What if You Had to Do Your Job in Half the Time?

by Mark on March 11, 2010

If you had to do your current job in half the time, what would you do? If your current job takes 40 hours a week, what could you do to get it done in under 20 hours a week? If you had absolutely no choice but to work under 20 hours a week, how would you change your approach?

You obviously would have to change your approach somewhat dramatically to cut your work time in half, so how would you go about it?

Here are some possibilities to consider:

  • Single-task. Focus all your attention on completing one task at a time. Forget about the myth of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking just makes you like a computer with too many programs open. Lots of activity, but not much happens.
  • Carve out blocks of uninterrupted time. Do you make yourself accessible all the time? If so, why? Do you feel an obligation to respond quickly? Most things can wait a few hours.
  • Ignore e-mail. E-mail is one of the biggest distractions in the modern world. Get  out of the habit of letting e-mail dictate what you are going to work on next. Your coworkers might be trained to expect rapid responses from you. Instead retrain them by not responding to e-mails right away.
  • Don’t answer the phone. There is a tendency to feel like we must answer the phone. Sometimes I will just let a phone ring and watch with amusement as whoever is with me squirms uncomfortably as the phone continues to ring. The point is that we shouldn’t feel like we need to be accessible all the time (unless this is a vital part of our job).
  • Shut your door. This discourages unnecessary drop ins and creates a quieter environment so that you can focus better.
  • Be anti-social. There is a time to work and a time to be social. Don’t let these times get mixed up. You can be friendly without excess socializing.
  • Automate. What processes can be automated? Invest a little time upfront in brainstorming ways to reengineer your tasks. Sometimes we feel like we don’t have time to reengineer processes, but if you need to cut your time in half, you probably won’t have much of a choice.
  • Train others. Can you train someone to help you out? Have you been doing certain tasks yourself because you haven’t been willing to take the time to train someone else? Now is a good time to change that.
  • Just do it. If you need to cut your time in half, you won’t have time to procrastinate and dither around. Get on it. It’s go time.
  • Eliminate the unnecessary. When was the last time you really thought hard about why you do what you do? Have you been doing things the way they have been done for years? There are probably things that can be eliminated.
  • Simplify. Get rid of excess details. Eliminate complexity. Eliminate steps.
  • Organize. If your work area is a mess, organize it. You won’t have time to search for things. Stop pretending that you are saving time by creating piles of papers on your desk instead of creating an organized filing system. Grab a folder and label it with a pencil. You can always just erase it and relabel it if you think of a better label at a later time.
  • Start a clean desk policy. Since you are single-tasking and laser focused, there is no need to have anything out besides what you are working on. It will only be a distraction. With your newly organized filing system, filing and retrieving papers will be snap. Rule of thumb: papers should only be lying flat if you are working on them.
  • Get off the Internet. If you are like most Americans, you use the Internet at work for non-work-related activities. Now that you need to cut your hours in half, it’s time to disconnect.
  • Create routines. Develop systems to take care of recurring items and prevent work from accumulating.
  • Use single handling. Once you start something, try to finish it before moving on. Coming back to a task requires familiarizing yourself with where you left off. Touch every piece of paper once instead of shuffling your papers. Deal with each e-mail the first time you read it.
  • Be decisive. If you truly need more information, then do the research or contact someone to get it, but don’t vacillate endlessly. Spending extra time usually doesn’t improve your decision anyway. It just gives you more time to second guess yourself.
  • Just say no. Sometimes the best move is to politely refuse to do something. Say that you would love to help, but you have too much on your plate right now. You will find that some work has a way of disappearing if you can convince people that you can’t get it to it right now. This is the case with tasks that really were never important in the first place.
  • Set tight deadlines. Use Parkinson’s Law to become more productive. Tight deadlines are a great way of eliminating unproductive time.

What other strategies could you use to double your productivity and complete your work in half the time?

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