Having worked for a clinical research organization or in a corporate environment I know it’s easy to fall into the bad habit of working 24/7 because 8 hours simply is not enough to complete the work.
Here are 10 tips on how to work smarter and not harder:
- Take more breaks – The average human only has an attention span of 90 minutes at a time. Because we are human and have not yet mastered cyborg technology, we need to take a break for 15-20 minutes after every 90 minutes. This is known as the Ultradian Rhythm, which are natural body cycles occurring at intervals of less than 24 hours. What we tend to do is, instead of going outside for a few minutes to refresh, or reboot our eyes and minds, we attach ourselves to a caffeine drip (we don’t use cups we prefer it intravenous), and carry on working. This happens mostly from guilt to leave our desks and we think we get more work done that way. What we do not realize is that we are being counterproductive, and make stupid mistakes faster with more energy, due to the coffee. Point being, listen to your body. Have a break, have a kit-kat.
- Offer Solutions, not problems – Your boss hired you for a reason, but maybe not always be due to the relevant qualifications for the job at hand. Maybe they liked your attitude. Some just have more faith in your ability to solve problems and the “WOW” factor that actually landed you the job was the vast amount of common sense you possess, (because common sense is not a flower that grows in everyone’s garden). But when you are faced with a difficult situation, take a moment to think of a few similar scenarios and how you would solve them. Only then approach your boss and present your problem AND your solution for solving it. Chances are they’ll tell you to come back with a solution anyway. By doing this, you show that you are proactively working smarter not harder. Killing two birds with one stone.
Be Resourceful – Never say “I don’t know!” Instead reply with “ You know…I’m not sure but I will get back to you as soon as possible.” And then you make darn sure you do. You have more office resources than you know. Use the internet or your teammates. Someone else may have faced a similar problem or some just might have been born with a World Book of Knowledge strapped to their backs. Compile a list of good internet resources and co-workers’ skill sets for future reference; create your own resource army.
- Try to add value – Upon completing a task, have good look at your work and see how you can improve it, or if there is any way you could have completed the task in lesser time. Just make sure that your shortcuts don’t compromise your work quality and that you are confident in the success of the new process. If you discover a more efficient process, have an information sharing session or a lessons learnt session with your team so everyone can benefit. Also see how you can improve the overall customer experience positively, whether the customer is internal or external.
- Continuous improvement – No explanation needed. There is always room for improvement and technology evolves daily to make life and work conditions easier. Use it.
- Keep communication channels open & honest and ask employee’s input – As a CEO you are the big cheese; but you are also human, have an open door policy and encourage employees to use it. Often employees at the bottom of the corporate ladder feel like they don’t have a voice. Hence their position on the corporate ladder, they are treated like children; to be seen and not to be heard. Sad to say, their direct line managers are usually the reason for their fear of voicing opinions, due to threats and claiming that the director or CEO is a fire-breathing dragon and will incinerate them if they so much as look at him and not go via the correct channels of communication. Inform ALL employees of any new company goals and developments and involve them by asking their input. That will make them feel like they are seen as valuable assets to the company and you get bonus insights into your company processes from employees that actually use these processes.
- It is not WHAT you say, it is HOW you say it – How you speak to employees has a major effect on how productive and motivated they are during their work day. There should be a balance between being straightforward, praising and criticizing someone. If you tend to criticize employees in front of others, yelling like a deranged banshee and using bad language, guess what, they are going to cut back on their efforts, if they don’t quit and sue you for public humiliation first. However, if you are liberal with praise, people tend to double their efforts and respect you as a manager.
- Give credit where credit’s due – If someone works hard but does not get any recognition for their efforts, chances are they will retaliate by merely showing up for work and doing the necessities, but not going the extra mile. Or they quit and look for another job where their efforts are appreciated. However, by acknowledging someone’s contribution and effort to your company’s success, you can motivate an employee and boost their confidence.
- Manage absenteeism proactively – Employees are entitled to annual leave, but you also get unavoidable and sometimes unexpected leave; such as sick leave, study leave, maternity leave and bereavement leave. Seriously, staff can only use the “my Grandmother died” excuse twice. One way to manage this is to plan ahead by offering flexitime and bringing in temporary staff. At a previous place of employment, it was quite easy to plan for extra temporary staff. This was because the employees were predominantly women and more than half were permanently pregnant, thus it was easy to do the math and plan. (We had a sneaky suspicion there was something in the drinking water, it was a pharmaceutical research company after all.)
- New Software, what a treat!!! – An investment in new technology or software might just be the motivation to enable staff to work smarter. Much like a marriage, if the wife is happy, you will be happy. Let’s take a purchase order app such as Procurementexpress.com. Going the tech route can get staff on board fast. Giving them time to do other, more valuable or challenging tasks.