Wednesday, January 11, 2017

4 Practical Thoughts On Being Efficient

I'm convinced we don't really understand how much time we waste.

Everyone tracks their money (at least they should), but very few track their time. We reconcile our bank account on a regular basis, but few reconcile their calendars to assure they made the best use of their time.

It's interesting. Money comes and goes, but if you lose your time you can't get it back. This is partly why I recently challenged my staff to be more efficient. It's something hard to address because most people don't see themselves as being inefficient. That said, I think all of us can be encouraged in this way.

It is not infrequent for someone to ask me something like, "How do you manage to do so many things?" I'm always growing in this area of my life, but trying to be efficient is one thing I have put a lot of thought into.

Cutting out distraction is the first step. So, these may or may not be helpful thoughts for you, but here are four daily things that tend to limit our efficiency and a few thoughts on how I deal with them to make the most of my time:

  1. Cell phone. Phone calls and text messages, sheesh. We have created a world where everyone is required to be accessible at all times. It's crazy. And even when in meetings with others the cell phone goes on the table in front of us. Sure, we may turn off the ringer...but then it lights up on the table, distracting us from where we are in the moment. We glance down, our mind engages...and then we feel mature because we don't pick it up. But its too late, you have disengaged from the meeting you were in. When it comes to other work or tasks you're trying to accomplish, cell phones are highly intrusive.  The moment you switch your eyes from your computer screen to the screen on your device, it's done. Your thoughts are interrupted, efficiency has been stolen. And never mind the messenger app you can have on your computer that sends notifications across the top right of your screen every time someone sends a text. Seriously?! Here's the deal: turn your cell phone off at least once a day (to start!). If I don't go into airplane mode a few times a day, I at very least turn the ringer off, put my phone face down on the other side of my office, and I don't pick it up for at least 25 minutes (for efficiency I set my timer on my phone for 25 minutes and work through stuff for that time period, completely uninterrupted - for me this works best and keeps my mind focused - and once one segment of 25 minutes is done I will then decide to set another one). Lastly on this point, I also do not have the Messenger app working on my computer. I did at one time and then it stopped for reasons unknown. But what I do know is that once it stopped working I then realized how inefficient it was. Some people ask me what I do if my wife needs to get ahold of me. That's simple. I just let her know I won't be accessible ahead of time. Remember, there once was a day when we didn't have cell phones!
  2. Email. Talk about a necessary evil. But if I'm writing or working through a task I make sure to not check my email because once I do, I know I'm disengaged from what I was doing. When it comes to my phone, I have this on manual - where I'm not notified of incoming emails, but rather have to open the app myself to download the emails. Those of you that have this on automatic notification...seriously, that is crazy. Why would you need to know the moment an email comes in?! For me, I schedule the times I will check email. Sure, there are times when I have 5-10 minutes before a meeting where I will try to get back to an email or three, but generally I have in mind the timeframe I will work through them. Lastly, for other tips on this see this short post I did by clicking here.
  3. Social Media. Bottom line here is, if you want to be where you are, turn off your notifications. I do always, but it's at least necessary in certain points of the day. Do you really need to be notified when someone sends a tweet mentioning you? Do you really need to be notified the moment you get a Facebook message or someone comments on your post? If so...dare I say you have to take time to seriously process that "need." There is beauty to social media, to be sure, but let's make sure we realize that it's not helping you be present where you are. To be efficient, turn this stuff off (at least at some points in the day).
  4. Personal Interruptions. Our office is an open workspace for the most part. This makes it difficult because when you are visible, everyone thinks you're accessible. This is natural, but not always efficient. There should be certain points of everyday that we should deem ourselves inaccessible. If we are not doing this (in most of our cases) we are not going to be efficient. I have an assistant that helps me with this a ton, but if you don't have that luxury figure out a way that you communicate to everyone that you are not available...because, well, you actually have to get some stuff done :-)