Working Smarter Not Harder

Everyone in the workforce would benefit from working smarter not harder.  What are the things we could do to have a significant impact on our productivity in the work day?

Prepare for Tomorrow, Today

Before leaving at the end of the day, review your calendar for tomorrow and identify your top priority.  Leave nothing on your desk but your file for that top priority project.  Rather than getting distracted in the morning, you are ready to jump right in to the project that matters most.  It takes far less time to do this the night before when it is all fresh in your mind that to start your day by sorting and organizing your desk files trying to determine where you start.  This small investment of time can significantly impact productivity the next day.

Eat Your Vegetables First

As a child I did not like eating my vegetables.  I’d leave them until last and would push them around my plate.  Some nights it took forever to be excused from the table because I had to finish those vegetables.  Once I realized that if I ate them first and did it quickly, the rest of the meal was much more enjoyable.  Apply the same principal to your work.  We all have tasks we consider vegetables.  Whatever task if is you are dreading most, do that first thing in the morning and cross it off your list.  Don’t let it loom over everything else you have to do that day.  Just do it and get it done.

Don’t Fall Prey to the Urgent

Do not let someone else’s emergency become your priority.  Just because someone needs something now or sooner, does not mean it is your priority.  If your boss or a senior executive needs something quickly there may well be a good reason and you should probably do it quickly and accurately.  What you need to resist is the implied urgency from emails or other requests that re not a priority.  Spend the bulk of your time each day on what is most important (instead of what is perceived as urgent) and your productivity will soar.

Thinking Time vs Doing Time

When what you need is truly time to think before you jump into the next project, block your time.  Have your calendar show that you are unavailable.  If you can’t close your door and eliminate interruptions, book a conference room on the other side of the building.  If you can, plan a work from home day so you can focus.  It is hard to think when interruptions abound.  To ensure quality thinking time you need to give yourself time and space away from the normal interruptions.

Using your day to focus on the most important work helps you work smarter not harder.

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Are you too essential at your job?

The best advice for this situation is to avoid it at all costs.  Early in my career I had a manager who told me his goal was to make himself expendable.  If he got me trained so well that I could handle his job, they would have to find something new for him to do – and they did!  He was a very enlightened manager and progressed well in his career because he always had someone ready to step in and take over his current role.

I also worked for a VP of Finance who constantly reminded staff that any of us could be hit by a bus including him.  His point was that the business would go on without us but that we should have process and procedures documented in case someone else had to step in.

Both true stories.

In reality, there are times that people become so good at what they do that they seem to own it for life.  This inhibits career growth for the individual.  If you are in the situation here are some tips to consider:

  • Let your manager know that you are very interested in taking on new responsibilities.
  • Suggest a plan to train others on the team on what you do so well.
  • Document your process and procedures so you can assist others in learning the job.
  • Develop a plan to phase out gradually so others are learning from you while you do less and less of this work on a daily basis.
  • If your manager is not open to this, remind him that if you were to give your notice tomorrow they would have to find a solution in the next two weeks.  You would prefer to stay with the company and are willing to offer a longer transition period.  Don’t threaten, let them know you want to stay but tactfully  point out the reality.  Or, you could be hit by a bus.
  • Employees should not to penalized for doing their job very well.  They should be given opportunities to grow.
  • Absolutely do not let the quality of your work suffer.  High quality work is your ticket to more responsibility.

See more in the article “Are you too essential at your job?” by Debra Auerbach on The Work Buzz!