BrokenCouchI was recently defeated by a couch. Yes, people, a couch. How is that possible you ask? Well, it all started with knowing what my limitations are. Do you know your limits?

What you can reasonably handle and what needs to be hired out? Two recent examples in my life have taught me the importance of knowing your limits and knowing when to ask for help. This real-life experience is also applicable in the workplace. In this first part of a two-part series, I want to discuss knowing your limits.

First, if you know anything about me, you know that I love DIY Projects. Suffice it to say that I look at a lot of stuff in stores and think “I can make that”. Hence the never-ending list of projects! However, I have come to realize that I do have limits and cannot really do everything (shocking, I know!). Anyway, there’s a couch in our house that my husband bought before we were married. Let me tell you, this couch is HUGE! It is a two-piece, curved and tufted sectional. And this couch was covered in a hideous off-white/cream color. Think 1960s, Elvis Presley’s Graceland era. Totally right for then…not so good for now. But the basic shape and construction of the couch was excellent and worked perfectly for our sunroom. While I have some experience with reupholstering various things, I instinctively knew this was above my level of expertise…. I did not possess that competency!! Plus, I had no desire to tackle such a large and difficult project. So I found (and paid) an expert to upholster it for me. It was worth every single penny! We now have a unique new couch that we love and no headache on my part! My limitation in this particular example was my lack of skills. The next example showcases a different kind of limitation.

As an air traffic controller, my husband’s schedule is a bit odd, to say the least. As a result, he has a hard time finding the time (and energy) to mow our yard. Plus, he grew up having to mow acres as a kid, so he felt a little burnt out on that particular task. But it was always hanging over his head and he felt guilty when he couldn’t get the yard work done. (And no, I wasn’t doing it either!) Finally, he caved and hired a service to cut the grass every week. The relief he has felt has been immense! He no longer frets about not being able to take care of that chore. In this case, his limitation was his time.

So now you are thinking, “That’s great Tiffany, but what does that have to do with anything in the workplace?” Well, believe it or not, these examples really do apply to the workplace. Knowing your limits can prevent you from becoming overwhelmed, overloaded, and under-engaged. I’d like to share a few tips about how knowing your limits will help you in the workplace. Once you know your limits, you can then ask for the help you need.

Know your limits:

  • Ability. By exaggerating your knowledge or ability, you risk your credibility and accountability. Not to mention feeling overwhelmed when you finally admit you don’t have the skills to accomplish the task.
    • Don’t exaggerate your abilities. Be honest about your capabilities.
    • Know what you don’t know. Refer to someone who does know.
  • Time. Be aware of what you have on your plate and what more (if any) you can handle. If you don’t know your limits and what assignments you already have, you risk becoming overloaded with more projects than you can manage and may miss deadlines.
    • Put your priorities in writing – a “to-do list” if you will. Doing so will help you handle unplanned requests or the inevitable reprioritization in a professional, matter-of-fact way. Be aware of all of your commitments.
    • Know what you can do well within the allotted timeframe. Give accurate estimates. Delivering a good product on time will improve your credibility, while missing deadlines or delivering a substandard product will only hurt your reputation.
  • Desire. You may not always have a choice in the projects you work on, but if your workplace is flexible enough, you can express your desire to work on certain projects (and lack of desire for others). If you don’t have a desire to work on a project, you may feel under-engaged and not enjoy your work.
    • Work with your manager to connect you with projects that you enjoy and are important to the company. Having an interest in a particular project typically results in better work.

Now that you know your limits, you are likely to realize that you will need help from time to time. Join me next week as we discuss when and how to ask for help!




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