This is WorkWise week, and a good time to think about how to work more productively. Whether you work for yourself or are employed, here are some tips to help you work more wisely.
The foundation of working wisely is to be crystal clear about what’s really important. If you’re freelance or run your own business, make sure you take time out on a weekly basis to review your priorities.
If you are employed and feel continually overwhelmed, you may need to sit down with your managers, and make sure you understand what you are expected to prioritise and deliver. If you’re not clear about what’s expected of you, then ask rather than making assumptions about what’s wanted.
Even if you know what’s important, you may find yourself procrastinating. We all do it, and my solution is radical chunking. If you find yourself resisting writing an important email for example, then chunk it down to the simplest possible action, such as opening a new email window, writing a subject line (even if it’s just DRAFT EMAIL TO…) and typing the first few words.
If you’ve ever worked with a coach, you know they will encourage you, and also challenge you. You can self-coach by taking a step back from time to time and challenging yourself. Ask: “How can I do this more efficiently?” and write down at least three ideas for improvements.
This is helpful if you regularly find yourself bogged down in a task. Taking time to redesign a system can be more effective in the longer term than making do with an outdated way of doing things.
Technology is a double edge sword. It can distract, or assist. Set boundaries around unproductive time online, and welcome in helpful tech. A To Do list app like Wunderlist can help bring all your tasks together in one place and you can update it at any time. But it will only help you if you use it consistently and refer to it regularly.
If you’re self-employed or run a small business, make this the year you embrace online accounting software. This can massively speed up time you spend on invoicing and reconciling accounts. For example, you can quickly scan in receipts when you receive them and before they mount up.
The UK government is considering changes to self-assessment reporting, and you may be required in future to do your accounting online. So it makes sense to look seriously into this. Try a package like QuickBooks which offers low cost accounting software aimed specifically for sole traders, as well as services for companies.
If looking at your email inbox gives you that sinking feeling, then it’s time to set yourself some guidelines. Discipline yourself not to open an email unless you do something with it. I regularly reach inbox zero since developing an email processing system that works for me – once I’ve read an email it’s either filed, acted upon, deleted or marked for future action.
And on the subject of wise email etiquette, if you find yourself writing something while you’re feeling irritated, under pressure or angry, then don’t send straight away. Save it as a draft, then take a break, return to it to review and re-phrase if necessary. And double-check the “to” field. (Hands up who’s ever written an email to a colleague and inadvertently sent it to a client!)
We’re usually pretty efficient when we’re up against the clock. But leaving everything to the last minute can be stressful and leaves no room for contingencies. Trying setting your own deadlines, and challenge yourself against the clock. The end of the week can be a good deadline – how much can you clear before the weekend? And how good will it feel when you’ve done it?
Finally, wisdom comes from working to your values. It’s not just about efficient use of time; it’s about valuing time itself and freeing yourself up to do what matters. Try this values exercise to work out what really matters to you. And don’t be afraid to say “no” to requests that fit neither your work priorities, nor your personal values.
What tips do you have for working more wisely? Please share in the comments below.