Time is money and so we strive for efficiency: we want to do the best job to accomplish success with the least amount of time and effort. The key to being efficient is knowing what you want to achieve. Can you visualise the end goal? This will help to keep focused and stay motivated. What are the steps you need to take to reach your goal? What is essential; What are the nice-to-haves? What contacts and resources do you already have available to you and who else do you need to bring on-board to help?
Question: Do you regularly review what you do (your processes), to consider if it is the best way to work? Challenge the norm – don’t just do it because that’s the way it’s always been done. We should try to work smarter and look for improvements through trial and error.
A good way to check what we should spend our time on is to use Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle. This helps to identify priority activities by categorising tasks as
a) Important and urgent,
b) Important but not urgent,
c) Not important but urgent or
d) Not important and not urgent. Items that are neither Important or urgent can be ignored, at least for now.
Tips and tools you can use to improve efficiency
1. Stay on top of your inbox. Can you be strict enough with yourself to live by these 3 rules: 1. Deal with it, 2. File it for reference, 3. Bin it - it's not relevant!
This is a tough one as inboxes eternally fill, but taking action as you open each e-mail will save on duplication of effort and the sense of achievement always makes me feel so much more positive.
2. Don’t multi-task. We are all more effective when we focus on just one thing at a time. If I get distracted I lose my train of thought and often will have to refresh myself on where I got to. Doing more than one thing at once can actually be less effective.
It can be a good idea to block out time in your day for activities, for example 20 minutes every morning and afternoon to check social media accounts. You may even decide to allocate time for e-mails and switch it off outside of those slots to minimise the distraction of the ‘You’ve got mail’ notification.
Planning your activities for the next week or just for tomorrow will help to ensure the important things get done. Studies have shown most people to be more productive in the morning so start with the biggies and power your way through the list. Apps such as Trello or Asana are free and can be used for staying on-top of to-do lists. Remember though, lovely as they are, don’t spend all your time making lists, be sure to tick off some of the tasks as well!
3. Be prepared. Make a note of things you have been asked before and create a FAQs page for your website. Then you can direct people to the answers and save repeating yourself. You could produce an enquiries pack to send out to clients, giving all the information they need to know before they have to ask. Also, for e-mails that you send often, creating a template will save having to type the same thing over and over again and it’ll give a standard message with the added bonus of not accidentally leaving out something importaint.
4. Make a plan. A plan with deadlines means you won’t miss the essentials. It doesn’t have to be over-complicated, a spreadsheet or even just a simple list will do, but something to keep you on track with key dates such as insurance renewal and TAX submissions.
For a project like organising an event, think about everything that needs to be done and the latest dates for each activity, then aim to complete early in case something happens to cause a delay. Note any dependencies, especially where you are relying on someone else and build in time to follow-up. A buffer will mean you can take your time to do it right, it’ll take longer if you have to go back to correct mistakes.
5. Delegate. Get help with the work, or with home, to free up time for work. Outsource to someone who can do what you can’t do, don’t have time to do, or just don’t want to do.
Work smarter – prioritise and plan
Work less – stop or outsource
Work more efficiently – do it once do it right
And don’t forget to take time to reflect on your achievements, just the motivation you’ll need to tackle tomorrow!
Dee at 3D-VA Virtual Assistant www.3d-va.com