Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Increase Your Efficiency at Work

The vague but important notion of "getting things done" is a key success factor for most employees. Those "things" may be complex processes or simple tasks. Nevertheless, they involve a continuous circle of thinking, planning, finding time to make it happen, and taking action, as outlined in the simple steps below.

Step 1: Think about getting things done.

This step starts with a positive mental attitude and approach. How often do you get stuck in a non-productive dwelling mode, or have a pity party happening in your head? Dwelling accomplishes nothing, and negative thinking slows or stops your actions.

Since positive thinking yields productivity, here's one way to get out of the negative or dwelling mode. Make an appointment (15 minutes or more) with yourself to think only about that particular negative or dwelling issue -- and nothing else. This system will free you to be more productive during the remainder of the day. Also, the concentrated focus during the "appointment" will help dilute the issue's negative power over you.

Step 2: Plan it on paper.

Keep the plan simple to increase the probability of accomplishment. Write it down, because writing increases personal commitment and establishes a record.

Categorize issues and items into:

Opportunities, which create growth.
Problems, which solving can either create new opportunities or simply take a load off your mind.
Dust, which are those necessary maintenance issues such as filing, paying bills, or expense reports. Dust issues just keep coming back no matter what you do.
Make a plan that:

  • Focuses on the opportunities.
  • Solves the problems.
  • Creates efficient systems for the dust.
  • Is ranked and prioritized by importance to you (or your boss).
  • Includes a timeline with a sense of urgency to help prevent procrastination.
  • Has a measuring tool for your results.

Step 3: Find time to get it done.

Everyone has the same amount of time each week -- 168 hours -- yet some are able to accomplish a great deal more than others.

To add hours to your day:

  • Get up earlier, stay up later, or both.
  • Focus on the priorities.
  • Learn to say "yes" to those actions which help you reach your goals and "no" to those that don't -- unless the boss says otherwise.
  • Use self-imposed deadlines to increase your speed.
  • Be organized so you can find things within three minutes. That's the rule.
  • Do the hardest stuff when you're at your best. Maximize your body rhythm: The morning person works best in the morning while the night person works best in the afternoon or night.
Step 4: Take action!

Every action and activity should make a positive contribution to your plan. Having trouble getting started? Set a time to start, and make sure you start the action -- even if you are not in the mood or don't want to. More often than not, your motivation will catch up with your actions.

Having trouble keeping motivated? One of the strongest motivators is checking off things that are "done" and seeing results. Record the completion date to help measure your speed of progress. You are now getting things done.