Do you ever have one of those days where nothing seems to go right? You oversleep…lose your car keys…forget to put the trash out…leave your cell phone at home? Whatever it was, we’ve all had those days that we felt would have been better spent if we never crawled out of bed. A couple of years ago, I was having one of those days. All of the above situations had happened to me on this one bitter cold morning and I was finally en route to my office. Already being rushed and not having time for breakfast, I had grabbed a banana on my way out the door to eat while I drove “strategically” to work. I was driving a four-door car at that time, zipping down the road, eating the banana while listening to Charlie Daniels belt out “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” over the radio and frantically thinking about what I needed to do as soon as I arrived at my office – since I was already late. After I finished eating the banana, I didn’t want to leave the peeling in the car so I decided to throw it out the passenger side window. I pushed the electric window button so the window would go down, I felt the cold gust of air enter my car and I slung that peeling right out the window…or at least I thought I did. Looking over at that banana peeling smeared all over my passenger side window, I quickly realized that I had mistakenly rolled down the backseat window instead of the front seat window…and now had an additional clean-up chore to do before I could go into work.
Isn’t that just like our workplace sometimes? You’re in the midst of so many distractions that it seems impossible to focus on the work at hand and sometimes our good intentions go awry. You’re trying to listen to your voicemails and a co-worker is standing in front of you talking about last night’s venture out on the town. Or your office phone is ringing while you’re typing an e-mail and talking on your cell phone at the same time. Then at the end of the day, we are dumbfounded on why we didn’t get more accomplished that day…and more often than not, the quality of what we did get finished was probably ‘lacking’ somewhat.
Marking your spot with an ‘X‘…means we must know how to be efficient in using our time and energy. If it’s worth doing at all, then it should be worth giving it our very best; otherwise, take it off your list. So, here are a few simple suggestions to help you do just that:
- Manage Your Time – One rule of thumb I use is…”it will always take longer than I think it will.” That quick stop at the post office turns into a 30 minute wait in line; the staff meeting that usually lasts 20 minutes, last 40 minutes today; and I am sure you have plenty of other examples. If you include some extra time in your daily activities to allow for the unexpected, then you have a greater chance of not getting off track. Simple gets the job done. One fallacy most of us have is believing that the rest of the world revolves around our schedule. Plan your time to be more efficient and manage it accordingly.
- Control Interruptions – Most of the interruptions we experience during the day are probably what I call “self-interruptions.” That’s when you are focused on a particular task at work, then something in your mind triggers and reminds you of something that a co-worker needs, another upcoming deadline on a different project or some personal errand that you need to do. When you have those thoughts, just jot them down on a list and come back to them later after you finish the task at hand. Being able to multi-task is a characteristic we all must have in today’s world…but without proper control, it can quickly become multiple chaos and lead to inefficiency.
- Strive for Perfection – Let me say here: we can’t be perfect in everything we do, but…that shouldn’t keep us from setting perfection as an objective each and every day. I once had a manager during a job interview tell me that she expected every person she hired to be perfect in carrying out his or her job responsibilities. Later, I discovered the idea of her statement was to always try to aim for perfection in writing an email, leading a workgroup, answering the phone, etc. Some employers are even taking time to provide necessary training to create the perfect employee; so start moving toward perfection today.
Don’t let those unnecessary distractions cause you to lose focus on what needs to be accomplished…or you just might find yourself with the wrong window rolled down…and that has the potential of causing a BIG mess!! Do you have some ideas or examples of what makes you efficient at work? Share them by leaving a comment so we can all learn together.