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.

Searching for a Job While Currently Employed

There are some unique considerations when you searching for a job while currently employed.  This happens frequently so it is important to consider opportunities to maximize your success.

Get Your Work Done

  • At the appropriate time, you will want to leave on a positive note with a strong reference so do not burn any bridges.  You are still being paid to do your current job so be sure to give it your time and attention.  Maintain your high level of performance.  Don’t make people suspicious by suddenly losing interest and focus.
  • Keep your search confidential.  It does not pay to let your manager and colleagues know you are looking to leave.  It may take several months to land your ideal next position so don’t self -identify as a lame duck.
  • Absolutely do not use your work email for your job search.  It should not appear on your resume or any of your job search materials.  Do not let a potential employer think you use company time and resources to support your search.

Network

  • The single most important thing you can do to support your search is networking.  Identify opportunities to network internally and externally.
  • Maximize your limited time by focusing your efforts.  Define and prioritize a target list of companies.  Identify contacts in those companies using Linked In and alumni networks.
  • Attend relevant professional association meetings.

Leverage Your Network

  • When a position does appear online, reach out to your networking contact at that company.  Let them know you applied online and ask them if they would forward your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager.
  • It is critical that you also apply online so you are officially in the system.  Many companies don’t allow managers to talk to candidates who are not in the system.
  • Busy managers are much more likely to review resumes forwarded by a trusted colleague rather than dig through the mountain of online applications.
  • Keep your contact posted on your progress through the system and be sure to say thank you.

Prepare Your References

  • Identify references from prior companies or former managers who have moved on from your current company.  Ask permission to list them as a reference.  Verify their current contact information.
  • Once you are asked for references, let them know.  Tell them about the position so they can focus on relevant aspects of your past performance.  Be sure to send your references a thank you note and let them know the outcome.
  • If the position requires management of staff, consider identifying someone you managed.  If there is significant peer interaction on cross functional teams, consider identifying a colleague from a project team.  To avoid listing your current manager, think about the types of contacts that are most relevant to this new position.

Manage Your Schedule

  • When scheduling interviews, try to avoid conflicts with critical work deadlines.
  • Attempt to schedule interviews first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid excessive time out of the office.  Be sure the work gets done even if you are out for a few hours.

Giving Notice

  • Once you successfully land the new position, you need to give your current employer notice.  You should always give a minimum or 2 weeks but the more senior the position and the longer you have been there, 3 or 4 weeks may be more appropriate.
  • If the new employer is anxious to get you on board, resist the urge to cut back on your notice.  If you are unprofessional with your current employer, they will worry that you could be unprofessional with them as well.  Notice is an accepted, standard behavior.  You may offer to do some background reading in your personal time to prepare you to hit the ground running.

Looking for a job can be a time-consuming process so be prepared that it may take even longer when you are working full-time.  By focusing your efforts and managing your expectations you can be successful.