We’re continuing our discussion around ideas to help you move from being less “busy” to more “productive” in the New Year. And just to recap in case you missed the first three tips: 1) Know your objectives and deliverables, 2) Prioritize your tasks, 3) First things first, jumpstarting your day.
Wondering what to do with the other 80 percent of your tasks? Challenge yourself to see which ones could be done by someone else. When you delegate those things on your list that someone else could do for you, you free up your time to do the high value, important tasks, that only you can do.
There are two primary reasons people don’t delegate more. One is that they believe it would be faster to just do it themselves. While there is an initial time investment made when you teach someone else to complete a task or process, the return is realized each time they do that task (instead of you). The other reason people don’t delegate involves a control issue. Have you ever heard someone say “if I want it done right, I better do it myself”? To relinquish control and feel good about it, take the following steps when you delegate:
1. Consider the skills needed to accomplish the task and find the right person for the job.
2. Be clear with the individual or individuals you are delegating to in regard to the task and your expectations.
3. Give the person an opportunity to ask question or clarify details.
4. Be specific about any deadlines involved and ask for updates on progress.
5. Check in periodically without micromanaging. Make yourself available to answer questions, especially the first time around.
6. Give feedback.
Take a look at your task list and see what “low value” tasks you can eliminate all together. Be thoughtful when you add something new to the list. Ensure that you consider what is already on your list before you say “yes” to new requests for your time or talents. Is the request in line with your priorities? Keep in mind that every time we say “yes” to something, we’re saying “no” to something else. For example, saying “yes” to that additional committee may mean saying “no” to making it home to dinner with your family. Saying “yes” to an additional project may mean saying “no” to something else on your plate. If the new request is coming from your boss and you feel it will overload you, ask him or her to help you prioritize the new task or project in relation to your current or ongoing projects.
Stop Multitasking. It doesn’t work as well as you think it does. Most people believe they can save time by trying to do two or three things at once. Typical multitasking examples include: sending emails while on the phone, listening to a colleague while sorting mail, or making an unrelated list during a meeting. While most people think they are being more productive, growing research shows that multitasking actually makes you less efficient and reduces brainpower to perform each task.
The Journal of Experimental Psychology published a study showing that those who multitask are less effective than those who focus on one project at a time. More and more studies are coming out with evidence that multitasking is problematic. According to CNN.com, heavy multitaskers did worse on attention tests than non-multitaskers and the multitaskers were more easily distracted by irrelevant information.
Some additional effects of multitasking are that it is linked to short term memory loss, it can induce a stress response that when prolonged can damage cells that form new memory, it can change your ability to concentrate or increase gaps in your attentiveness, and it can increase the chance of mistakes.
The primary skill we need to overcome multitasking is the ability to FOCUS. We also need to be able to handle interruptions and eliminate distractions.
Focus on one task at a time. This means doing something, and thinking about what you’re doing at the same time. Periodically during the day ask yourself “what am I doing right now?”. The task that you are working on “right now” should be the only thing that has your attention. Eliminate distraction by silencing your phone, turning off email notifications, putting a “do not disturb” sign on your door, etc.. It is also important to have a clutter-free workspace, to minimize “shiny object distraction” which in turn will allow you to be more productive.
By employing these strategies, the next time someone inquires “how are you?”, you’ll be able to respond “great!”, knowing that you’re busy getting the important things done. Here’s to your productivity!