Work harder, longer, faster or smarter?

2013

How well do you juggle the pressure of a relentless workload? Do you feel you have less and less time to do more and more? Are you expected to deliver better and better results on ever-smaller budgets? Do you start each day with more on your to-do list, more unanswered emails and feeling more puzzled how you will manage it all? Do you strive for perfection when sometimes 85% would have been sufficient? Do you need to read more as your mind drowns in a tsunami of information? Do you feel a need to check our smart phone every few minutes?

For many our typical reaction to the above is to work harder, work longer hours and run faster from one task to another. How much of the pressure is from your clients and customers, how much is from your boss and how much is from you? Do you have clients for whom everything is last minute and at rush? How much has simply become habit?

My fear is that rushing has become the new norm. That rushing becomes habitual and yet when we rush we are less likely to do our best work. Instead we do work which is 'ok'. Our clients make out that the rushed deadline is the most important goal. Yet once the work is delivered the deadline is quickly forgotten and what now becomes critical to the client is the Result. Clients quickly forget the tight deadline they gave us.

Do you want my first ideas or my best ideas?

The other dilemma is that when we rush we are more likely to make mistakes. Mistakes are costly to us in several ways. Firstly to put them right - and at our cost and at even greater speed. Secondly the client, or our boss, is now questioning our ability. Thirdly clients and bosses have an uncanny knack of remembering our mistakes long after we've put them right.

So if you're having trouble juggling and wondering how you can manage your workload, here are some tips to help you take back control.

1. Get better. Be the best at what you do. Don't be average at many things. Be outstanding at one or two things. Specialise.

2. Focus on your priorities first. Have clear goals and avoid being distracted by the minutiae of business. The more senior we are the more vital it is to take time to stop, think and plan. Decide what is urgent and what is important. The danger is the urgent can take precedence over the important. Find time to slow down. Find at least one hour each day, two or three hours each week, a day each month to really think. Slow down to go faster.

3. Get away from your desk to really think creatively. Typically our best ideas come spontaneously when we least expect them. Know when you think innovatively - it may be in the shower, walking, swimming or painting. There is no single right way: you need to find out what works for you.

4. Push back. Be brave and push back on ridiculous deadlines and insufficient budgets. Will you always get more budget or more time - of course not. But you will get more some of the time. Think carefully before you automatically say 'yes' to every demand. Half of your problems are probably caused by you saying yes too easily.

5. Solving problems on your own can be overwhelming and we may be more emotionally caught up in the issue. Find a buddy or two. Chat through problems and ambitions with them. By explaining your challenge to them forces you to clarify your thinking regardless of their response. They will often give you a fresh or different perspective.

6. Do it, delegate it, or dump it. Don't procrastinate. Be decisive.

7. Anticipate what is likely to happen. Consider the various options that are likely and how you will respond. When we are under pressure we often don't think through the implications of our options and decisions. Take control of your future. If you don't then who else will?

8. Systematise. Find ways to be more effective on tasks which are repeated. How can you find systems and methods of working to reduce the time involved and improve the quality. Don't reinvent the wheel.

When we are driving fast on the motorway of business it is easy to find ourselves miss our turn-off, be in the wrong lane or simply not enjoy the journey so much.

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About The Author

Chris Merrington
Chris Merrington

Chris Merrington is the author of Why do smart people make such stupid mistakes?" His company, Spring 80:20 specialises in working with sales teams in their profitable growth and success.