At the start of the New Year, you may be thinking how to make 2016 your best ever year at work, or perhaps how to go about getting that promotion or that new job. If so, drop the idea of doing more, and instead focus on working smarter.
1. Do not open your emails until you are prepared for the day.
The first hours of the day are the most important and should not be wasted on dealing with other people’s issues and distractions (for this is essentially what emails are, they are rarely inspiring or insightful). Write down you days’ objectives and pin them up, and then don’t let distractions get in the way of achieving them.
Focus on your role and ask yourself what will really make a difference within the time that you have available today, review your schedule, do you have to do that meeting?
In the first hour or so of the day use the time to plan the day ahead, focus on your objectives for the day, and remind yourself and refocus on your short and long term objectives.
2. Set objectives for the day.
The setting of long term goals in the SMART model, with reviews perhaps at half year points is pretty standard in work these days, but in today’s hectic and highly connected world it is easy to overlook or even completely forget these goals. Write them out and post them somewhere significant to you – don’t worry that other people can see them… what’s wrong with letting people know what drives you? But it’s also important to set short term objectives as well. If you know what the end game is and you have a plan of how to get there you can work out what needs to be done each month, each week, every day. If you don’t have (or give) 1-2-1s, seriously consider setting them up – with your manager and if this applies with your team members, these sessions can and should be invaluable
If you have 1-2-1s with your manager, use this time go over these goals, make sure the long- term goals still apply and that the landscape is the same as when you set them, and ensure that your short term goals are aligned.
3. At the beginning of meetings, decide where you want to be by the end and the most effective way to get there.
Meetings tend to take p the amount of time allotted to the meeting- whether it is required or not. If you are chairing a meeting, or just wish to improve a meeting or perhaps to make your mark, consider opening up the meeting with some broad, visionary questions, like: what are we trying to achieve here? What should we need to have agreed by the end of this session? Most meetings dive straight into the detail with presentations of data and research (normally to support a hypothesis or the cause of the chair of the meeting).
And knowing the “why we are here” allows you to ask yourself, and others, if you or they are really needed at the meeting.
4. Don’t waste precious energy multitasking. Single-task as much as you can.
We multi- task all the time at work and we think we are being effective, but we are not. Our brains can only do one conscious thing at a time, and switching between tasks not only wastes energy, but multitasking can leads to decreased performance and more mistakes. And, it saves no time at all. Multitasking between two activities takes the same amount of time as it does to do them one at a time. If you have two things that need to get done as soon as possible and as accurately as possible, do one first and then the other.
5. Create down time.
We can’t be up all the time, our ability to focus and be attentive is limited, for some it can be as low as 30 minutes at a time, so it’s essential to have breaks between high focus periods.
“It’s really helpful to allow your brain to rest,” says David Rock in his work “Your Brain At Work” “Have some down time and you’ll find you’ll get a lot more insights into your mind. Switch off your devices when you’re in transit. Don’t turn your devices on first thing in the morning and have regular blocks of time where your brain is just resting. You’ll find a lot more insights coming through.”