Do you find there are not enough hours in a day to get through your work? You are not alone! With the way economy is going, retrenchments becoming the order of the day and no one is being hired to fill the empty spaces – your workload increases, your job description remains unchanged, no immediate compensation or increase to cover the extra workload and yet you are expected to cover your work plus the extra in the same amount of hours a day. So how do you do it?
You are, in all good faith and supposedly, employed to work eight hours a day, five days a week – right? But, how many of those hours do you think you are actually productive? And remember, you are not paid for the number of hours you work (I know some of you like to be busy, busy bees) but you are paid for the value you add to those hours in your day/week.
Work less, do more
Looking at some stats done a while back, the message is to look at how to work less and do more. Seriously? Somehow that sentence does not make since, yet it can happen. People work an average of 45 hours per week (working on a five-day week). This equals nine hours a day. Some researches reckon that only 17 of those hours are productive. That equals approximately three to four hours a day of productive work. Scary, isn’t it? But so true. Just think of all the things that are your timewasters, whether intended or not, and how these things take away your productive time, if you don’t control it.
Multitasking is a myth, or is it?
Stop multitasking! If you really think about it, there is no way we are good multi-taskers – I mean, how do you actually get to do two things at exactly the same time, with the same amount of focus on each one at the same time? A little bit impossible, I think.
As much as we would like to pride ourselves on being multi-taskers, we should rather refer to ourselves as master task-switchers because that is in effect what we actually do. We do many tasks at once, yet we finish one at a time.
Researchers estimate that only 2% of people are able to successfully multi-task. So it certainly takes someone remarkable and seriously ambidextrous to do this. Agree?
Also remember that when you multi-task, your productivity is reduced by 40%. Think about it. Have you sat at a restaurant, talking to someone, the waiter comes over to take your order. When they leave, you suddenly have to think what you were talking about and carry on from where you left off. It takes a few seconds to do that – that is what happens when you switch from one task to another – and then it is not just the one task for the day either. It all adds up.
Your mood also plays a part in your productivity. If you are not in the right frame of mind, or you are not focused on work but rather on something that is bothering you, a fight with a spouse, or your children, anything upsetting you, bad headache – this all has a role to play in how productive you are.
Change your mood! They say that optimistic sales people outsell negative sales people by 56%. Very interesting and I can resonate with that. The more positive, happy and engaged you are, the more you will get done. I mean, who wants to deal with someone whose head is not in the game, who looks miserable and who one can clearly see is not focused on the sale.
People need to believe in you – you need to believe in yourself – hence, change your mood and your attitude.
Curbing/controlling emails, social media, telephones, meetings
It is said that people who do not organise their emails or filter them, found what they were looking for faster than those who did file them in folders. Don’t check your mails every second they come in – they distract you from what you are doing.
Cut down on the time you spend going from one task to the other by doing similar things at the same time i.e. replying to emails. Rather decide on a time/s in the day that you will check and respond to your mails. And deal with each mail one at a time and finish with it.
We all have bad habits, don’t we? Try replacing bad habits with good ones. Did you know that 40% of the actions we perform daily are habits? And to change a habit to a good one, takes an average of 66 days! That is a long time.
Don’t allow social media interruptions during the day to distract you. Go through then either at beginning or end of day or lunch time – it is not necessary to go through them as and when you get a notification.
Ignore phones calls and emails. Unless it is an emergency or you are expecting an important mail or call to come through, leave your replies for later. Don’t allow yourself to be needlessly interrupted. Phones have voicemail for a reason – use it. They also have a mute button too, by the way.
Meetings are probably one of the biggest stealers of time and productivity – and if they don’t stick to time or the agenda, even worse. Arrange stand up meetings (works great if you are in an open plan office). That way you say what needs to be said and get it done quickly so people can get back to work.
Use checklists. Your checklists should have a time estimate for each task. This helps and encourages you to stay on track and on target to get a task done within a specific timeframe. Also make sure you don’t intentionally schedule 20 hours of work for one day – that can be a nightmare. Estimate your time wisely.
Focus on being productive instead of being busy. We all like people to see we are busy, it’s a status we like to attach to ourselves to make us look and feel important. But, being too busy is detrimental to your health and wellbeing. You need to find a way to work smarter, not harder.
If you are 70% sure of a task that can be delegated to someone, then delegate it. Don’t think too long on it, after all 70% is close to 100%. Yes you do your work well and no one can do it like you, but you can’t do everything for everyone all the time. You are going to burn out. And if you burn out or end up so ill that you cannot continue work, there is always someone to replace you – sad, but true. We are replaceable but at what cost?
If you find that the task you delegated comes back and you need to redo it or have to fix it or are not happy with it, the problem is YOU and how you delegated in the first place. If you explain and give the right amount of detail (even examples) you will get your work back in a good form. This is a morale booster for the delegate and you feel confident enough to give other work going forward. And I can guarantee you they won’t hesitate to jump in and help you again and you won’t worry about giving them more to do.
Learn the art of saying no, even when you don’t actually say it. Value your time and what you need to get done and work it to your advantage.
You know your priorities, work on them in the order you prioritise them. Cross them off as you get each task done.
Practice saying NO. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. If you can’t say no, trying suggesting another time to get an unexpected task request done which was not part of your plan for the day. People will understand if they see you are busy and have deadlines. By giving them an alternative, yet still able to help them out, they won’t mind.
Pre-empt possible interruptions – let everyone know what you are working on and what your deadline is – they will appreciate it and not ask for your help unexpectedly. They may come to you, but will indicate they are happy to wait till you are done.
Ever had to say no to your manager? You can. Sit with him/her when he/she continuously interrupts you for things when they know your workload. Share with them what is on your plate and even ask them what they suggest you do or what they suggest you put on hold for a while. You work with your manager, not for them – so talk to them.
Manage your time wisely
Set yourself some goals – daily, weekly, monthly. Make sure they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based). That way you keep yourself on track.
Ever found you have put a task off over and over again and then at the last minute it is a mad rush to get it done and finished on time? And you do, but at what stress? So why do we leave it to the last minute when we could have done it long again and saved ourselves so much stress? Because we are human, we develop bad habits and find it hard to change them. Turn your bad habits into good ones!
Not everything is urgent and important and yet that is the quadrant we find ourselves working in most of the time. Use the principles of your Urgent-Important matrix and prioritise your tasks accordingly. You will save yourself a lot of stress and anxiety.
Get into a good habit
Lou Hotlz said “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it”. Don’t try and do everything yourself or kid yourself that you can do it in much less time than you actually can. Pace yourself.
If you have been in your current position for more than 5, 10, 15+ years – what have you changed in your routine or process over that period? If you say nothing, that is your problem. You are doing the same old, same old, day in and day out for the last few years and nothing has changed. In order to turn your bad habits into good ones, you need to start changing something, somewhere, sometime soon. Play around with a few ideas or suggestions and see which one works out best.
Being busy means doing stuff – being productive means getting stuff done!
Get the maximum out of the few hours in your day and be productive. Change what needs to change, try out new ways and methods, find some help, and you will be a lot less stressed.
Shift into maximum productivity!