Work smart and you’ll be more productive. Work even smarter and you’ll slash five hours out of your workweek with the same exact resources. With a few subtle yet strategic tweaks, you can skyrocket your impact and get the most of your energy, efforts and budget. According to managers and leaders who have learned to do so, here’s how.
Whether you’re a morning person or not, if you start your workday early, it’s worth maximizing the beginning of your day.
“Begin your day by tackling the most difficult chores first, as soon as you sit down and as soon as you are able. Getting those out of the way early in the day makes the remainder of the day go much more smoothly,” says Gerrid Smith, CMO of CBD brand Joy Organics.
Keep tasks that you can perform on autopilot for the evening and afternoon. “And after that, you might establish a strategy for the next day, aiming to do the most difficult things first thing in the morning. Rather than completing everything in reverse with lesser tasks first, I saved a lot of time by doing it this way.”
Embracing subtle tweaks that can save you time isn’t just a matter of productivity. It’s about your quality of life. “I work with professionals every day on how to find fun, fulfillment and financial success in their business and it all comes back to finding more hours in the day,” says Marti McLeish, co-founder of consulting company Nobleco, who recommends calculating your hourly rate as an eye-opening exercise.
“Learn how to delegate. Whether you are new to the professional world or a seasoned vet, I will encourage you to figure out your billable hour. How much you make a year is divided by how many hours you work. And if there is work that you are doing on a daily basis that someone else can do for you in half the time or more, then that work should get outsourced,” she says.
Also, if you mean business, you’ll be equally intentional and disciplined about meetings you don’t need to attend. “Many of us are inundated with not only meeting requests but also opportunities for virtual personal and professional development. While beneficial in most cases, it might not always be necessary,” adds McLeish.
So if your time is better spent elsewhere, feel free to politely decline that event invite in favor of more relevant pursuits.
Slashing time off your workweek is as much about what you don’t do as what you focus on. And avoiding mindless scrolling is a rather quick tweak with big potential payoffs as far as time saved.
“If you want a quick way to get back five hours a week, look no further than your phone. It’s very easy to take a break and start scrolling. If you look at your phone’s activity report, you will get a clear picture of how much time you are actually spending on social sites,” says McLeish.
But it can be easier said than done in our plugged-in, dopamine-fueled world. Her recommendation to combat the urge? Don’t rely on goodwill and use your device’s screen time-limiting tool:
“I have one set from 10 AM to 4 PM daily. This allows me to get my work-related social posts out early in the day, and then it locks me out until 4 PM. Sure, I can override the system at any time, but by the time I go through that hassle, I’m over the urge to scroll!”
Dreading necessary tasks? Trick your brain into completing them. To combat resistance, Julie Rysenga, principal, 3LS Consulting, recommends setting a timer for only five minutes and committing to doing the task you’re avoiding during that time. “Procrastination is a normal human feeling. But it can also be overcome by tricking your brain,” she says.
“Give yourself permission to stop at the end of five minutes. Chances are, you will want to continue once you start.”
Rysenga suggests examining the task you are avoiding. Ask yourself if you can spend 20 minutes on it. If not, ask yourself if you can spend 10 minutes on it. Still horrified? Decrease to only five minutes.
“And if you don’t want to continue, give yourself the permission to stop. And do the exercise again at a later point to get more traction on the task,” she says.
Reflect on your responsibilities
“Understand the purpose of your role and the activities and value-add the role is expected to deliver. Compare that to the activities you’re actually doing and plan how to jettison the tasks and activities your role isn’t expected to do — and identify where those tasks should sit,” says Irial O’Farrell, an executive coach, accredited master in change management, leadership development and performance expert and author of “The Manager’s Dilemma – How to Empower Your Team’s Problem Solving.”
The tricky thing is that oftentimes when we’re promoted, we take tasks up with us into our new role and settle into a comfort zone that’s preventing us from getting to the next level.
So don’t underestimate the power of taking the time to reflect in order to save more time in the long run. Are you focusing your attention on areas that are aligned with the scope of your role?
“Then, you need to be open to learning new skills that perhaps you never had a chance to learn because of the tasks brought up to your new role from your previous comfort zone.”