Ever since the Millennial generation entered the workforce, we’re seen a resurgence in the idea that “work” and “life” represent two distinct things: i.e., that we can excel at our jobs and still have an enjoyable life outside the office. Although I personally belong to “Generation X,” I’ve been in the vanguard of this movement: I’ve dedicated my career to teaching people how to achieve maximum results in the minimum amount of time, so they can get out of the office on time (or at least earlier) and spend more time with their friends and families and hobbies. I try to practice what I preach, too.
f you’re a constant reader, you know most of my work focuses on this concept. So the tips I outline here may sound familiar—but a quick reminder never hurts, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Keep these things in mind:
Build Buffers into Your Schedule
If you know you have four hours of meetings and conference calls today, why have a to-do list with 17 hours of work? Block out 60-90 minutes each day on your calendar to work on high-value activities, so people can’t schedule with you. But don’t attempt to schedule your entire day, or you won’t have room for the expected, unexpected events, tasks that take longer than planned, or the co-worker who just won’t stop talking.
Flexibility helps in all things, from taking advantage of an opportunity that suddenly appears or handling an emergency. But don’t confuse flexibility with spontaneity. You still must have a plan. Have a good sense of what needs to get done today and what can be put off. But don’t randomly pick things to do that just show up—be purposeful in selecting what you do next. One click can take you down a time-wasting path.
If leaders are their salt, they want to know when you have an idea that will save time or money, or otherwise impact the bottom line. Meaning if you know how your productivity could be improved, speak up! Good managers appreciate employees who take initiative, keep them posted on their progress without prompting, check the relative priority of different tasks, and establish specifics on how to attack a project. Your resourcefulness makes both of your jobs easier.
Take Advantage of Your Peak Energy Time
Most productivity gurus advise you to handle top priorities early in the day, and I agree—to an extent. You should focus on heavy thinking tasks when you are at your highest energy level. True, most people are more energetic in the early morning, but not everyone is. Some of us hit our energy peaks later in the day; I’m at my best around 11:00 am until 12:30 pm, so that’s when I do my heavy creative and writing tasks. If your productivity engine doesn’t rev until after lunch, you can handle email and operational chores in the morning, and then pile on the tough work when you’re at your best.
Delegate Like Crazy
Don’t do tasks that someone else on your team can do. Always push tasks to the lowest common denominator. Don’t book your own travel, file expense reports, or send out meeting invitations if someone else can handle administrative type of activities. Send representatives to meetings where there might be a good learning experience for an up-and-comer on your team. Use a new project as a way to train and mentor high potentials. Keep only the high-value tasks you can do best and least expensively, maximizing both your productivity and the organization’s bottom line.
Leverage Your Technology
How many hours a day do you sit in your email inbox? If you still haven’t mastered the empty inbox technique and know how to turn an email into a task and prioritize your list in Outlook, take the time to learn! See www.TheProductivityPro.com/laura to get an eBook with Microsoft Outlook tips and tricks.
Life in the Smart Lane
Increased efficiency pays off in several ways. High productivity is the one that will get you noticed more quickly, but it’s easy to forget that getting more done in less time is cost-efficient, too. Best of all for you, you have more free time to live your life. Sure, you may work 45-50 hour weeks anyway, but without putting these tips into action, you could easily add another 5-10 hours per week to the total. Take your life-time back!
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