The curse for many business people today is that we never seem to have enough time to do everything that needs to be done. And when we finally do get on a productivity roll, something always seems to throw us off course. According to executive coach and author Jason Womack, we could actually accomplish a lot more each day if we could learn to acknowledge when we’re done with what we’re doing.
“One of the biggest time wasters we all face is spending too much time on those things that don’t require it,” says Womack, who has written a new book entitled “Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More.” “But when you learn to recognize when you’re done with a task, you’ll have valuable minutes and maybe even hours added back into your day.”
Stop majoring in the minors. Many of us spend a great deal of time on projects and tasks that we consider easy. But that leaves us with inadequate time to complete the more difficult tasks. If you can complete the easy task quickly and efficiently, you will find you have more time in your day for bigger tasks.
Womack advises beginning your work day by distinguishing “high leverage activities” from “low leverage activities.” “For the low leverage activities, force yourself to move through them as quickly as possible. With these tasks—for example, writing an email to a colleague—perfection isn’t necessary, and there’s no need to waste time wringing your hands over every word. When you can accomplish these minor tasks more efficiently, you’ll have the time you need to do those major tasks justice.”
Don’t overwrite emails. Chances are that you spend too much time writing emails. Strive to express yourself as succinctly as possible. “Get to the point quickly and use action verbs in subject lines so that both you and the recipient know what needs to happen before the email is even opened,” suggests Womack. “And while long emails waste the time it takes you to write them, keep in mind that the person receiving the email doesn’t want to have to spend so much time reading it either.”
Quit over-staying at meetings and on conference calls. Meetings and conference calls often consume more time than necessary. “If you spend 15 to 20 minutes at the beginning or end of the meeting discussing your co-worker’s golf game, then next time reduce the amount of time allotted for the meeting. And always know the meeting’s or call’s objectives before you begin. That way you can get to them right away,” says Womack.
Set your own deadlines and stick to them. It’s very easy to get distracted or sidetracked by things you think you must do. “Having a self-imposed deadline will help you ignore those distractions,” says Womack. “If a colleague calls you about a non-urgent task, you can let him know you’ve got a 3 p.m. deadline that you have to meet. There’s no need for him to know that it’s self-imposed.”
Know when it’s time to ask for help. We’ve all been stumped by a project or task. Sometimes, the best thing to do is recognize that you need help. “You simply might not have the right expertise to completely finish a certain project,” says Womack. “And that’s OK. Wasting time on something you’re never going to be able to figure out is much worse than asking for help.”
When you set limits on those tasks, meetings and situations that eat up precious minutes, you can reclaim them for yourself. That way according to Womack, you can “free up time in your day that you can use to focus on areas where it’s really needed. As a result, you’ll have a more gratifying work day and you’ll be happier overall.”
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