Super achievers are called that for one simple reason: they get things done. And usually those super achievers are also super-organised. So what can we learn from a high flyer’s approach to work?
Careers consultants at Position Ignition share the secrets of some of their most successful clients.
You can’t add hours to the day
Start by recognising that there are only 24 hours in the day and no one can work all of them. If you're constantly working long hours, then you're more likely to make you burn out than achieve brilliant results. If you can manage your time effectively, you shouldn’t need to stay late.
Make a to-do list
Take time, either at the beginning of the day or just before you go home, to list what you need to do. Try to put items in order of importance. You’ll always stay on top of your workload if you can reference a list – and you’ll get a great sense of satisfaction ever time you cross something off.
Set your goals
You can’t decide how to spend your time unless you know what’s important. So work out what will help you succeed. What do you need to do to raise your profile? To get the next promotion? Studies show that people who do well in life set themselves goals.
Simon North from Position Ignition recalls one client, a senior executive, who only ever worked on tasks their boss asked for twice: “It was always a good barometer of what was really important and it got him noticed too”.
Once you know where you’re going, you can prioritise. Put more time into the things that will give you the most benefit. According to Pareto’s Principle, only 20% of your daily tasks really matter; that 20% will produce 80% of your results. So identify these tasks and focus most of your time and energy on achieving them.
Beware of false deadlines
It’s not often you’re told to complete a task “in your own time” at work. It’s more likely to be “ASAP” or even “right now”. But in reality this is often just a workplace knee-jerk reaction and it won’t be as urgent as it seems. Next time, find out the real story and push back with a timeframe that suits all parties.
Multi-tasking won’t save time
If you’re faced with a long to-do list, do not, under any circumstances, pick up a job, do a bit of it, and then put it back on the pile. Starting lots of jobs at the same time isn’t the most efficient way of dealing with them.
Touch things once
Being organised is all about making decisions, so deal with tasks as they arrive. If a piece of paper crosses your desk, don’t pick it up, wonder what to do with it and put it down again. Decide what to do with it, then: do it, schedule time to do it, file it or bin it.
Delegate where possible
If you have a junior colleague, you should be delegating some of your responsibilities to them. Good delegation saves you time and will motivate and develop other team members. Even if you’re not a manager, there are always opportunities to share work among colleagues who are less busy or who have specific, relevant skills.
“Make sure your wider team is aware of what you’ve got on your plate”, Simon North advises. “Then, when you delegate, explain why you’ve chosen that person to help you and how you think it will benefit them too. The key to good delegation is making sure your team feel valued and respected, that way they should be happy to provide the support you need”.
Don’t suffer from inbox congestion
Get into the habit of keeping your emails organised. Deal with anything urgent immediately and create folders for important emails you’ll need to come back to. Your email provider will probably allow you to tag messages with colour-coded flags so you won’t forget to follow them up.
Finally, delete anything you don’t need to keep your inbox clear.
Treat phone calls like meetings
The experts at Position Ignition suggest treating your phone calls like meetings where you can: “If you can agree an agenda and be clear about the outcome you need upfront, you’ll be making the most of the time you have to spend on the phone. This approach also sends out clear signals you expect to do business, not make idle chit chat”, explains Simon North.
Calls distract you from the task at hand and often you’ve no control over how long, and how useful, the conversation will be. Another top tip from careers consultants Position Ignition is to stand up when you are on the phone; you’ll be less comfortable and will naturally make your calls shorter.
Are you most alert in the morning or the afternoon? Decide when you do your best work and then plan your day around this. Generally it’s a good idea to do smaller and easier tasks when your energy is low (like after lunch), and tackle more challenging tasks when your energy is higher.
So go forth and be super organised! You’ll be amazed by how much happier, productive, and ultimately, how successful, your work life can be.