We are creatures of habit, yet we often forget this simple fact. When we go into the office, some people wing it. And some prepare for work by setting up routines. Doing the latter often gets us better results. When we establish routines, we can carry out tasks at a much faster rate since we don't have to think about them.
Regardless of what you do and what industry you're in, there aren't always enough hours in the day to get everything done. As a result, you constantly feel like you're always behind. And that's just not good for your productivity, or your health.
So, what's the answer? Work more hours? Not necessarily. The answer actually revolves around the importance of feeling good at work. Instead of putting in those extra hours, you can become more effective at work by focusing on what really matters. And you can get started with that by following these five simple tips below.
1. Stop with the multi-tasking
You've just been assigned a major project. Naturally, your mind is racing with a million different thoughts on where to start and what you'll need in order to meet your deadline. As a result, you start creating a to-do-list that gets massively long.
Out-of-control to-do-lists are not helpful though. In fact, they often hinder your progress as they're overwhelming and prevent you from true productivity. The reason behind this is because you're multitasking which makes you split your focus and direct your energy to unimportant tasks and activities.
Instead, keep your to-to-lists lean by only spending time on 3-5 of your most urgent, important, and challenging tasks for the day. This is also called your Most Important Task (MIT). When you trim the excess fat, and focus on important tasks only, you will push the project along much further.
2. Make Parkinson’s Law work for you
You likely struggle with unstructured time, and Parkinson's Law is your grim reality. If you don't know what that is though, then let us break it down for you.
In simpler terms, Parkinson’s Law states that if you have a project that you have five days to complete, you will use all 5 days to complete it. What happens if you have the same exact project but due in a month? Well, then it would take you a whole month to complete.
Why does this happen?
Because work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Its normal for workers to give tasks longer than they really need. Sometimes it's because they want some ‘leg room’ or buffer. But it may also be because they have an inflated idea of how long the task takes to complete. Regardless, when this happens, the project increases in complexity and becomes way more daunting so as to fill the month.
This is Parkinson's Law in a nutshell. And this is why you must assign the right amount of time to a task. If not, then everything will take you and your team much longer to finish.
According to Parkinson’s Law, the key to working more efficiently is to make realistic assessments of how long a task or project will take, and then giving it a due date. So, what’s the takeaway here? Set a hard deadline, stick to that time frame, and don’t let yourself exceed it.
3. Reduce time on email checks
As a leader at your company, you should always be looking out for the wellbeing of your staff and co-workers. One thing you may have missed, however, is the negative side effects of on-going emails and communication.
What do we mean by that?
Well, when workers constantly monitor their emails after work hours (for whatever reason), they are missing out on recovery time. This is essential down time.
In other words, this is something that all of our brains absolutely need. In fact, studies show that in order to perform our best at work, we require downtime.
You must first distinguish the cultural change of talking to people for important conversations Vs. synchronous email conversations. We’ve seen over the years how after-hours emails speed up the work load and therefore build up a ton of stress. This, in turn, decreases productivity. This isn’t good for you, your employees, or your company culture.
How can you reduce time on email checks?
By assigning the right amount of time to a task. This lets you gain back more time as the task reduces in complexity to its natural state. Try using a task planning tool to get better outcomes, by looking at tools that protect the link between productivity and wellbeing. Feeling happy at work matters. So does making sure everyone on the team is well rested. Make sure your task tooling can prioritise wellness, effectiveness and consistency.
4. Measure your results
If you want to work smarter, you should consider measuring your progress. This lets you focus on your strengths.
You might find your projections were too optimistic. Or that you're overspending. Perhaps you're using management tools that aren’t actually improving anything.
Measurements, however, identify your weaknesses and help you determine which areas of your business are performing well and which ones should get more attention.
5. Communicate more effectively
It doesn't matter who you are, there will be times when you will have to work with others. As such, you should strengthen your communication and collaboration skills.
When you do, you'll eliminate unnecessary re-work. Nothing is worse than having to go back and re-do something that could've been easily prevented. With better communication, you will be able to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications.
Improve communication by enhancing your active listening skills, using tools for collaboration, and staying on one topic when you speak to your co-workers. Be clear with your messages. And try to keep them short. The last thing you want to do is confuse the recipient. Work only on the things that are crucial to your job performance and your company’s success. When you do all of this, you'll feel way more productive and less anxious.
With that said, what tips do you have for working smarter?