We spend 40 percent of our work week on things that add no value to the business. That’s a lot of time!!!
We’ve all been there. Emails and phone calls get answered, but our “real” work gets pushed further and further down the to-do list, and our stress level increases and increases.
There are ways to get that 40 percent of your time back, you can read more in this article about that, but sometimes, there is nothing we can do to add time to our day. The key to effective execution is managing the time we do have, however long or short that time may be. It is in the details of everyday work, and making sure we follow through on our actions, big and small.
In this article, we look at 5 tips from business strategists, leadership consultants with the Harvard Business Review, a professor of business and an author and working mom, who say that you don’t have to add hours to your work day to get more accomplished.
1. Do your least favorite tasks first
I love this suggestion from CEO, author and mom Jenn Bebb. She suggests getting on with the “bad things first.” When we put off our most dreaded work, the procrastination can be a dead weight and slow down our productivity and flow. If we leave those tasks for last, we end up spending half of our time thinking about doing them and form less effective work habits.
It is hard to wake up and do your least favorite work item first, but if you get it out of the way it frees up space to tackle other things on your list with a clear head.
2. Be clear and have a method
Harvard Business Review contributors and leadership consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman have spent their careers researching this very topic. In their thorough review of tens of thousands of 360-degree performance reviews, they gleaned the best behaviors that improved execution and this was one of them. They suggest that a major hurdle to getting things done is underestimating the planning phase and that people tend to jump into projects and start doing things without setting up the proper infrastructure first.
Having the discipline to organize people and resources, delegate responsibility in a clear manner, so everyone knows what they are doing and how it matters in the overall company strategy and giving the team a sense of connection greatly improves the ability to get things done. If you are quick to action without planning, you may want to look out how you are organizing and delegating work and your method for communicating the goal. Once you refine your systems and processes, you can repeat them for success.
3. Find a guide or example
It can be Oprah, it can be Richard Simmons, it can be Bob, the guy who is on point with the office water delivery. Find someone who embodies the ability to get stuff done and think of them as inspiration or emulate them. Even the highly successful surely fumbled in their early days with time management, but once they, and you, learn to harness the planning and implementation process, it becomes a quantum supercomputer of productivity.
You may even want to put a little picture of this person or something to remind you to breathe, chuckle and get to it!
4. Set deadlines and challenge yourself or your team
Zenger and Folkman say that giving every task a deadline is important in setting the tone for execution success. It makes the team feel a sense of mission and teams that are challenged are more engaged and feel more fulfilled when they are supported by a manager. Ask teams, “What would it take to get this done two weeks earlier?” Adding immediacy to the equation can help you or your team rally and rise to the occasion.
Go a step further and allow your team in on the process. Teams who feel like they have a say and voice in setting goals and deadlines are more committed and autonomous — Responsibility = Action.
5. Shower yourself or your team in praise of execution
Business Strategist John Spence highlights the importance of positive re-enforcement. He suggests showering people in praise and rewards when they deliver as this demonstrates to the rest of the team or organization what behaviors are desired. Zenger and Folkman echo this and say all feedback especially positive feedback is crucial for motivation, and often far more effective than deadlines and goals. Workers are 30 times more likely to be engaged at work when managers focus on their strengths.
This goes for you too. If you want to be more effective at execution reward yourself when you do well. Whether it’s a break, a night out or a new purchase, gift yourself something nice to reinforce your own good behavior. Go ahead, you deserve it!
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