What I’m seeing more and more in workplaces is the belief that as a member of staff, you work the hours stated in your contract. If you work from 8.30am to 5pm then you fit everything you can into that timeframe. If something doesn’t get done, then the response is – ‘it’s not my problem’. Accountability seems to have disappeared and we are left with a workplace that doesn’t function at its best or move at a pace that would drive momentum, motivation and results.
Is it still ok after the Global Financial Crisis to have this point of view? At a time where redundancies are a regular occurrence, and efficiencies on cost and processes are being investigated, I have been surprised that people aren’t working harder and ensuring they are indispensable. I’m surprised the mindset of working until the job is done, which was the workplace I knew right up to 2009, no longer seems to exist.
Regardless of my point of view, Generation Y seem to be the drivers of this new approach. So to combat their frame of mind and make sure everything still gets done, I want to talk about the benefits to all involved of working smarter instead of harder.
Generation X can also benefit, as they seem to be the ones working all the time. Now that technology allows us to be constantly receiving information, we can be working during our daily commute, from home and during the night!
The Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule was created by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist in the late 1700’s. He surmised that roughly 80% of all effects come from 20% of the causes. Although his first example was around the unequal distribution of wealth in Italy (noting that 20% of the population held 80% of the wealth) it is a concept that has been introduced to business, particular now the fast paced businesses we work in.
There are certain activities you do that account for the majority of your results. Pareto’s principle is put in place to remind you to focus 80% of your time and energy on the 20% of your work that is really important. It states that only 20% of the work you do benefits the business, your role and your career development. Once you know this you can spend time working smart on the right things. It states that when time is spent on the unimportant things, the outcome is still the same. Some companies, for an example, have “paralysis by analysis” where decisions are delayed by analysing and researching and coming to the decision on something that would have had the same outcome if decided immediately. Have you noticed the people who are more productive (and also more successful) are the people who make a decision and run with it?
So how do I work less and accomplish more, therefore working smarter not harder?
As Executive Assistants we are multi-taskers by nature. I am suggesting you do multiple tasks during the day, but you ensure that you do one thing at a time. Completely against women’s nature!
Eliminate the Non-Essentials: Ask yourself, what would happen if this didn’t get done? Do this for a week with every process, and you may have developed a whole new system or role that means you are more effective, and have more time to develop or spend on the more important tasks within your role.
Focus: Dedicate time in your calendar to focus on a task and stick to it. Omit distractions while you are focusing on this one thing.
Streamline the Way you Work: look into utilising your calendar to make you more time efficient. You can read more on this on my blog posts, Time Management and Learning to Prioritise.
Complete the work: When you dedicate the time to do something do it. Don’t multi-task.
Cut Out the Distractions: Some employees take up 80% of your time and aren’t contributing to the bottom line. Minimise the interaction, especially while you are focused and completing the work.
Learn to Say No: to anything that isn’t going to help you get your work done, or maximise your career development. You can read more of this on my blog post, Quote of the Week – October 15.
Be a Perfectionist where it counts: Make speedy decisions to move forward and be more productive. Spend time ensuring your work is perfect, but the research doesn’t necessarily have to be.
An example of this for Executive Assistant’s, is being aware and constantly wired to improving processes and making them more efficient. With an open mind, especially in regard to my Manager’s calendar, I can work out the tasks that take up a lot of time, and look at ways to improve them. Deciding to improve them immediately on an idea that pops into my head one day, may not work, but it’s been tried and the next idea can be investigated. If it works, I haven’t spent weeks thinking about it, researching the cause and affects, and losing productivity all whilst my Manager see’s no improvement.
What do you spend most of your time and energy on?
What do you think could be eliminated so you work smarter?
How would you then choose to spend your day?