Whether you are working super hard right now or hardly working, we all need some help in streamlining our work, accomplishing more, and being recognized for more. Just by tweaking one component of your work week, you can increase productivity or your promotability.
Hacking may be a bad word in cybersecurity, but when it comes to your work life, you will want to check out these five hacks:
1. Clear away distraction.
Distraction is the productivity killer. Whenever possible, reduce distractions on your desk, in your head, or on your computer. You might not be able to remove an annoying coworker, but think about all of the little things that clutter up your mind and reduce them as much as possible. Do this by clearing your physical workspace. If you have random thoughts in your head, write them down so you can circle back to them later. Multiple documents and tabs on your browser open can leave your mind going in multiple directions at any given moment. Reduce the chances of that happening by closing out what you do not need.
2. Batch process.
Whenever possible, lump like tasks together and do them all at once. Even go so far as scheduling time to take care of email each day. Responding to one email right after another can stop another task for over half an hour. Before you know it, it’s time to head into a meeting. If you receive a lot of emails, consider allotting times throughout the day to plow through them. If you are required to compile status reports or review reports, budgets, or documentation, schedule times to do this type of work all at once. You will be more committed to the task while doing it and able to block out more disruptions. Recurring meetings are great to schedule all on one day so each day isn’t broken up by status meetings. The key is to create more time to be fully devoted to tasks so you are not being pulled about by your emails and small tasks throughout the week.
3. Make checklists for different reasons.
Checklists are an easy, simple productivity tool. Whether we need to launch a missile or get groceries, a checklist helps our brains remember what it needs to do. A simple checklist will help you work on accomplishing a lot, so keep using it whenever possible. But it’s good to be strategic in how you use checklists. Two checklists that are helpful are regular task checklists and a most important task (MIT) checklist.
Regular tasks often have multiple steps. Even if the task is as simple as compiling a monthly report, create a checklist for your final processes that need to be completed before sending the report up the chain. Do not waste time or brain energy thinking about whether or not you did everything. Create a checklist and just go down the list to be sure everything was done – every time. The beauty of the checklist is that this task is now easily transferable to a new colleague.
The MIT checklist makes sure you have set your priorities for the day. Pick three MITs every day. You will still have your normal lists for your projects and tasks. You will still have ad hoc requests and office drive bys that steal your time. But if you start each day identifying your three MITs, your day will be more focused with a higher chance of you leaving the office satisfied with your job and productivity. Some days, you can be focused on the demands of your boss, and some days, you can be focused on your goals. The MITs can change every day, but it will help push your mile long list forward.
4. Rethink your to-do list.
Just in case you thought I was done harping on the checklist, think again. If your list is a mile long and growing, there are a number of things that you can do that do not involve quitting your job or taking a mental health day.
- Have multiple to-do lists. If you typically maintain a large running list, add in a daily or weekly list that you put tasks on from the large running list. Managing what day or week tasks get scheduled for completion can increase the likelihood of accomplishing the task. An added bonus is the possible stress reduction.
- Split up tasks. If you are putting multi-step items on your to-do list, you need to granularize your tasks so that some of the steps can already be crossed off and you can see progress. After you granularize a task, just pick a doable component to put on your daily to-do list and you will start to make progress.
- Delegate your work. Sometimes it can add more work to have to manage people and it feels easier to just do it yourself. However, if you have a reliable staff, delegating the tasks to others can help complete jobs faster. It is easier to delegate when you granularize your tasks.
5. Reduce your meetings.
Obviously if your boss wants to meet, you have to make that happen, but do not always be quick to jump into a meeting. Meetings have the ability to drain your energy and the time from your day to be productive. Be selective about what meetings you say yes to. People may look at you a little funny, but you might help out office-wide productivity. Perhaps you can get everyone to adopt your tagline: Less meeting. More doing.
If you still find it impossible to get everything done that has been dumped on your plate given to you, here’s a bonus tip for you: Do not go into your boss and complain about your workload. Instead, list out all of your priorities and ask your boss if you have them in the right order. This helps your boss visually see how much work is on your plate without you explicitly stating you’re overwhelmed. You might have some tasks removed or delegated to others, but even if nothing is removed, you have at least made your management aware of your level of effort without complaining.