What to Do When No One Tells You What to Do

you dont need to call
Image via Riches for Rags

No one tells me what to do at work, which is probably 89% of the reason why I love my job (1% is the free lunch, 5% are my co-workers, and the last 5% is my standing desk). But it can be frightening to determine your own direction and to go down your own road. Each week, I try to push myself in new ways, and I don’t even know why. I suppose this is why I love start-up life, after all. But what is it that drives us start-uppers in our determined, un-centered approaches when no one is there to tell us we’re doing anything wrong? And how do you learn when no one is there in the office to teach you?

I feel each day I do have some sort of rough plan that I make up in my own head. I take risks, but I do so in well-informed ways.

I’ve been trying to figure out what these well-informed ways are so that I can continue to pursue them. It’s easy to become unfocused, so this is something I need to put in writing. So far, these are the 10 ways that I have devised to keep going when no one is telling you what to do:

  1. Seek help elsewhere: Do this by connecting with people on Twitter, finding conferences in your area of interest, joining Twitter chats, and following blogs of industry leaders. 
  2. Ask questions. Maybe you think it’s creepy to Tweet a random person with a question or maybe you think asking someone to coffee is odd. It is not weird. Do it.
  3. Leave room in your day (preferably in the morning) to complete creative tasks. Don’t go straight for e-mail. Strategize in the morning.
  4. Draw. Sketch out your plans visually to demonstrate how you go from point A to point B. Then you’ll know you’ve found success once you’ve reached those points you’ve drawn out.
  5. Write. Always explore your ideas in writing, even if your writing is just messy notes you take on the train in the morning on the way to work. I had a professor once who told me, “Writing is how you know what you really think. Writing is the physical process of thought-making.” He has a PhD. Listen to him.
  6. Measure. Measure everything. Measure how many hours you sleep and measure the costs of each and every thing.
  7. Improve on those measurements. Find ways to automate them. Then find ways to get your costs down and returns up. I’m constantly doing things to get costs to zero or close to zero any way I can.
  8. Sleep. Some people tell you that “you can sleep when you die.” They’re dumb. You’ll think better and like yourself more if you sleep enough
  9. Make time to reflect on things that are not work-related.
  10. Appreciate. Take time to thank those that help you and answer your questions. Take time to thank those that love you even though you’re totally crazy.

Maybe all of this seems obvious or incredibly simple, but I have noticed that most people don’t do these things. Hell, I lose track of these things. They sit and wait for someone to tell them what to do. Stop doing that. It’s boring and leads to burn-out. Get moving and start calling the shots on your days for yourself.

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