuits to my creative choices to the timbre of my speaking voice. Essentially, alteration of every part of my personality, especially the parts I think are most important and most valuable. In the end, all it really did was convince me that I need to quit this job if I want to live.

  17. K
    K says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I’ve been reading your blog for years, but this is the first time I’ve commented. Your insight into time management crystallized a realization I’ve been coming to myself: If how we spend our time reflects and shapes who we are (which I think it does), then a detailed record of how I spend my time is useful evidence of who I am. It captures the activities that energize me and the habits I use to avoid starting things that daunt me. I agree with you that we manage our time better when our goal is to use it in ways that feel good. Therefore, figuring out the ways to spend time that feel good, and adding more of them, is useful information to gather during a career search because (a) it makes the search more efficient and (b) it helps clarify the kinds of experiences you might want to turn into paid work: the ones that feel good.

    Brief back story: I resigned from a job 2 weeks ago and plan to spend the next 6 months networking and volunteering, working as close to part-time as possible just to pay the bills. My goal over these months is to find a way of earning a good living that really fits me by trying as many different experiences as I can while still making good on my commitments. I’m doing this because I don’t think I’ll be capable of the drive and commitment necessary to excel in any field unless the career in question is an excellent fit.

    So yesterday I started logging my time in half hour increments to see how much time I’m losing to unfocused activity. (Quite a bit, unsurprisingly). I already keep a close eye on how I spend my money. If I keep as close an eye on how I spend my time over the next 6 months, I should have detailed evidence of what experiences I enjoy the most to complement my intuitive conclusions. What do you think? A year ago this would have seemed anal and ridiculous to me; now it feels practical. Has this ever occurred to you – or to any fellow commenters? Has anyone tried it?


  18. Travel with Kids
    Travel with Kids says:

    There’s a scene from The Incredibles:

    Elastigirl: Everyone is special
    Dash: That’s just another way of saying no one is.

    As for time management, there are so many things where interacting with kids is all about time. Time is a luxury.

    I’m a stay at home father who’s spent an incredible amount of time with my two boys and it’s been time – leisurely time, active time, reading time, tickle time – that has been a big factor in why raising them has been so easy.

    Occasionally one of them will say, I don’t want to go to school today and I’ll reply, fine let’s hang out, no worries, what do you want to do? And 3 minutes later they’ve changed their mind and it’s all because I had the luxury – and the time – of putting them ahead of anything else. The luxury to call their bluff.

    If I had said, you have to go to school today, I’ve got to go to work, I suspect the scene would have played out very differently.

    On other occasions they’ll be acting up and I’ll say you better stop that or I’ll come over there and tickle you. And my wife will say sarcastically, “Oh ya, that’s gonna work” and you know what? It does. It’s all about time. Taking the time to intervene. Taking the time to put them before anyone or anything else. Taking the time to make it more than just words.

  19. Paula Eder
    Paula Eder says:

    Your wonderful insight about time management (“Too often people talk about time management in an abstract, detached way: Work a four-hour week, disavow your possessions, try polyphasic sleep. But all of time management comes down, really, to your heart, not your to do list. Figure out a new way to manage time, one that divides the day for doing good, instead of just doing.”) is so key and so refreshing that I wanted to add a comment here.

    This lies at the core of satisfaction, meaning, and yes, even success. As our society becomes more and more focused on and driven by quantifiable, measurable outcomes, it can be a big challenge to retain HeartBased values. And yet, I would argue that it’s all the more important … even as the momentum seems to be taking us in an entirely different direction.

    I remind myself that the word “momentum” includes the root “moment.” It’s temporary … unlike the HeartBased authenticity that is core to each of us, and is ours for the span of our lives.

    Staying true to ourselves, our hearts, and our values is the best time management tool going. It may not help you tick off more tasks and accomplishments in the short term … but it just might transform your “To Do List” entirely. Thanks for this profound and practical reminder about what’s important … and what REALLY works!

  20. Michelle Barry Franco
    Michelle Barry Franco says:

    Yes – caring, love, time, presence, attention. These are the beauty and soul of connection. I love them and agree that they are critical in effective leadership and any meaningful relationship.

    That said, I agree with @KateNonymous that “all stick and no carrot” isn’t the answer. It truly does come down to specificity and care – and authenticity. When someone blows me away by their Contribution (work, presence, art, whatever), I feel genuinely compelled to share my appreciation by saying what I loved so much about it. It feels fabulous to me, I can see that it brings them pleasure (and encourages them to do this kind of thing again, if they are inclined) and our relationship is strengthened.

    I’m really into telling people what I genuinely loved that they did or said. And I greatly enjoy hearing the same from others about my Contributions. I learn a great deal from that feedback – plus it feels lovely.

