By Ronn Levine • 02/29/2012
Working Smarter to Overcome Overload
I read a very interesting note in Sunday’s Washington Post about delegating. It said that Steven Spielberg once told an audience that as an amateur filmmaker in Arizona, he got used to doing everything himself—including scouting locations. But then as a professional, to his initial dismay, he discovered that people make livings doing stuff like that for directors. An art director named Joseph Alves Jr. scouted locations near San Antonio for Spielberg’s first feature, The Sugarland Express. Spielberg was a bit taken back but agreed. Said Alves: “He realized that if people do these things, it could relieve the pressure he was under…To rely on others gives you choices…”
I thought this story was a good example for one of Jason Womack’s ways to overcome overload and work smarter—to delegate more. Womack’s new book is titled Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More. “Most of your dread doesn’t come from the work itself—it comes from how you think about the work,” Womack said “The psychological weight of unfinished tasks and unmade decisions is huge. There is a constant feeling of pressure to do more with less. You can’t change that reality…but you can make peace with it. Accept that you’ll never get it all done.” (For a full article about the book, read the February Hotline newsletter.
Here are 10 of Womack’s ways to work smarter:
1. Learn to delegate clearly (much, much more clearly). Come to terms with the fact that you can’t get it all done yourself.
2. Purge. Start deleting and recycling to make room for the “new.”
3. Block out your time and prioritize. Ask yourself this: How much time do I really spend each day clicking through emails and making my to-do list? Start doing instead of to-doing.
4. Change how you manage email. The moment you click on your inbox, your focus goes and your stress grows, as you proceed to delete, respond, forward and file the messages you find there.
5. Reduce meeting time lengths. If meetings at your organization are normally given a 60-minute length, start giving them 45 minutes. You’ll find that what you get done in 60 minutes you can also achieve in 45. It may get you more focused.
6. Figure out what distracts you. It can be extremely helpful to discern exactly what it is that gets in the way of your focus.
7. Divide your projects into small, manageable pieces. Take one step at a time and don’t worry about reaching the ultimate goal. Make use of small chunks of time. A great way to approach this is to break the yearly goals down into quarterly goals.
8. Identify the VERBS that need attention. Organize your to-do list by verbs in order to manage your productivity in terms of action, delegation and progress. Actions such as Call, Draft, Review, and Invite are things that you can do, generally in one sitting, that have the potential to move the project forward.
9. Hold yourself accountable with end-of-day notecards. At the end of each day, write down (on a 3×5 notecard) basic things about each day: Who you met with. What you completed. Where you went. What you learned.
10. Forecast your future. Open your calendar to 180 days from today. Write 3-4 paragraphs describing what you’ll have done, where you’ll have been, and what will have happened to your personal/professional life by then. By spending 10 or so minutes thinking about the next six months, you’ll put your goals into action.
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