I had coffee with a fellow HR professional this week; he gave me some great food for thought. We spoke about the application of lean production methods, most commonly used in a manufacturing environment, into everyday work habits. How much time do you waste each day? E-mail, interruptions, irrelevant tasks and overcomplicated procedures are all threats to your productivity. Think about a widget manufacturing plant; every step in the process is purposeful, calculated and adds value. With this in mind, here are a few ways that you can work smarter.
Cut out the waste. Evaluate the number of steps in your work process and then assign a time to each task. Cut out anything that is repetitious and unnecessary. Let's say there are ten steps and you have identified that each step is integral to the process. Take a look at each step and evaluate the length of time it takes to complete each one. Do you breeze through steps one through six, but step seven takes two weeks? Is there anything in that two weeks that can be done more efficiently to save time? Perhaps it is decision wait time; is there anything you can do to facilitate the decision making process?
Forget multi-tasking. We have all been asked about our ability to multi-task at some point in our careers. So we have ‘mastered' the capacity to write documents, send e-mails and answer the phone all at once; but are we really adding value? Here is a novel idea: focus on one task at a time, complete it to the best of your ability and move on. Although we may feel that it is impossible to focus our attention on one thing at a time, you will feel a much greater sense of accomplishment to complete one important task right now than to have twenty half-finished tasks over the course of the day.
Turn off your email. I've been told that on average, every e-mail you get requires about three minutes of your time. How many e-mails do your receive in a day? 100? That's five hours of attention dedicated to e-mail alone; that certainly does not leave much time left over to focus on other tasks. To avoid burning the midnight oil, try responding during designated ‘e-mail times.' This allows you to focus your attention without being distracted by the flash of an incoming message.
In an age of constant noise, it will be the employees who can cut through the distractions and produce consistent top quality results who will end up on top. Keep a to-do list, plan your tasks ahead of time, prioritize your work and ask yourself "is this the most effective way to do this?"
Allyson England is a Recruitment Coordinator at Meridia, a Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette company in Halifax. Meridia is Atlantic Canada's leading contingency recruitment firm that is focused on providing high quality, fast turnaround recruitment for professional and technical positions.