  21. Jenna
    Jenna says:

    “To confront this issue – as a parent, a manager, or anything else – is the crux of adult life. Who are your relationships with? Who do you care about most? And how do you deal with the heartbreak of not being able to give enough time?”

    This is fantastic — and very true. In my work with other entrepreneurs, many of them forget focus on the people (the networking and the contacts) who can help them obtain their goal. They forget about their friends, their families, and their relationships that help support them. To me, having these meaningful personal relationships is emotionally fulfilling and important. And yes, there never is enough time.

  22. Ilene
    Ilene says:

    It is a good idea to compliment someone. Compliments are always a booster. When you are just saying words to someone (shafting) that is not a compliment and should not be called a compliment.

  23. Luis Peguero
    Luis Peguero says:

    "For one thing, I realize that spending time with a person is what makes them feel special, rather than telling them they are special." I was reading your blog and "yes" I disagree with you in this. I still think it is important to say it, and for me, it is important to hear it, besides spending time with the person.

  24. Alouse
    Alouse says:

    i disagree about your comment, my grandmother always going to be my role model someone I usually look up too. Since I been a child until now she always tell me mon enfant( my child) you can do anything you put your mind on. I did not feel down, instead I become more, and more confident of myself, and believe me she is right whenever I put my mind on something I always accomplish whatever I want.

  25. patty
    patty says:

    I think giving a compliment should be genuine and come from the heart to someone who really deserve it. By doing so you can motivate to produce even superb results. I believe that good management is about truly caring.

  26. ANA
    ANA says:

    “The constructive advice helps me do better.” Yes, this is true because the constructive advice shows the mistakes you are doing, and builds up your character. Life situations have shown me never to take any advice or criticism personally, but do take it seriously, and rapidly act upon it, and make healthy and positive changes.

  27. Jose M. Blanco
    Jose M. Blanco says:

    "And hearing compliments about stuff I do know – that I'm a good writer, for instance – does not help me. Helpful is someone telling me how to be a better writer still."

    Ms. Trunk:

    I enjoy reading your blog and your essays exhibit an unusual candor that so many others do not. But since you write that "[h]elpful is someone telling me how to be a better writer still," let me take an opportunity to say some things. I'd recommend using the verb "to be" fewer times. Try to use stronger verbs. You use you sources in an abrupt, journalistic manner. I'd recommend integrating your sources more seamlessly into your wiring. Use headings selectively to lead readers through the content of a longish post. Headings tend to help weaker readers understand more clearly than a stream of uninterrupted paragraphs.

    Thank you for your essays. I refer students to your blog posts and we discuss and comment on them in class. Your perspective is valuable.

  28. Harold Major
    Harold Major says:

    Dear: Penelope
    Have you ever given it some thought; your Grandma was not only trying to make you feel better by saying those words to you. Your Grandma maybe saying this to make her-self feel better as well by expressing love through these words is a making up for your parents' mistakes of not showing you enough love. If you can take a step back in time and really listen to your grandma telling you how special are. You will discover her words were not only meant for you. You will discover how much love your Grandma has for you. This maybe in direct response to how your parents treated you.

  29. David
    David says:

    I think your use of studies hurts your writing – I’d much rather you have confidence in your own theories and observations. Besides, most of the studies you cite aren’t true science. They are statistical projections based on assumptions that probably aren’t correct, or at least are no where near as definitive as you make it seem.

  30. Paul
    Paul says:

    My experience of specialness: “You’re not in a box, but you need to be put in one, and it’s for your own good.”

  31. guessagain
    guessagain says:

    Spending time together, good indea.

    Now if you would do a column (or 12) about the younger generations — younger, but old enough to have kids of their own — who refuse to spend time with their parents. Even to the detriment of their children, the grandchildren of those parents.

    I have seen this discussed and the general answer is, “They KNOW why.” In your case, you are direct enough that, if your parents asked, “Why don’t you want us around?” you would answer.

    But many, many would not. And do not.

    Please take this on as a topic, some day, if you can work it in to a “business” related idea. (Or maybe you get to choose any topic you want, business related or no?)


  32. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    You wrote, “Because people compliment you only on stuff they think you don't know.”

    I got a lot compliments this past week for putting a report together for a consultant that is visiting next week. I knew when I turned it in, it wasn’t reflective of the best I can do, have done, or will do. I felt it was medicore, so the compliments actually kind of depressed me.

    It made me think a few things. One, they think what I do and know is sub-par so what I turned in was a big surprise; two, they are so not clued into the subject matter that it seemed like a big deal to them; three, if one and/or two is actually the case, I really, really do need to move on.

    I am not putting forth false modesty here in terms of what I did. Mostly, what I did was find stuff that was already there and put it together in a cohesive way. I can do that and the upper management thinking what I did was brilliant is unsettling somehow. Of course, I certainly would rather of heard that than silence or them asking someone else to do it because I didn’t have the skills to do it.

