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Michael Gardon

  • Writer's pictureMichael Gardon

How To Be Left Alone At Work - The Break Issue 56

Updated: Mar 13

The Break is . . .

The moment that changes everything. We do stories and actionable tips to help you break your relationship with work so you can build the future you want.

If you like what you’ve been reading, forward this to someone who needs it, and follow along on ​Linkedin​ for more community and conversations about breaking work.

#56: How to be left alone at work

The Wall Street Journal contacted me a few weeks ago after the reporter read this post on LinkedIn:

That sparked a 1.5 hour interview with the reporter around strategies for being left alone at work, hehehe.

Turns out, its not just folks looking to break out of their careers, but a huge amount of people who want to stay at their jobs and just be able to do the work that matters!

They HATE the bureaucracy, micromanagement, coffee talk and ass kissing that typically come with working in a large corporate setting.

As I went for a nice fall stroll and talked to the reporter, I relayed my own journey and the tactics I implored to not only gain some separation, but carve out autonomous time to design my way out of corporate altogether.

I found it fitting because if you want to change the trajectory of your career, you need to get some space first.

This is Pillar 1 in my ​Advantage Mapping Foundations​ course - Detach from work.

These are the lessons we talked about.

First, A big thank you to our sponsors for helping me bring this newsletter to you!

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Carving out YOU time.

  1. Decline All Optional Meetings:

If it says optional don't go. Get over that voice in your head that says, "but are these marked optional, but my boss is really keeping a tally?"

You need to free up valuable time to focus on tasks that truly matter. This approach not only increases your autonomy but also allows you to prioritize work that aligns with your goals and responsibilities.

2. Prep 5-10 Minutes Before a Meeting to Show You Are Prepared:

No one does this. The bar is so low. Use this time to review the meeting agenda, jot down any questions or contributions you plan to make, and ensure you're familiar with the relevant information.

By doing so, you not only demonstrate your commitment to the meeting's success but also show that you're proactive and self-reliant. You're showing your boss he doesn't have to worry about you. This increases your leverage to ask for more autonomy because he knows you can handle your shit.

3. Manage up:

Create a One-Page Document that shares:

  • project summary

  • Status

  • work done in the last week

  • next up milestones

  • roadblocks or help needed

  • upcoming decisions

Consistently share this one-page document with your superiors, and link to archives of past installments. When you get untimely questions, train your bosses to refer to the document.

Over time they'll be less likely to disrupt your workflow with constant inquiries, allowing you to maintain your autonomy and focus on your work effectively.

4. Push Back on Meetings That Aren't Aligned with Your Objectives:

I did this all the time when I'd be invited to a meeting with 14 other people who were all equally not creating value in that meeting.

I would estimate the amount of money being spent on that one single meeting. I'd take everyone's estimated hourly rate and multiply it by the 1 hour.

Then I'd convert that amount into our company's products, in our case homeowner's insurance policies. Then I'd ask my boss if this meeting was worth X homeowner's policies, or if it was more important to spend an our on my objectives.

This process definitely made my boss reconsider how he was allocating resources!

5. Give Your Boss Alternatives:

This is a sneaky negotiating tactic. Highlight the opportunity cost of what he's asked you to do. The above meeting strategy is a form of opportunity cost analysis, but you can use it in other ways too.

Explain that the time spent in the meeting could be used for tasks that directly contribute to your projects, which, in turn, benefit the company's goals. then ask him to decide.

6. Set Your Communication Preferences and Timelines:

Set clear expectations of your preferred communication channels and response times.

  • define urgency levels

  • establish boundaries

  • nudge people into your preferred channels

Here's how I did it:

  • Established that I communicate through phone, email, chat and only during work hours (because I get all my shit done between these hours)

  • If you need me now and will take a quick second, call me ON THE ACTUAL PHONE

  • For more information/reading email me, but I check email only twice per day. If urgent, follow up with a phone call to make sure I know it needs attention.

  • For mid range urgency, and low information needs - chat works, but expect a response within 2 hours.

This is can feel robotic, but it's designed to not allow communication creep, and protect your time. So you can choose your own creative work, or choose to not risk looking awkward.

Your choice, but growth, freedom and sanity are on the other side of looking awkward at work.

Here’s to breaking your old habits and becoming the best version of yourself!



P.S. My Advantage Mapping Program is all about systematically building a "high odds" path to your version of success. In order to build high odds we first need to break our low odds habits and scripts about work. This is hard work, but I personally guarantee you will find your path that aligns who you are with what you do. I'd love you to check it out ​​Join the waitlist


Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

2. Get in the Breaking Work conversation on Linkedin. Messages are open - anyone can say hi here.

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Resources To Make Your BREAK

  • Curated Job Board​: I teamed up with Pallet to create a tech focused, remote first board. I’d love it if you joined 20+ followers. Maybe, just maybe you’ll find your next big opportunity here.

  • Career Quiz: Take the Advantage Mapping step of learning how you're wired and for what roles!

  • Recommended Reading​: My list of must reads to BREAK your view of the world and what's possible for you.

  • Side Hustle Database: Over 200+ ideas to bring out your creative side as you explore your path. Maybe it will end up being your BREAK!

  • LinkedIn Headline Analyzer: See how your LinkedIn headline stacks up and how you can improve it to attract better opportunities.

The Latest Conversation on THE BREAK Pod

How does a working mother of 4 go from climbing the ladder to EVP in the most competitive real estate market in the world, to saying, whoa I need a break, to then founding a venture-backed corporate wellness company?

By tapping into a burning problem that she finally realized she had a unique advantage to create.

Patrice Meagher, founded ​MilkMate​ a unique workplace service that solves the problem young mothers face when needing to breast pump at work.

She's a mother of four who deeply felt this problem and was uniquely positioned to solve it. She just needed to figure out how. Ultimately instead of accepting the status quo, she decided to be a catalyst for change, and thank God she did.

Because she was entrenched in a 15+ year career in the corporate world, she could have packed it in and lived the good life. But she forged ahead driven by the purpose of empowering working mothers in the workplace.

Patrice's journey is one of resilience, innovation, and unwavering dedication to the well-being of working mothers everywhere. Her creation, MilkMate, is a testament to her commitment to positive change in the workplace.

So, stay tuned, folks! In our conversation with Patrice, we'll delve deeper into her journey, the incredible work of MilkMate, and the impact it's making on the lives of working mothers and their employers. You won't want to miss this inspiring discussion.

You made it to the end! Hopefully you learned something about breaking your career today! If so, please share this with someone you care about.

P.S. What did you think of today's email? Click one of the ratings below to send us your feedback. We'd love to know what you think!

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