Last month, I wrote about ways to simplify your life. This month, I thought I would take on the work place. So many things can complicate our experience at work. Obviously, the amount of simplifying you can do (and what you will do) changes based on your role (boss, worker bee, lone ranger), but I think there are some basic principles that can help us all to simplify our work lives.
- Understand the big goals. We are best able to simplify our work when we know where we are headed. It can be easy to get derailed by things that seem efficient or helpful, but that don’t serve the larger purpose. Some goals to make sure you know: 1) What is the overarching mission statement of the company? 2) What are your long term career goals? 3) What is your vision for the future? Make sure you know where you are headed, so you can evaluate whether the task you are about to complete heads you in the right direction.
- Identify the big complications. What things derail you from the path toward your big goals? Whether you do a time study to analyze this question with gobs of data or you just look back and think about what you did last week, you must find out what is getting in your way. What keeps you from consistently serving your larger vision or big goals? Some common complications: 1) busy work (double and triple entering data, inadequate delegation or clarity on tasks, social media breaks, email constantly popping up) 2) Doing too much ineffectively (multitasking) 3) poor communication leading to confusion 4) feeling exhausted and just not wanting to do anything. The list can go on. Figure out what is getting in your way, so you can do something about it.
- Fix them. Identifying the big complications gets you only so far. Once you have identified what isn’t working, it is time to fix it or, at the very least, figure out how to get around it. Look for ways to improve efficiency and communication within your team. Set up structure that supports taking breaks, to get higher quality work in less time. Oftentimes, identifying the problem automatically sets itself up for a solution. (e.g., I don’t get anything accomplished and lose a ton of time when I jump onto Facebook, so I will stop looking at social media sites during work hours.) However, when you are unable to see a clear answer, it may help to ask people outside of the situation for solutions or feedback. If you are in it, it can be hard to see it.
- Prioritize. When you have lots of big dreams, it can be overwhelming to pursue them all. Identify what the most important thing is now and do that. Sometimes priorities can be based on deadlines or dates when opportunities can arise. Sometimes priorities can be based on values and what is most important to the big picture. There is no right answer with how you prioritize. You will balance deadlines, values, and long term gains to make the best choices for what to do now.
- Single task whenever possible. Now, I am in love with multitasking. I feel like I can accomplish twenty things at once. This is all a lie, of course, but it feels like I’m getting much more done quickly. Fight this urge. With so much information coming at us all the time, it can be easy to be distracted or feel like you are accomplishing more than you are. When you try to pay attention to two things at once, you are really just switching back and forth. This means that you are really moving more slowly to carry both of the things along. It can take some time to get used to a singular focus, but it can help you to get more accomplished, have a higher quality end product, and to get more enjoyment of it. Just imagine watching television and eating dinner. If you truly pay attention to your food, you will miss numerous plot points. More likely, you will ignore your food and wolf down your dinner without paying attention to it – losing the opportunity to savor the flavors, to make choices about portion size, or to stay present in the current moment (time flies by and you have no idea what you did or even what you ate). Doing one thing at a time is critical for getting high quality work accomplished efficiently.
- Know what is enough. There are a million things you could do each day. How do you know when it is enough? If you have prioritized top tasks that support the big picture and have done them in a single-minded, efficient way to achieve high quality work, it is enough. It may be more than enough, depending on what you are expecting of yourself, but it is, at the very least, enough. How do you determine what is enough? Provide yourself with reasonable expectations and give yourself a reachable point at which you can say, I have done enough for today (this week, this month, etc.). Don’t keep going once you are done. Now that seems obvious, but too many times people will keep going, making busy work or starting on the next task when they are out of gas. Stop when you need rest or you have accomplished enough for the day.
So many things can bog us down and make our work feel complicated. If we take the time to simplify our work, we will accomplish so much more (and feel so much better).
If you would like help with simplifying your work, please don’t hesitate to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 424-241-3205.