A good friend says he starts his list of New Year’s resolutions with one word written across the top of a legal pad. The word is “effective,” which is a good choice because it implies results. Results normally require action on our part – and usually not the same things, done the same ways. We need to do things differently and better before we can improve relationships, be more efficient and increase the value we bring to our businesses.
If you hope to be more effective in 2019, here are 10 suggestions.
1. Track your time. Even the busiest and most efficient people waste parts of their day’s most precious resource. The time-stealing culprits are numerous and easily mistaken: idle chit-chat, social media, meetings. Like a sensible diet, each has its place, but moderation is the key. Keep a log for a week to know where every minute was spent. Evaluate how much was spent effectively, in pursuit of goals and objectives. Then repeat the task the next week, keeping in mind the previous week’s wasted time, and compare results. You might be astonished.
2. Measure accomplishments, not effort. It was the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle who wrote, “We live in deeds, not years.” It’s worth knowing how long it took you or your staff to accomplish a task or project, but it’s the outcome that is the ultimate measure of our work. Did that 12-hour day you just put in move the needle on a strategic objective? If not, where could your time have been better spent?
3. Stop multi-tasking. People like to brag about juggling multiple tasks and priorities. But time and efficiency experts agree that often these same people are deluding themselves, actually doing twice as much work half as effectively. Focus on one task, complete it and move to your next priority. Effective multi-tasking is called delegating.
4. Get started. If 80 percent of success is showing up (Woody Allen is supposed to have said that), getting started must account for at least another 10 or 15 percent. Knowing where to begin starts with knowing where you want to finish. So, start with one of your goals and work back. Develop a routine that gets you going each day. Whatever works, do it consistently.
5. Dress to impress. Unfair though it may be, people begin forming opinions of others before their first word is spoken. They do it based on an untucked shirttail, an ill-fitting sport coat and the shine on a person’s shoes. Don’t let any of those things negatively influence an opinion.
6. Write simply, clearly and factually. Most everyone is called on to report on programs and results. Maybe you’re making a pitch for a budget increase in your area. All of those things start with putting your thoughts on paper. What and how one writes greatly influences how people respond. Organize your thoughts, express them in short sentences composed of carefully chosen words, without misspellings and typos, and then edit carefully. Before hitting “send” or sealing the envelope, read what you’ve written out loud to yourself or a colleague. If the logic seems jumbled or the words don’t flow easily, take the time to fix it.
7. Read and then read some more. President Harry Truman noted, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” For many of us, reading to keep up with trends and developments in our field is the last thing we seem to have time to do. If that’s the case, schedule reading time just as you would time for any other task.
8. Improve your workspace. Your workspace is a reflection of your state of mind and organizational abilities. Are golf clubs, coffee cups and boxes scattered about? Or is it purposely organized to help you to focus on your most immediate responsibilities and tasks? Simplify your work-setting by eliminating the clutter and you’ll find it easier to focus on priorities.
9. Establish your own wind-down routine. Be deliberate in finishing your work, just as you were in starting it. Make your priority list for tomorrow as a part of winding down and then leave, knowing there will always be more work to be done and that there’s always tomorrow.
10. Dream big. How else are you going to be really effective?