What Senator Maxine Waters Can Teach Us About Career Change

You may have seen the video of US Senator Maxine Waters, staunchly and assertively repeating the phrase, ‘reclaiming my time…. reclaiming my time’.

In US senate committees, each senator has a certain amount of time to ask questions. If the person they are interrogating, wastes that time, perhaps by talking about something irrelevant, then the senator can ‘reclaim’ the time, which is what Senator Waters did.

The video went viral and sparked hundreds of tweets. Whilst some of the tweets celebrated Senator Waters refusal to tolerate deliberate time wasting, many of them considered the moments where we all wish we could reclaim wasted time. You can see some of the best here.

Reclaiming Wasted Time at Work

Although these tweets are funny, they highlight something important.

Life is short and sometimes your precious time is pointlessly squandered.

Take a moment to consider: what wasted time do you wish you could reclaim?
Which moments from your work day, do you wish you could say, ‘reclaiming my time!’

How about some of these?

  • Badly run meetings
  • Irrelevant training sessions
  • Developing detailed plans and proposals for projects that never get off the ground
  • Political manoeuvering
  • Destructive conflict
  • Gathering data that no one looks at
  • Chasing up on colleagues who don’t meet deadlines
  • Checking the work of colleagues who repeatedly make mistakes
  • Listening to colleagues droning on about their pet topics or telling their war stories
  • Having the same conversation over and over without making any progress
  • Overly complex bureaucratic processes
  • Team conversations where no one is really engaged, everyone is just going through the motions
  • Being ‘consulted’ when really the decision has already been made
  • Working long hours, being preoccupied by work at home, missing key family events and then being made redundant.

I suspect some of these examples will resonate with you… and you will likely have some examples of your own.

What Can We Do About It?

It is painful to notice the many times in a working week where you feel that your precious time hasn’t been used well. Sadly, we don’t have Senator Waters ability to reclaim this wasted time. But there are some things you can do about this lost time.

Firstly, you can use these experiences to get clear on what you are looking for in your next job. Noticing these moments can help you to get very specific on what you do and don’t want. As these moments arise, jot them down. They will give you some rich fodder for reflection on the specifics of what matters to you at work. See if you can convert them into some positive decision criteria for what you are looking for in your future career. For example, you know you don’t want, ‘team meetings where everyone is just going through the motions’ and after some reflection you convert that into something you do want: ‘rich, collaborative conversations with colleagues’.

Secondly, it may be possible for you to try some subtle job crafting to see if you can decrease the amount of wasted time. Job crafting is the process of changing the tasks, relationships or boundaries of a job, so work becomes more meaningful.

Perhaps there is a meeting that seems particularly pointless or a process that is time consuming and inefficient. Could you work to influence key decision makers to improve the meeting process? Or suggest ways to use technology to improve the unproductive process?

Job crafting can be a helpful approach when it isn’t the right time to leave your current job (perhaps because you are taking some time to work out your next move). Job crafting can also be important when you move jobs. No job will suit you perfectly – so learning how to craft something satisfying from what is available can make a huge difference. You can read more about job crafting here and on The Career Psychologist blog here.  If you get good at it, you might have fewer moments when you wish you could say, ‘reclaiming my time’.

Career Change, Career Management, Getting Unstuck coaching

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