Would you like to be more efficient?
From an evolutionary perspective we are designed to be busy and/or occupied. Now, this was appropriate for cave men and women who needed to hunt, protect and feed themselves with limited resources, but maybe not so much now we’re in the 21st Century; people need to manage an ever-increasing range of distractions to their core daily activities.
As a coach, one of my specialities is helping people to get more done in less time. The key thing I have realised is that those who get the most valuable tasks completed in the least amount of time tend to follow a set of guidelines. The strange thing is that these rules are not taught to us explicitly; indeed, most people tend to persevere with negative habits that are limited in their effectiveness and are often a result of unconscious thoughts and behaviours. Read on for some tips that I have collected over the years.
Think about the all things that you currently do during your day; are there any that you can stop doing? Habits that have developed over time lead us to continue doing tasks that, when reflected on, no longer need doing. Also, try not to accept more tasks without first asking yourself “Why is this really important?” Oftentimes, people agree to things before making a conscious decision. Also, think about the things that you need to carry on doing and ask yourself if they can be simplified. If possible, reduce emails, reports and meetings to a bare minimum; being concise will save time and energy for everyone.
Lock yourself away
If you truly need to focus fully on a single task, then lock yourself in a room (metaphorically or not) away from any potential distractions. This sounds simple, and a little drastic perhaps, but try it and see how you get on. If you are someone who likes to multi-task then I’m not going to lie, you may find this challenging. However, if there is something that demands a great deal of concentration and you are struggling to make progress, I highly recommend this as an option.
Discover the pattern for you
It can be tempting to start each day reading emails and trying to get your inbox down to as small as possible so that you feel that you are on top of things. However, most people are better at doing tasks that involve deeper thinking first thing in the morning so maybe try instead to spend the first hour of your working day on one or two really important tasks that require a lot of considered thought. As I’ve written in previous articles, it may help if you can write them down the night before as this will set clear aspirations; the human brain likes this approach as it can focus on what it can control. Bear in mind that this may not work for you as an individual; the key thing to consider is whether your current work routine is as effective as you would like it to be. If not, change it.
Accept that distractions exist
People who are efficient don’t usually fight distractions as it is very difficult to do. Instead, they work in short bursts of highly focused activity. This way, they are able to realise the benefits of making progress on a single significant task at a time. Ask yourself “What did I achieve today that was important to me/my organisation?” If you can answer this honestly and are content with the answer, then, by consequence, I would suggest that you are achieving efficiency and efficacy.
Know your strengths
Consider how much of your day is spent carrying out tasks that you are not good at. Now, some of these may be necessary and there is no getting away from that, but if you are able to arrange your working day and perhaps even your role so that you are able to focus on things that you are good at, you will ultimately be delivering more value.
Habits are deeply ingrained in us as individuals and these can often get in the way of doing things more effectively and efficiently. Realising that you’re rapidly switching from one task to another without completing them or finding yourself in a series of poorly run meetings with no end in sight may lead to demotivation. It takes someone who is quite strong and with a degree of perspective to be able to recognise these “negative” habits and put in place processes to change them. Being honest about your current situation is the first step.
Avoid blogs like this….
Written in jest but with a kernel of truth, it is important to reflect that you are very unlikely to be able to do all the things you need or want to do in the time available to you. But if you stop reading blogs (not this one, obviously) and get to work on what’s important to you, that may just be the positive start that you need.