Many of us like to think of ourselves are multi-tasking experts. But in reality, multi-tasking is an euphemism for “interruption” and “distractions”. You feel busy and much in demand. But at the end of the day we feel exhausted with not much to show for the churn.
Below are some simple tips to increase your effectiveness at the office.
1) Take ownership of your time.
Just because the phone is ringing, someone is instant-messaging, email is streaming in or someone is knocking at your door — doesn’t mean that item is urgent or important to you. It just means that it is happening now. Take ownership of your time. Block time in your calendar or schedule to do work. Turn on the do-not-disturb features on your phone, email and instant-message. Close the door to your office. Publish your schedule for reading and reviewing emails during the day. Don’t attend meetings unless you fully understand the agenda, the expected outcome and if the topic lines up with your overall goals.
2) Have your to-do list be an open book.
Continually review your project lists and priorities with anyone interrupting you. This allows you to better prioritize if the interruption is worth your attention or should be rescheduled for a later time. Most people (especially bosses) are only fully aware of their to-do list. They forget what other things you have on your plate. By communicating your tasks, their priorities and who are waiting on those items — you can better collaborate the best solution for everyone.
3) Continually evaluate what you are doing as it relates to the overall Big Picture.
We incorporate lots of ‘busy work’ in our day that has no beneficial results. Constantly review what you are doing against how it relates to the Big Picture. Focus on the essence or ‘the reason you are doing this’ — versus the task itself. The task will mutate in the course of time. Because the task mutates (or surrounding circumstances changes) completing the task may not actually accomplish the ‘reason you were doing it’.
4) Be an effective communicator and listener.
Seek to understand the requirements, the needs/priorities of the stakeholders, the various parts of the assignment, when team members need which part, what the stakeholders will get out of it, and the overall reason for doing this ‘thing’. Once you fully understand the task at hand, you can determine which pieces fit in your skillset and your goals. Then you can either delegate the other stuff, safely delete some stuff, delay or properly schedule other steps for another time, or diminsh the scope.
5) Log and track your time to improve your estimation skills.
Most of our schedule problems stem from under-estimating (trying to place 10 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound bag). The best way to improve your estimation skills is to practice, and log your actual time. When you estimate, write your estimate down and set your timer to match your estimate. Do the item until the timer goes off and experience/feel how much you actually did in that amount of time. Experience how long that amount of time actually is. Interpolate how long the rest of the task will take and set your timer (repeat until task is completed). Log the actual time. The next time you estimate a job, find something in your list that is similar and use the “actual time” to interpolate your estimate on your new job.
Taking ownership of ones’ time is critical. Often time we blame others for interrupting us, imposing new ‘emergency’ projects on us, calling us into meetings that have nothing to do with us, etc. The mentality that other people are wasting our time is a faulty premise. We have full control of what we choose to do with our time. Once you become deliberate and mindful of your value and your time, you will have more freedom to accomplish the things you really want to accomplish.
What can an employee gain by implementing these tips? Freedom and empowerment. Even in the corporate environment, you are the CEO of your life.