While we might all like to talk a big game about being more productive in the New Year, the sad reality is that far too many people say this while staring down a never-ending “to do” list of worthless tasks.
You see, the problem isn’t always productivity. It’s entirely possible to fill your working hours with meaningless or unnecessary tasks that don’t ultimately contribute to your personal or professional goals – just to feel the sense of satisfaction that comes along with staying busy and checking off items on your many task lists.
Instead, what matters is that we’re focusing our time and energy on the tasks that truly have the potential to benefit our lives in some meaningful ways. By getting more done in less time – using the following three-step process – you’ll free up more time and energy to invest into the goals and projects that actually matter to you!
Step #1 – Eliminate redundancies
The first step in freeing up your time and enhancing productivity is to eliminate redundant or unnecessary tasks from your life. As an example, if you open your email messages – only to leave them unanswered and unfiled in your Inbox – you’re engaging in a redundant behavior. After all, nothing has been accomplished as the result of your initial action – you’ll still have to go back in and deal with the message eventually.
Once you get in the habit of identifying these extraneous behaviors, you might be surprised to see how prevalent they are in modern society – and how unnecessary they truly are.
Do you copy items from a physical calendar into your digital device? Eliminate the physical version altogether and look for programs that sync your schedule between computers and mobile phones. Do you ever fill out worksheets or reports at work that provide no new information or serve any real purpose besides keeping you busy? Talk to your boss about a more efficient way to handle these chores.
Be ruthless in your pursuit of eliminating redundancies. When left to their own devices, people love to work for work’s sake – but you absolutely can’t let this behavior go unchecked if you want to get more done in less time.
Step #2 – Ask yourself one important question
After you’ve made your initial pass and weeded out as many redundancies as you can uncover, look at the rest of the tasks that remain assigned to you and ask yourself one simple question: “Is this task necessary or am I doing it to be busy?”
Keep in mind that just because a task isn’t redundant doesn’t mean it’s actually necessary. This is especially common in corporate settings, where entire processes and procedures are kept in place, “because that’s how things have always been done.”
In these instances, though, you may not be able to be as ruthless about eliminating unnecessary work, as your specific responsibilities may be out of your control. While you might be heralded as an innovator for drawing attention to corporate inefficiencies, it’s just as likely that the people who have been blindly following these same procedures will be threatened by your proposed upheaval.
However, if you can’t get rid of unnecessary or unimportant tasks by addressing systemic or structural inefficiencies, you’ve still got one productivity trick up your sleeve…
Step #3 – Delegate or outsource tasks
One final way to get more done in less time is to simply not do it yourself! Outsourcing isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies anymore, and delegation doesn’t require a managerial-level title (often, a well-worded request will be enough to get others to help shoulder your burden).
Consider the following examples to see how these practices could be implemented in your own life:
- If your job involves a tedious amount of data entry, research or other skills that don’t require your personal involvement, consider outsourcing them to remote workers found on sites like Guru and Elance. These workers can often be hired for as little as $1.00/hour – just be careful not to outsource any tasks that involve your company’s confidential information!
- Or, if you’d rather not outsource your professional responsibilities, allow a personal or virtual assistant take some of the burden out of your home life. When given the right permissions, these remote workers can handle everything from scheduling doctor’s appointments to coordinating your bill payments to creating meal plans and corresponding grocery lists – saving you time that can be better spent elsewhere.
- You can also look to others in your life to provide the same type of support. Parts of projects can be passed on to coworkers using persuasive language and careful flattery of their individual skill sets, while household responsibilities can be shared amongst all members of the family.
Too often, it’s tempting to think that we’re the only ones who can handle our responsibilities, when the reality is that we hold on to more than we need to in order to feel more important. It might take some “outside of the box” thinking to determine how exactly to eliminate unnecessary tasks and share those that can be completed by somebody else, but the end result of getting more done in less time is entirely worth it!