We all know the saying ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’ (or words to that effect). But in today’s harsh economic climate, is this still true? If we always do what we’ve always done, the chances are that we won’t get what we’ve always got, we’ll get less! Why? Because our competitors are trying harder. The goalposts have moved and if we don’t do things differently, we’ll actually be moving backwards, relative to others.
The reward for the same effort will be smaller. Make sense?
So what to do? The obvious answer is to work harder at what we do. The less obvious answer is to work smarter at what we do. Here are five ways to work smarter:
1. Set yourself ONE goal.
Yes, you want to have several goals, and that’s fine, but set one primary goal. A goal that you really MUST achieve. This can be a long term goal, a medium term goal or a short term goal. If it’s a substantial goal, break it down into smaller goals, with timelines, so that you can see how you are progressing towards your primary goal. Have other goals by all means, but don’t lose sight of the primary goal.
2. Get organised.
We all know this, but how organised are you? How many of the tasks that you do are duplicated? How often do you mislay documents (printed or electronic?) and spend too much time looking for them – or worse still, rewriting them?
Organise your filing systems, especially your electronic files. Give each of your electronic files a sensible name and the date that you saved it. Don’t call it ‘Jane’s file’, call it ‘Jane’s workplan – 12/2/2011’ That way, you’ve got a fighting chance of finding it again. If you share files with other people, a sensible filename will save you both time.
Clear your desk and work with the papers that you need at that time. Don’t surround yourself with papers and post it notes that will distract you from the task in hand.
What tasks can you delegate to others? Do you have a virtual assistant? Concentrate on doing the things that you’re good at and delegate other specialist tasks to others who can do them quicker, more efficiently and more effectively. Can’t afford to do that? What about trading work – you help me and I’ll help you. This doesn’t work in all situations but you’ll be surprised how often it can work – ask the question!
4. Plan your work.
This is something else that we all know we should be doing but how many of us really plan our days, our weeks and our months? How many objectives do we set ourselves? Don’t go overboard and plan everything down to the finest detail (especially your leisure time) but do give yourself a chance by thinking about what you need to do and writing a plan, however brief. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know when you get there.
5. Do one thing at a time.
This follows on from point 2 above. It’s very easy to get distracted – Facebook and Twitter can eat time if you let them (and you do, don’t you?!)
If you have a portfolio career, or you work on several projects simultaneously, it is very easy to get distracted. The phone may ring and someone needs to ask you a question about a project which you’re not working on at the time. Answer the question, then get back to the project which you were working on without meandering off and wondering why the person asked you the question.
Do the IMPORTANT tasks before the easy ones (and the ones you like doing). Don’t put things off! So don’t always do what you’ve always done – do something smarter!