Burnout is a real thing. Taking on too much work, falling behind on deadlines, forgoing down time and constantly pushing yourself to achieve can have a real negative effect on your work and personal life.
The key to success is often finding ways to work smarter, rather than harder. As the frequently-pinned Pinterest graphic reminds us all – “You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé”. In the spirit of exactly that, here are six ways to maximize your productivity at work by working smartly.
Tick off goals
It seems so obvious, but write a list. Honestly, old fashioned as it may be, take a notepad, grab a pen and bullet point what you need to achieve. It doesn’t matter if it’s deadlines, errands or life goals. Whatever you want to achieve, put pen to paper and make yourself answerable to yourself. Not only will it give the feeling of satisfaction and achievement as you strike through or tick off each one, this exercise also allows you to micromanage your days in small, achievable, time-dependent goals.
We all know about the ‘SMART’ scale of goals setting, and by having lots of different tasks set out in a particular timeframe (like those 24 hours both you and Bey share) you achieve so much more as it keeps you on track and ultimately you can look back at your list and feel you’ve accomplished exactly what you wanted to accomplish from the outset. Then, onto the next list and set of goals. If you’re ‘carrying over’ any unfinished goals, make sure these are prioritized first on your next list.
We would all love to split ourselves into five versions of ‘self’, wouldn’t we? Especially for freelancers, start-ups or small-medium production companies where you wear several hats per day, you kind of wish you could have the ‘accountant’, ‘manager’, ‘client director’, ‘sales manager’ versions of yourself all independently working at once, but that’s just not possible.
Stick to one-at-a-time instead of trying to put out fires in every direction. Splitting your attention and time is not a good idea and is just not streamlined and efficient. Give your full attention to one task/commitment at a time, then move onto the next one.
Simply say ‘no’
Sometimes saying ‘no’ is far better than saying ‘yes’ to every offer that arrives at your door. Remember, this is about working smarter, not harder. So if you’re already giving 100% to every opportunity that comes your way, pick and choose the opportunities that will work best for you.
You don’t want to exert all your energy on a project or brief you never really wanted in the first place, and that’s a prime example of wasting your precious energy, time and passion on things you don’t really want to be doing. Having the confidence and the assertion to respectfully decline is a key business skill that everyone should learn.
Manage both your own expectations and your clients’ expectations by setting realistic, achievable deadlines. By spinning 70 plates at once and trying to keep your business afloat, you might find lots of excuses to procrastinate or to push projects to the side, but by keeping to a schedule, you’ll find that tasks almost do themselves. For example, if you need to do payroll, schedule it for a specific time each week. If you want to get a project done in three months, set a date in your calendar and work towards it, having weekly 10 minute catch-up sessions with yourself and/or your colleagues to track progress.
Having deadlines and sticking to them not only motivates you to achieve goals but also forces you to prioritize, thus making your productivity far more streamlined.
Prioritize down time
You are not invincible. Mantra; Tell yourself this as often as you can. You are the best asset to yourself, so don’t drive yourself into the ground by forgoing free time for rest, recovery and just plain ol’ relaxation. The best version of you is the version that’s running on more than five hours sleep, has had a stress-free weekend of fun and is ready, refreshed and rejuvenated for what’s approaching down-the-line.
Don’t be hard on yourself and get it into your head that while you’re off the clock you could be doing/achieving so much more. Do yourself a favour and prioritize down time – because down time is actually an investment in your future productive self. Down time is a mandatory act of self care.
Delegate, where possible
Just like splitting yourself into five or more version of you is physically impossible, it’s not totally out of the realm if you have other colleagues or contacts you can share the workload with. The old adage says: “if you want something done, do it yourself” but sometimes it can be very beneficial to take yourself and personal feelings out of the equation and where help is possible, delegate small tasks to others so you can focus on the bigger fish that need frying.
We can all be guilty of piling too much work on ourselves because we want it “done right” but stop and think if that is actually negatively affecting your enjoyment of your work. Think, in future: “many hands make light work”.
Now: go achieve those goals, one at a time.