By Monica Kang
When I feel overwhelmed at work, my gut instinct is to want more time. I think “If only I had more time, I’d have done more.” The reality is we all have the same amount of time and how we intentionally spend that time is how we are able to do more with less.
The dilemma is no matter how much I manage my time, I often find myself with a longer list of things to do. The reason? I set out to do more because of my curiosity and interest. So, like my clients, my challenge becomes not just how to do more with less, but also how to do it in such a way that there’s room to do more fun things I’m interested in doing in the future. If you feel the same way, you are not alone.
Here are a few tips to help you rethink how to do more with less and design your days with both productivity and joy in mind:
1. Design your priority list based on when works best for you.
No matter where we work, most of us have a good understanding of what the rocks and sand types of tasks are on our to-do list. Rocks are the most important ones we must get to. Sand is the nitty-gritty smaller tasks that are still important, but not as high priority.
We often fail at effectively prioritizing and crossing off tasks because we tried to fit what we want or need to do into a process that doesn’t work for us. This is why it’s important to account for when we work best on certain tasks. Are you a morning person? Do you need a lot of input on this task? Do you need isolated deep thinking to get this part done?
I’m a more effective writer if I know I can have uninterrupted time for a few hours. I ideate better when I know everyone can join and reach the same conclusion in one meeting instead of repeating the same information three times. Simply clustering similar tasks at random points of the day will not help you get the most out of it. Yes, it may help you from switching tasks, but you may not benefit from your most optimal thinking.
So, as you look at your list of things you want to do, prioritize and cluster them, but also design them in a way that works best for you. If you need a deep thinking workday, block off your calendar and don’t allow for any meetings to take place. Design your workflow in a way that allows you to deliver the best results.
2. Consider your energy and attention span.
Not all tasks feel the same, yet we often don’t think enough about how our energy and attention feels around each task when we put them on our to-do list. For instance, some tasks could take us long hours, yet make us feel recharged, while some tasks are short but drain us. That same task will make us feel more tired if we lack sleep. Yet, we might also feel encouraged and energized if we feel our colleagues have our back and that we are not alone.
Having a clear understanding of how much certain tasks require of your energy and attention will help you plan a more accurate workflow that aligns with how you feel about the project and how you could deliver it within a given timeline. You’ll feel less stressed doing it as you’ll be more mindful of building in more time to recharge, reflect and recalibrate if something does require more energy and attention. As a result, you can do more with less because you could say no to the tasks that are less important and drain your energy so you could say yes to the tasks that are high priority and higher nourishment too.
3. Plan for how you’ll feel with a longer timeline.
Most of us plan for a shorter timeline and speed. We appreciate when someone responds to us quickly, but what if we focused on accomplishing things with less back and forth? A good example is to think of your recent email exchanges with your colleagues. How could you share upfront all the hyperlinks and instructions and answer any anticipated questions they may have so that instead of having 10 emails back and forth, you address a clear call to action in one email? It may take a few extra minutes to craft that email upfront, but now you’ve saved your inbox and energy from addressing 10 or more emails.
Another way to keep a longer timeline in mind is by putting more thought into delegating and training others on how to do certain tasks. For instance, a marketing task may take you only 15 minutes now, but it may be better for you to train someone else today for a few hours so you free up your energy in the future. Fifteen minutes of one task may feel small, but envision how your day will feel to offload five or even 10 of those tasks you previously had to worry about. You’ll have more time to do deep thinking and less decision fatigue so you can make better decisions for you and your team.
So, as you continue to say no, manage your time and create a better priority list. I recommend being intentional in designing a workflow where you account for how you feel and how many steps it takes to feel the way you want. Not only can we do more with less, but we’ll feel less drained. Wouldn’t that be something to look forward to?
Monica H. Kang is an international entrepreneur, speaker, and author who is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. As the Founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox®, Monica helps clients reconnect with their creativity in order to build teams, leaders, and cultures that are productive, innovative, and unstoppable. She works with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education institutions, government agencies, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). She is also the author of Rethink Creativity: How to Innovate, Inspire, and Thrive at Work. Prior to founding InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert in international affairs. She holds a M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.
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