by Carson Tate
I blink and the day is over.
I am constantly behind trying to catch up and keep up.
I purchased a new pair of pants and by the time I get around to having them hemmed, they will probably be out of style.
Does this sound familiar?
In today’s overstretched, overscheduled world, we feel like we are constantly reacting and not really in control of our days. So, how can you take back control and put yourself back in the driver’s seat of your life? Work smarter, not harder.
Batch or group like tasks. Batching or grouping like tasks increases your efficiency without any extra effort on your part. For example, make all of your phone calls at one time, process your email at one time, or review project proposals from vendors. Switching between disparate tasks is highly inefficient. Work on the same type of project or task and complete more work in less time.
Work in vacation mode. Have you ever noticed what happens before a vacation? Your inbox is magically cleaned out, projects are wrapped up, and your desk is cleared off. I call this the vacation phenomenon. The vacation is a hard deadline. You are going to be on a sandy beach holding a drink with an umbrella in it on Saturday afternoon, at least this is my idea of a vacation. As a result, your work must be completed before you leave the office. Consider working in vacation mode even if you are not going on a vacation by creating hard stops to your work day. For example, schedule a fun activity after work that has a hard start time – a movie, a play, or a sporting event. The looming deadline will force you to be more efficient and focused throughout your workday.
Create a stop doing list. As your responsibilities continue to expand at work, you keep adding projects to your to do list. However, you never take anything off of the list. Take a hard, critical look at your projects and ask yourself if each project is still relevant, directly tied to the organization’s strategic goals and has a significant return on time investment. There are probably a few projects lurking on your list that need to be moved to the stop doing list. No one is going to miss them.
Decide what is good enough and stop. Do you know what good enough is for each of the projects on your list? This is good enough for the organization and good enough for you. Overthinking, over editing and over tweaking wastes valuable time and is not necessary. Do good work and then stop.
Stop fighting nature. Our brains are hardwired to function in very specific ways. No matter how much you try or wish for your brain to function differently it will not. There is a finite limit to how much information can be held in the mind and manipulated at any one time. Don’t ask your brain to remember the 15 items you need at the grocery store, your schedule for next week and your ideas for your new project at work. It is not wired to function this way. Use a task list. It is ultimately more efficient and it enables your brain to do what it does best - think about things not of things.
Make your technology work for you, not against you. Today’s technology is powerful – very powerful. However, we often abdicate our power to technology. We let it guide and direct us. It pings, dings, or rings and we jump. Turn off the sounds on all of your technology tools so you can focus and complete work. Leverage all of the technology tools available to you in your email program by writing rules, color coding incoming emails and auto-filing messages. Take back control and make your technology do all of the heavy lifting.
What are you going to do today to put yourself back in the driver’s seat of your life?