    I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone but me.

    Anyway, thank you for your post it was refreshing and insightful.

  33. Maria
    Maria says:

    I’m actually just saying hello. Because I’m an honest gal, I have to say I have not read your blog a lot. There I said it. I”m neither brazen nor a careerist. Wait. I’m fairly brazen. Anyway, I’m just introducing myself: The Farmer and I go way back. As in grade school. He was always my favorite person to have in depth discussions with. And he was great at debating with me to keep me awake during boring classes.

    Meanwhile, your assistant (we are likethis although we are 1500 sad miles away) totally rocks. I think you must know this already. She has the perfect job. She was made for it. She’s “assisted” my life from the time I was 17 or so. She’s great at organizing my very thoughts, not to mention she organizes a very mean margarita…what more could a person ask in a friend except to share the same shoe size?


    Hope you’re enjoying the cows and pigs, but mostly I hope you are shaking that cow town up a bit!

  34. JenG
    JenG says:

    A couple of years ago I saw an ad that said, “How do children spell love? T-I-M-E.” That’s always had such a huge influence on me, and I try to ensure not only that I make time with my daughter, but that she knows I enjoy the time we spend together.

    The big note I need for myself now? Turns out husbands spell love the same way. And mine certainly deserves some.

    Thanks, P.

  35. Dean
    Dean says:

    Excellent post! The two sentences I will take away from this are… “But all of time management comes down, really, to your heart, not your to do list. Figure out a new way to manage time, one that divides the day for doing good, instead of just doing.”. When I sit down each morning to make my to-do list for the day, I will always remember this, are half of the items doing good – for my coworkers, friends and/or family? Split it in half – that is easy to remember…thank you Penelope!

  36. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Special. The more I think about this word, the more I don’t like it – at least how it’s portrayed in this post. Obviously I think your grandmother loved you very much. However she didn’t elaborate with her meaning of “special”. Perhaps she was trying to instill self-confidence in you by repeating this word “special”. Maybe she saw something else in you that set you apart from other people your age. So I agree with your conclusion and that of others that specificity is important for certain words in certain circumstances. Otherwise you’re left in the lurch or it becomes necessary to ask the other person to elaborate. It’s awkward. The person who used a certain word to which you have a bad association and is now being asked to elaborate doesn’t know the “background” of the word as it applies to your experiences. So now they’re trying to understand your reaction to a word for which they don’t have the same experience. It’s complicated and it’s where words get in the way. I can understand your retrospection. I think you’ll be able to “fix-it” with time and patience because the brain is plastic and can be re-wired as adults.

  37. Lori
    Lori says:

    we live in the country, too, and we spend a LOT of time together. i think it’s made us much closer as a family, and our kids are chock full of inner resources. they can make their own fun.

    parents are always saying that their kids are their top priority, but their lives show otherwise. do a pie chart of their hours and their kids get a very slim slice. same for marriages.

  38. sarah
    sarah says:

    I agree with the point that you’re making here, especially with regards to the whole spending time with someone – I’ve never really understood what ‘quality time’ actually means anyway: you’re either spending time with someone or your not.
    With regards to compliments, I agree that in most cases constructive criticism is the most important type of compliment going. However, a really good boss will know that there are times when a compliment, a simple ‘you did great’, is needed. Maybe it’s my newbie status, but I need to know what I’m doing right (and that I’m doing stuff right!) whilst I gain confidence.

  39. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    “It's fundamentally very caring: To take the time to see what someone is doing poorly and give them advice on how to be better. It's much more caring than a simple compliment or mere criticism.”

    I think this is true when at the same time you are receiving an appropriate amount of praise for what you do right. At my current job, I receive little praise for when I do something right, but plenty of constructive criticism every day. Which doesn’t make for a good experience.

  40. Macky
    Macky says:

    thumbs up! A gift of time is one of the most precious
    gifts anyone can share, time can brighten
    up one’s life even just for a short moment, leaving memories that could last forever

  41. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    I personally pause at most opportunities to share any information and/or life experiences I believe will help those around me. I have made a concerted effort to live my motto of parenting “Teach, don’t preach.” I witness countless dividends from my philosophy on a daily basis…. Way to put the quality emphasis back in the word “quality”!!!!

  42. carak
    carak says:

    This is one of my favorite posts. I love your analysis of compliments and couldn’t agree more. I have a hard time articulating sometimes why I am so frustrated with my job. And I think this is the bottom line. Uncaring managers with meaningless compliments (along with insults). Of course I did a “great job” in the meeting…I worked hard and prepared for it (as usual).

    The challenge then is, how do you get managers to care? Is it something that you can change yourself – by specifically requesting constructive feedback, for example? Or is the only solution to find another job with another manager who does care?

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