Look at yourself in the mirror, now repeat after me “Do I work hard, do I prioritise by what’s fun or important, do I ever do anything at work that could be considered unnecessary, do I ever let meetings run over, do I ever deliberately use up time on unnecessary emails, do I ever let myself be distracted by the unimportant and finally…do I ever watch the clock thinking of ways to use up the balance of the day?”
Be honest with your answers, you’re not going to tell anyone! I would be willing to bet that if you’re brutal the answers are perhaps a little shocking. The truth is we can’t help ourselves. We would all rather be exploring distant lands, riding our bikes on mountain tracks, swimming in blue seas or lying by a crystal pool.
So how do we get ourselves to do more with the time we have [the time we are paid for] and thus be more productive, valuable and promotable? It’s a challenge we need to set ourselves everyday and let’s face it a big chunk of each working day can be mundane, tedious or at best lacking stimuli. We are not children, not everything can be exciting, even though we know it is probably still important and of course it is part of the job.
Happily there’s a lot you can do. Here are some tried and tested ways of getting your focus right and turning everything you do into an exciting challenge.
If you can’t measure something you do, it can’t improve. Find a way to measure and thus target even the most mundane task
Find new ways of doing the same job. For example don’t send round another email asking for feedback on a report, set up a feedback survey on SurveyMonkey instead
Do the dull first. Line up all the c**p tasks and set a timebox to get them all sorted after which it’s coffee and cake time. Chuck as much as you can away, you would be amazed how much on your list is utterly unimportant
Ignore emails that are pointless, it’s just people being inefficient and idle. Get used to typing ‘please try to avoid copying me in on this topic…’. People will soon get the message.
Don’t ever get into email ping pong. After one response pick up the phone and ask one question; what action do you want taken as result of this email?
Set aside ‘me time’ 3 or 4 times a day. Surf the net for holidays, check out LinkedIn whatever, but make it timeboxed and meaningful. Make sure people know that’s what you do
Always refuse meetings first time round, if you are really needed you will be ‘begged’ to attend. Before agreeing, ask if there is an agenda, if not don’t go. If there is an agenda, ask if there are critical decisions to be made, if not don’t go. If there is an agenda and a decision-making brief, ask why a meeting is necessary, make your judgement based on that response
Don’t write emails more than one sentence. If it’s a discussion use a discussion tool like Yammer or Skype. Remember it’s not an English comprehension exam, plain English will do nicely
You’re not a graphic designer [unless you are of course] so don’t play with layouts, colours, boxes, tables or headers and footers. Leave ‘pretty’ to those paid to do it, stop wasting your time
Measure your performance honestly everyday; 1-10 where 1 is should have stayed in bed and 10 is that any Den Dragon would pay a million bucks for me to work for them
Now the best part. If you are brutally honest with yourself and manage other people’s expectations assertively you will have 50-60% of your time freed up. How scary is that, what do we do to fill our day. Easy, get to work…
What does that mean? Pick up the phone and start building wider, more meaningful networks. Learn, study and become an expert in your field. Double, triple, quadruple your business-building calls. Reach out to thought-leaders in your field, ask them how you can grow, how they can help. Take on tasks from your boss, demand extra responsibilities, ask to be delegated to. Get yourself on self-learning courses, educate yourself in the technical aspects of your market.
In other words, do your job, learn your profession and stretch, stretch, stretch. Patronising? Me? Never…
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