Walk around any office and ask employees how they are and nine times out of ten, they will tell you they are busy. Truth is, many jobs are chock full of busy work. It doesn’t take much effort either, just a few stacks of papers that are slightly askew, an email Inbox with no fewer than 100 unread email message, and a phone that rings off the hook. Now, sprinkle in a fire drill or two and a report. Yep, that will make any employee feel like whatever job they were really hired to do is buried in the mire.
We all fall into this trap from time to time. The important thing that successful leaders learn is that you have to be able to delegate. I remember early in my career that a boss told me that in order to ever be promoted AND be successful I would need to do that. Delegation is not just a way to pass along those work tasks we do not want to do. Delegation is a way to give tasks to the employee most adept at doing them and to whom it makes sense in the grand scheme of their work. Delegation can be a way to teach staff who are developing their skills.
In addition to delegation, there are a few other tricks I use to make myself more productive at work.
Amp Up Productivity
- Focus on a message– I once heard a speaker who told the audience to write the most important, immediate goal on a post it and display it on your computer monitor or somewhere visible on your desk. I’ve tried this and it really does work. Anytime I start getting sidetracked in “busy work”, I see that small reminder and it brings me back to focus. Another good option is to post an inspirational quote to keep you focused.
- Push back on false deadlines– Numerous times a day people come at you with requests to do something. Everyone has a deadline. Most people say “yes”, then complain to colleagues that they are too buried to do the task. When someone asks you to do something for them, negotiate your own deadline. Speak up if you need to tell them how you prioritize the task compared to other things you have on your plate. You’ll be surprised how many people build in cushion when they ask someone to help them.
- Do not work in front of your computer all day– This sounds crazy in today’s world but it’s critical in order to have blocks of time where you can focus on a project. If you are in front of the pc, you are tempted to answer the phone or email where you are distracted. Find a conference room, chair on another floor or space outside to get away for 30 minutes or an hour each day to focus . Another option is to turn off the computer and hit “send calls” and remain in your office.
These four tips are just a few ways to change the way you work to increase productivity. What tricks do you use that work? Please share in the comments.
Great points Trish! I would also add “batching tasks” to th list. If you have a bunch of phone calls or emails to reply to (and who doesn’t?) set aside certain times in the day to get through them quickly. Once you finish email, turn it off until later that afternoon. You don’t have to reply as they come in. Instead focus on other tasks and get to your emails just 2-3 times each day. It’s amazing how much time this saves you.
I agree that it’s great to get away from your computer/desk when you can. I also find it’s important to get outside to get some fresh air – going for a five minute walk around the block on your lunch break can revitalise productivity in the afternoon.
In response to your do not work in front of your computer all day, we once had this guy who would just randomly get up from his computer and go outside and walk in circles around the parking lot. I’m glad you gave an example of how to get away from your computer. Needless to say, he wasn’t employed very long :\
It’s just one reason why I love having a dog in the office! I love having a reason to get away from the computer – to take the dog for a walk to the park. I know that in my profession, which requires creativity, breaks are essential for inspiration.
Also heard a really good tip recently that if you have more than 3 priorities, you don’t have any priorities at all. So focus is totally essential.
Great post, Trish!