Working Smarter Not Harder
If you often sigh that there are not enough hours in the day or find yourself working later into your evenings and taking work home at weekends; it could be time to re-assess how you could do less but achieve more.
Today in the UK one in six people work over 60 hours a week. Outsourcing our lives via nannies, cleaners, dog walkers or even hiring someone to sort our photo albums or visit ageing parents is increasingly becoming the norm.
Since when did this this frantic state of busyness become a “good” thing? Having our private lives commercialized means we are increasingly becoming disconnected with our families, the seasons, our communities and even with our sense of self and spirituality. Overwhelm is an all too common by-product as we feel out of control and disenfranchised from life.
The key to any successful person is not only managing time well but also factoring in the highly essential need to take time out to play and have fun. Remember fun?
This is as crucial to our success as any other element of our working lives.
This isn’t the rehearsal and do you want to say on your final day here on earth that you wished you’d spent more time at the office?
But the good news is that burn out doesn’t have to beckon. You can create more, get your work finished on time, have a life and still feel energized – and all without a prescription, chocolate or chardonnay!
1. Zap Your Tolerations
Tolerations create small leaks of energy. Have enough toleration in your life and pretty soon you’ll be running on half a tank. What might you be tolerating in your life? Get a pen and walk around you house listing the things unfixed or annoying. You can do this in all areas of your life and then start working through the list and zap them.
Common toleration include: a messy office or home, unfinished decorating, IT problems, thoughtless colleagues, no healthy food in the fridge, paperwork mountains, niggling health problems (toothache, insomnia etc). Commit to zapping your energy leaks today.
2. Manage your meetings.
Do you have to go to so many? Would the minutes be enough for you to get the flavour of issues discussed? Question every meeting you are asked to attend. Try to organize quick and well paced conference calls instead.
3. Plan your day.
Make a realistic list of the most important things you must achieve that day. No more than 5 goals and focus only on them. Delegate where you can.
4. Group activities.
Schedule the most important tasks first then group remaining activities together such as phone calls, writing proposals, reviewing documents.
5. Create supporting habits.
We as humans are nothing but creatures of habit. Are your habits supporting or sabotaging you? Analyse how you work. What do you avoid doing until last? Are you always over committing? Is being routinely late acceptable? Good habits include saying “no” more often, making time to plan and organize i.e. white diary space, doing the tough stuff first, taking small breaks.
As you go through your working week make a note of systems, processes or communication that can be simplified or even eliminated. Could you check emails on the on the hour instead of every minute? Do you use an automated system for reminders and follow ups?
7. Be a cool communicator.
Be specific in emails, phone calls and correspondence. State times, requirements and deadlines to avoid email ping pong of questions bouncing back. Be polite but professional on the phone; avoid lengthy chats about holidays, family and the flu. Keep your communication friendly, clear and brief. You can save hours this way.
8. Find role models or hire a coach.
This is the fastest route to productivity. If someone is several steps ahead of where you want to be seek them out and learn how they do it. A coach also helps keep you on track and accountable.
9. Be responsibly selfish.
Don’t let other people’s needs, deadlines and work distract you from your own agenda. Volunteer less.
10. Avoid energy vampires.
We all know the sort of people who make your heart sink and leave you feeling depleted or anxious. Keep contact to a minimum, lay down strong boundaries, don’t get into their “story” and make your communication clear.
On a final note, work can be rewarding and engaging but don’t let it become your master. Time is a precious and the only resource we all have and once it’s gone it’s gone forever. Use it wisely.