Are you working smart?
Nope, nothing to do with TVs, meters, thermostats, fridges, doorbells, cars, objectives nor chocolates (oh, hang on, those are smarties!!)
As the world gets ever more complex, so does our work. For many of us work is like packing a suitcase for a holiday - no matter how big the bag, you always fill it - it's far too easy to work never-ending hours.
So, what I want to address in this blog is a collection of tips curated from a plethora of colleagues, over the course of our careers, on how to work a little bit smarter so as to be more effective at work - that way you can take the smallest bag possible on all future trips.
Without further ado, here are our Top 10:
1) Be clear on the objective of every activity you do - if you can't articulate this and how it links to your wider goals, projects or relationship building then think again about whether you need to do it. Alternatively see whether you can restructure what it is so that it does what you need it to do. Hand in hand with this is the old chestnut: Saying no to people more often!
2) Stand on the shoulders of giants - very rarely are you ever the first person to do what you're about to do or the first person to have the problem that you have; therefore look for a template that you can adapt, a presentation that you can leverage, a colleague who has prior information or even just google for a solution.
3) Look for multiple wins from the same effort - look to find at least two uses for everything that you do; maybe you've just written a report for a client, can you now turn this into a thought leadership piece? Maybe you've given a lunchtime talk to some colleagues, can you film this for your website? Maybe you're making a cup of tea, can you use this to catch up with an old colleague?
4) Good is good enough - often we're our own worst enemy, over-gilding our work for very little additional benefit. Follow the 80:20 rule (80% of value comes from ( 20% of effort) and reclaim your time (you don't need to finesse that slide one more time).
5) Ask for help more often - if only we weren't so stubborn some of the time. Trust me, people just love to help so ask others when you get stuck rather than keep on banging your head against a wall. Help doesn't just come from more senior folk, your team and your reports can help, often even just by delegating them some work. This tip goes hand-in-hand with the next tip...
6) Never stop networking - dollar for dollar, pound for pound, the return on this is unparalleled. Most people think networking is a dull affair meeting new people at conferences but we're talking about networking within your own business. Do you really know who everyone is, what they do, what interesting projects they are involved in? If not, how can you know who to ask for help. Take the opportunity to chat to people in lifts, introduce yourself at the coffee shop or even say hi when you sit next to someone new (just say it's the company policy if you're shy).
7) Keep your comms simple - assume that busy people only read the first 2 lines of anything. Therefore are your email titles and openings very clear on what you are asking? Can they understand a presentation just from the headers? Do you need the superfluous words that you put into your communications, really only to make yourself sound smart? [See what I did there??]. You'll realise how much better it is when you start doing this and others will follow your lead saving you time. Best of all just pick up the phone rather than email or text and you'll have the best comms by far...
8) Improve your meetings - Whilst we're talking about keeping things simple, let's talk meetings. Do you even need them? So many are just there because they are there. If you need them, do they need to be an hour? Have you heard of a 12 minute meeting or a meeting where everyone has to hold a plank (not some wood but the gym exercise of holding yourself up on your hands and feet to get a firm core)? Adopting different meeting styles may shake up the endless waffling, as will actually having a clear agenda and good facilitation.
9) Swim against the tide - If you look at the things you do everyday like commuting or going for lunch, you probably lose a lot of time because everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. If perhaps you can mix it up, say head into the office for 10am having done your emails at home first, then you'll be surprised at the time you gain. Who doesn't like a 2pm lunch?
10) Minimise procrastination - woah, easier said than done [I'm guilty of this one]! Follow the mantra "If you have time to think it, you have time to do it!"
11) A little self-PR never hurt - ok, so we're breaking the top 10 list and this isn't strictly a tip on reducing workloads but it is about working smartly so we'll include it. Ultimately, no-one knows about your achievements and your career like you do so it's good to share what you've been up to and how it's been going. Get good at updating and telling your 'elevator story' so that more and more people know a bit more about you and the great things you do.
Hopefully there are some nuggets in the above list, but if not then at least you now know what a plank meeting is. Would be great to hear any tips you have for working smarter too. Happy Smart Working one and all!