10 Ways to Permanently Streamline Your Workday
Hand Over a Whole Group of DecisionsEliminate One Willpower DrainEliminate One "Permission"Eliminate One Sign-offFire Your Worst CustomerHeavily Prune Your To-do ListEliminate One ExpenseDrop One Personal "Commitment"Make Lunch a No-BrainerCreate a Window of Reflection
More success tends to create more of everything else – more meetings, more projects, more decisions, more items on your to-do list. But often doing more can mean achieving less. That's why subtraction can be the best addition, especially when you streamline your workday and, in the process, your professional life. Instead of doing a total professional makeover, the easiest way is to start small. So try a few of these. Jeff Haden
Instead of making serial decisions, try making just one: Decide who will decide.
Say you regularly have to decide whether to expedite shipping due to work-in-progress delays. Pick someone in the organization that will make those decisions. Provide guidance, parameters, and advice, and turn that person loose. Then check in periodically to see if they need more direction. Then you can spend time figuring out how to eliminate delays instead of dealing with the repercussions. Teach, train, guide, verify… and give your employees the authority and responsibility they’ve earned.
We all have a finite supply of willpower. Resisting temptation creates stress and eventually exhaustion. And then we give in. Say you keep a candy for customers at the front desk. Resisting the sugar siren calls tires you out and makes you more susceptible to the candy's charms (or to something else you’re trying to withstand.) Just get rid of the candy and you don't have to use any willpower. Pick something you have to actively resist -- food, wasting time, web browsing, checking social media accounts -- and eliminate the temptation. Discipline depletes and exhausts. Stay fresh by totally removing the need for discipline.
Your actions "train" people to treat you in certain ways. Drop what you're doing every time someone calls and people will always expect immediate attention. Return emails immediately and people will expect an immediate response.
A friend created an "emergency" email account; he responds to those messages immediately. Otherwise his employees know he only checks his "standard" email a couple times a day… and they act accordingly. Figure out how you work best and “train" the people around you to let you be as productive as you possibly can.
I worked at a manufacturing plant where supervisors had to sign off on quality before a job could be run. Seemed strange to me -- we trusted the operators to ensure jobs met standards throughout the run, so why couldn't we trust them to know if a job met quality standards before they started running? You probably have at least one sign-off in place because somewhere along the way an employee made a major error and you don't want the same mistake to happen again. But in the process you reduce the amount of responsibility your employees feel for their own work because you've inserted your authority into the process. Train, explain, trust -- and then remove yourself from processes where you don't belong.
You know the one: The high maintenance, low revenue, non-existent profits customer. Start charging more. Or start providing less. If neither is possible, fire that customer.
A to-do list with 20 or 30 items is not only daunting, it's depressing. So you don't start. And definitely don’t finish.
Try this instead. Create a wish list -- include all the ideas, projects, and tasks you can think of. Make it your "would like to-do" list. Then pick three or four items that make the most difference. Pick the easiest tasks to accomplish, or the ones with the biggest payoff, or the ones that will eliminate the most pain. Make that your to-do list. And then get it done.
Right now you spend money on something you don't use, don't need, or don't want. But since you buy it... you feel you have to use it. I subscribed to a number of magazines… but then I have to read them since if I don't sit there and make me feel guilty. So I dropped three or four. I don't miss them. Pick one expense you can eliminate that will also free up time and effort. Often the biggest savings in cutting an expense isn't the actual cost; it's the time involved in doing or maintaining or consuming whatever the expense represents.
We all do things simply because we feel we should. Maybe you volunteer even though you feel no real connection to the cause. Maybe you have regular lunches with old friends but it feels more like a chore than a treat. Think about one thing you do out of habit, or because you think you're supposed to… and then stop doing it. The momentary pain -- or in some cases, confrontation -- of stepping down, dropping out, or letting go will soon be replaced by a huge sense relief. Then you can use that time to do something you truly feel has meaning.
You already make enough decisions. What to have for lunch shouldn't be one of them. Pack tuna and a small salad. Pick something healthy, something simple, even something you can eat at your desk. Save the decision-making for what's really important. As a bonus, you'll lose a little weight and feel a little better.
Most people spend a lot more time reacting -- to employee issues, customer requests, market conditions, etc -- than they do reflecting. Schedule a little quiet time. Close your door and think. Better yet, go for a walk. Exercise does more to bolster thinking than thinking does; walking just 40 minutes three days a week builds new brain cells and improves memory functions. And don't worry that something bad will happen while you're gone -- most of the time the issues you avoid will solve themselves.