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Bad Habit Slimdown, Week 13: Working on External Projects

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external-projects-conflictBy J. Mason
Online Career Tips Editor

Managing your career is like managing a marriage. In order to stay in love with it you need to work hard, contribute your time and dedication equally, make a few compromises, and keep the spark alive. To keep the spark sizzling sometimes that means stepping outside of the office to keep your interests piqued. While you may not be cheating on your current job with side work, you could potentially harm your relationship if you’re taking that external work into office hours with you. There needs to be firm boundaries set for your life outside of work in order to keep both sides happy.

Having a second job, or community projects is great for professional development and extra cash. It may also be your outlet to network with industry officials and to blow off some creative steam. Most employers would encourage this kind of interaction, after office hours. For those that can’t seem to find the time to separate the two remember where your number one priority is, and if that isn’t where you’re getting your primary paycheck then it’s time to shift responsibilities.

If you get projects done for external groups while you’re in your 9-5 spot think about what’s being neglected. Are your co-workers depending on deliverables from you? Do you push off medium to high priority items because an outside client is breathing down your neck? If the answer is yes to those two questions, then you have a bad habit you need to break.

Lunch breaks are there for you to eat, and have some time to unwind. Take your external calls then, on your personal phone not the company’s. Try to utilize your own resources as much as possible during this time. Also, don’t be sloppy and brag about the other projects you’re working on. If you’re falling behind on work you may be making enemies with your colleagues, and if they know what your hold-up is then it may get reported up to your boss.

[see also: 7 Ways to Blend Your Work and Life Successfully]

Don’t give external clients your work line if you can help it. What’s to stop them from calling your desk during regular work hours asking for immediate assistance? If this is the trouble you’re having then set firm boundaries with them. Give them a workable timeframe to contact you during the day, and step away from your desk when addressing these issues. It shouldn’t be a spectacle when something is going down at your outside position. If you’re needed elsewhere then take personal time to deal with it, not company time where you’re salaried.

How did you do with our last bad habit, being paranoid? If you’re still looking over your shoulder when you’re talking to another co-worker then reconsider your approach. Safeguard yourself from an office bully by keeping communications saved in emails, and keeping contact to a minimum when necessary.


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