Work smarter - without compromising on work/life balance
Are you consistently achieving the same average results at work? Or has your employer ever told you that you needed to be more productive? What did you do?
Unsurprisingly, most normal people would answer this question with, “I worked harder!” (That’s after having a mental cry after hearing the news your boss is unhappy with your performance). You likely went guns blazing trying to do more and work longer hours, which probably led to higher stress levels! You probably produced more at the end of the day, but compromised on the ever elusive WORK/LIFE BALANCE!
In my experience, increasing productivity isn’t about doing the same thing, the same way, for longer; that means you are still under performing but just for a longer period!
It’s more so about doing the same thing better, more efficiently and in the same time frame (work hours), without compromising on your personal life/hours!
Here are my TOP 7 TIPS to achieve this!
1. When do you start functioning? Let’s face it, people have their optimal function time. Are you an early morning, mid-morning or afternoon person? Whichever it is, adjust your work accordingly so you are achieving “high productivity necessary” tasks during your optimal time. There is no use trying to be extra productive when your body and mind simply isn’t ready. If your work requires you to be productive at a certain time (i.e. first thing in the morning), then you may have to make some sacrifices to adjust your body clock.
2. Do you have a problem with prioritizing? If your job is like mine, and you have an endless lists of tasks, projects and ideas to action, then prioritizing is an important skill to master. Remember that productivity is measured on output...but output that matters! So do the important tasks first, particularly the ones that your boss, your colleagues or your clients are waiting on you to complete. For me, I prioritize the activities that are going to help me make my monthly budget sooner. I also take 5 mins at the end of each work day to prioritize my tasks for the next day. This gives my mind overnight to think and prepare of the next day, so that when I come into the office I’m not stressed about what I should be doing for that day.
3. Is your environment built for focus? Once your body/mind is ready, and you have a prioritized list of tasks, you then have to create an environment for optimal focus. Everyone is different. Some people focus with music, some with silence. I can work in either, but I need minimal/no distractions from other people. There will be times I tell my colleagues that I can’t take any queries or phone calls for a particular time period, but I can make myself available before and after that time. They respect it, and I have a nice period of time of complete focus!
4. Should you phone or should you email? We have somehow created an environment of keyboard workers! How often do you hear from colleagues, “I’ve emailed them and I’m still waiting to hear back”. If it’s urgent – pick up the phone so you can find out the answer sooner! Sending an email and waiting for a response slows down the process, and your productivity! On the other hand, if you are doing a task that doesn’t require urgency (low priority), then send an email and let the recipient take their time. Remember the days when mail takes days/weeks for response? Then treat email as an electronic version of that....
5. To multi-task or not to multi-task? The answer here is to multi-task when you are doing low priority duties, and not to multi-task during your high productivity/high focus time zones! Save these time zones for focusing on one task, one goal and high output! Multi-tasking during an activity that requires high focus is just another form of distraction!
6. How can you make yourself more efficient? Have you been doing a task or process the same way for years, and it works? Great – get over it! Find a way to achieve these tasks and processes more efficiently than you have been doing. Even just the simple things like navigating your way around word, excel or your internal work system. I see too many colleagues doing things the same long way that they have always been doing, because it “works” and “makes sense to them”. But they are stopping themselves from learning and improving! I guarantee that if they took the time to analyse their processes and/or learn more about the systems that they use every day, then they can figure out ways to increase efficiency and therefore increase productivity!
7. What is your next target? If a task is measurable, then know your output number! Set that as your target the next time you do that task, and find a way to beat it! This could involve finding ways to make your process more efficient, dedicating a non-multitasking time period for your task, and enforcing a non-distraction policy during that time period. Whenever I need to do business development calls, I generally set aside 3 hours to completely focus on these calls. I’ve made my processes as efficient as I can, I enforce a 3 hour non-distraction policy, and I target myself. I also do this between 9 am – 12 pm; my optimal function period. I keep track of the number of calls I’ve made and how many successes, so that I know what I need to beat for next time. If after a few sessions, I find that I am achieving the same number of successes, then I need to either improve my efficiencies and/or improve my skills! Hence continual improvement in productivity!