5 ways to take on more work and achieve bigger goals
Like most people, you probably want to be able to cope with more work so that you can achieve even more. But here’s the reality: there are only 24 hours in the day. So, before you think about committing to even more work and greater responsibilities, consider these five pointers.
1. Ruthlessly review all of your existing commitments
Sure, you can work longer hours. But how sustainable would that be in the long-term? Do you really want to be adding another hour or more to your day, every day for years to come?
I work with so many productive, high-achieving managers and entrepreneurs who still manage to get away from work to pursue their hobbies, look after their health, and have a life outside of work. And the trick is to scrutinise everything you do.
Now, the key here is to look with fresh eyes at all of the tasks and projects you have to do. Just because you may have done them a certain way for a long time does not mean that you should continue doing them the same way – if at all.
- What could you automate or make easier using technology?
- Is there anything you could delegate to a more junior colleague so that it becomes a learning experience for them?
- Is there anything you could say “no” to?
- Is the task still essential or at least important for you to do?
Those questions may not seem terribly complex. But things change so quickly in the workplace. So, consider reviewing your priorities fairly frequently – at least several times a year.
2. Stop doing trivial tasks
I work with lots of people who describe themselves as perfectionists. However, perfectionism only pays off when you have plenty of time. When you’re busy, being perfectionistic can be the enemy of productivity. If you are focusing on unimportant details, there’s the danger that you’re not delivering the big projects that make other people really take notice.
For example, I like my presentations to look as elegant as they can. When I need to find online images to use in PowerPoint, I can sometimes spend too long trying to find the perfect image. Nowadays, I recognise that finding a decent image might take only 60 seconds, but the so-called perfect image could take me several times longer – even though clients are unlikely to know the difference.
So, consider: What could you just stop doing because it makes relatively little difference in your work?
3. Signal clearly and repeatedly when you are not available
Many people who end up working long hours allow themselves to be interrupted too often by others. In contrast, people who are good at getting important work done tend to be good at communicating when they should not be interrupted.
The extent to which you can convey your lack of availability is somewhat dependent on your seniority. If you’re starting out in your career, you’ll have to be more polite and respectful when suggesting that others do not interrupt you. As you become more senior, you can make stronger requests for quiet time alone.
But the point is that everybody can to a degree ask for more time to work on difficult or complex tasks. Even if you cannot eliminate all interruptions, merely reducing the number of times you get interrupted may help you to become more productive.
4. Group related tasks together
It can take time to switch mentally from one kind of task to another. For example, if you reply to two emails, make one phone call, write a paragraph in a report, reply to another handful of emails, then enter some formulae into a spreadsheet, that can be pretty inefficient. Instead, one of the best ways to be more productive is to batch process related tasks at the same time.
For example, rather than reading and responding to your emails individually as they come in, try dealing with them in big batches only a handful of times a day. Or, if you need to make phone calls, perhaps do several at once.
I’ve written about the notion of batching before – it’s tip number 1 on that list.
5. Work from home strategically
Now that working from home is much more acceptable, use this to your advantage. Look ahead at your work over the next few weeks and decide on the best days that you will choose to work from home. For example, meetings are often quicker and more productive to run in-person when you can see lots of people in the same physical space together. In contrast, many people find that working from home allows them to do better quality deep thinking – so set aside these days for those tricky thinking tasks that may require longer stretches of uninterrupted time.
So, don’t just agree to attend the physical office on the same days every week. Have a go at working out when it makes the most sense for you to be in the office versus at home.