How to work smarter and get more done
When you have too much on your plate, it’s easy to feel frustrated and anxious. However, 9 out of 10 employees admit to wasting time at work. Basically, we could all be a little more productive. But how do you do it? Start by taking a step back and evaluating your process.
Here are five things you can do to today to reduce stress and get more done at work.
1. Set measurable goals every week
A measureable goal does NOT sound like this: “I’ve got a PowerPoint presentation to give on Friday, so that’s my top priority until then.” Instead, create a series of smaller, achievable goals to get you across the finish line. It’ll keep your confidence up throughout the week and help you deliver better work in the end.
For example, on Monday, focus on the outline of your presentation. On Tuesday, write the text and notes for your slides. Use Wednesday to find images and drop them into the deck. On Thursday, finalize formatting and rehearse the presentation. Do all that, and Friday will be a breeze.
Key Takeaway: Be clear and specific about what you plan to accomplish. To set yourself up for success, every objective you set should be S.M.A.R.T.
2. Define your schedule
Some people (like me) wake up before the sun rises. Yeah, I’m weird like that. But early morning is when I do my best writing. Maybe you’re the opposite and get your biggest boost of energy in the evening or late night. And that’s cool, too. Just please don’t invite me to a meeting that starts after 4:00 p.m., I’m useless by then and I have to get up early.
The point is, evaluate the times of day you are most effective and communicate that with your colleagues. If you prove working a different schedule can help you deliver better results, they should be happy to provide you with flexibility to do your work when you are at your best—whatever time of day that happens to be.
Key Takeaway: Find when you work best and tailor your work around those hours. If you don’t believe your organization will allow a drastic shift in your schedule, start by having an honest conversation with your boss. You’d be surprised how reasonable people can be once they understand what you need to be more successful.
3. Publicize your plan
Tell people what you plan to do, and you’ll do it. In Robert Cialdini’s Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, he talks about it like this:
“Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.”
Translation: When you publicly commit to your goals, you are much more likely to achieve them.
Why? As humans, our brains are wired to behave consistently with commitments we have made. There is incredible social pressure to do what you say you’re going to do. So use it to your advantage by setting reasonable goals each week and communicating them to your team. When you achieve your goals, you’ll feel proud and your colleagues will respect your ethic.
The principles of commitment and consistency are some of the reasons why Agile methodology is so successful in software and web-development environments.
Key Takeaway: Write down your goals each week and post them publicly (or virtually) so your team can see them. Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing. Note: This can be applied to your life outside of work. I will fix the ceiling fan this weekend, Honey.
4. Keep your team up to date
Another way to stay in control of your schedule each week, is to share your progress before being asked about it. When you proactively communicate with your teammates or clients, it can help you avoid fire drills or last minute changes. It also shows them that you are always thinking ahead.
To keep the lines of communication open on your team, use instant-message applications like HipChat or Skype. These can be simple and effective tools to let colleagues know where you stand on a project. For clients, you might consider using Trello or Slack—more robust applications that track the history of a project.
Key Takeaway: Manage expectations early and often. That way, things don’t have a chance to get out of hand.
5. Just say no (sometimes)
“Can you help me?” When you work on a team, it’s inevitable that your colleagues will ask for your help—and that’s okay. In fact, it’s incredibly important to have each other’s backs. But it’s also critical to take a moment before you immediately pivot to their project.
When someone interrupts your flow at work, ask questions to assess theirs needs. Things like: Do you really need this now? What exactly do you need me to assist with? Should I drop this other project that I’m currently working on? Once you have enough information, you can commit to a reasonable timetable for helping them out. It’s not about being negative—it’s about being prudent.
Key Takeaway: Assuming it’s not an emergency, be confident when you need to push back on requests that will derail your important goals for the week. The more consistent you are in your approach, the more your teammates will respect your process for delivering exceptional work.
If you effectively set goals, define your schedule, commit to what you’ll achieve and keep your colleagues up to date, you should get more done with time to spare.
How nice would that be?