Want to be productive, efficient at work? Here are some mantras
A new book gives you workplace mantras to keep you productive and efficient, without burning the candle at both ends
For far too long, being busy has been associated with being productive or even successful. Professionals today feel compelled, not just by the demands of their job but also by the implicit need to out-work their competitive cubicle-mates, to work longer and (ostensibly) harder than ever before. This dedication takes a heavy toll on their physical and mental wellbeing, while also inhibiting their personal and social lives.
However, according to Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, authors of It Doesn't Have To Be Crazy At Work (HarperCollins), we're doing it all wrong. The problem, they write, is not that we suddenly have a lot more work to accomplish in a single day. Quite conversely, they point out, people today are working more but getting a lot less done. The good news is that it is possible to be able to work efficiently and go after that raise you've been hankering for — all you need to do is adopt the right mindset. We bring you four key mantras from the book for a more fulfilling professional life.
Focus on output
"Even as parents, we find ourselves focusing more on the number of hours our children are studying for rather than taking the time to analyse their report cards and understand the output their efforts are yielding. At the workplace, this translates into an unhealthy obsession with the number of hours you work, rather than the quantum and quality of work accomplished. This culture has percolated into the workplace as well," explains Rishi Piparaiya, author of Job Be Damned.
Narendra Goidani, founder of Life School, suggests focusing instead on the learning curve your job has to offer. "As the quality of your work improves and the impact you make becomes more pronounced, you will no longer need to resort to office-party tricks to impress your bosses," he says. Fried and Hanssen strongly recommend focusing on being effective instead of productive. "Being productive is about occupying your time — filling your schedule to the brim and getting as much done as you can. Being effective is about finding more of your time unoccupied and open for other things besides work… If you've only got three hours of work to do on a given day, then stop. Don't fill your day with five more just to stay busy or feel productive," they write.
David H Hansson
Big goals, small steps
It used to be that most people would pursue only one career in their lifetimes. Today, the scenario is rapidly changing and many people will see themselves exploring at least five or six careers, says Goidani. "When presented with multiple opportunities to apply yourself, the concept of goal-setting needs to be re-examined. While, in the past, long-term goals could have lasted us a decade, today, the time frame sits somewhere around three years," he says. The problem with conventional long-term planning, explain Fried and Hansson, is that it often instils a false sense of security, as well as a certain rigidity that comes with an inherent reluctance to stick to a set plan, only to see it to its (often unsuccessful) conclusion.
To stay agile and competitive, the authors recommend steering clear of any long-term goals or visions that restrict or inhibit you from exploring new avenues. Goidani adds, "The solution is to have a few big goals that you can approach with small steps. Each step completed is an accomplishment, as well as an opportunity for you to take stock of the progress made. While it is possible to have multiple smaller goals with multiple time frames, all at the same time, cramming yourself with too many big goals will only create stress and anxiety."
Shed your guilt
Guilt is one of the biggest reasons why so many people take on more work than they can realistically accomplish in their workday, says Geeta Ramakrishnan, author of The Game of Change. "Women, especially, feel the need to continually assert their worth and their ability. They are keen to be viewed as capable, and this often makes them unable to accept that they are already saddled with more work than they can realistically accomplish. When we overcommit, we don't have enough time to plan and prioritise. All the work we do is on a first-come-first-served basis. This isn't the most efficient way to function."
Fried and Hansson point out the futility of a self-sacrificing attitude, writing that "you aren't more worthy in defeat or victory because you sacrificed everything. Because you kept pushing through the pain and exhaustion for a bigger carrot... you're not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour in the day." Ramakrishnan is a staunch believer in the power of being able to say 'no' and to stand your ground when you know for certain that your schedule is backed up. "Focus on doing the best job you can with the tasks you have already taken up," she says.
Work isn't everything
"A simple way to get more efficient is to have something to look forward to, at the end of your workday. I urge all professionals to understand that work is only one aspect of their lives — hobbies, passions and the time you spend with your friends and family, all come together to define you, as a human being. I've often found that a lot of people spend far too much time at work, simply because they don't have anything more exciting to look forward to. Here, taking up a sport, committing to a fitness routine or taking up a new hobby will automatically give you the motivation you need to break out of the monotony and find new ways to be more efficient," says Piparaiya.
Fried and Hanssen also advise strongly against taking what they call fakecations, or vacations where you are still available to your employers for the occasional conference call or on email. "Fakecations put employees on a leash — liable to be yanked back and pulled into work at any moment," they write. "Time off isn't much of a benefit if it can be taken right back."
Time to role play
Time and energy are both finite resources. The key to managing them effectively is to make the right choices. My personal mantra for achieving work-life balance hinges on the tenet that any one individual can only play five roles at a given point of time. The five you pick are at the heart of achieving this elusive balance. To illustrate, life roles present themselves in myriad ways — the role of an engaged professional, a doting father, caring partner, connected
friend, responsible daughter to your ageing parents, family's financial planner, caretaker of one's personal health and well-being, supportive sibling, the handy home manager, happy hobbyist, the list goes on.
Choose these carefully and work-life balance follows. At the same time, as a business leader, achieving this balance is sometimes also about doing one thing successfully, such as, choosing the right people for the right team, which a lot of successful leaders do. This is the single biggest enabler to release your personal time and energy, allowing you to truly invest both in what really matters.
Mohit Anand, managing director – India and South Asia, Kellogg Company
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