The challenge for most of us is to do more with less: less time, fewer resources, and do it more efficiency and effectively. Sounds like a tall order but grabbing a moment to pause, think, and then act will frequently help you do all three.
Pulling rabbits out of hats?
Nope. Just performance basics that any successful executive, or a parent with more than two kids will tell you: figuring out how to sequence work so you pick up some efficiencies or batching things to time of day to optimize how effectively you work with them.
Most of us scramble from one task to another, never stopping to think about ways to either sequence the mini-jobs of our lives or conversely, batching work together so it’s more efficient. Doing both – sequencing and batching – makes you more effective because it means you can get more done in the same, or less amount of time. What it takes is a periodic pause (e.g. 5-10 minutes) before you jump into a piece of work.
It may sound so simple but in fact most people don’t do this type of stuff. A little like mice scurrying in a kitchen, nothing is planned to conserve time or increase outcomes.
Here two easy-peasy examples:
1) While many people have written job descriptions for positions they want to fill, most don’t take the time as they do the position description to also figure out goals and objectives for the job description they’re writing and how they would appraise someone. Instead, they stop thinking about the role until performance appraisal time rolls around when they start thinking about the role again and figure out how to review it. Far easier to to think about both at the same moment – when you’re focused on that role – to think about both since it will take you less time than thinking about the two elements separately.
When I ran played Sr. HR Business Partner and also ran US staffing at Barclays Global Investors the competencies used for hiring people were used by my colleague Christine Bassarab on the Performance Management side house for both evaluation and development. Thinking of the competency sets in two ways, rather then one, saved us a chunk of time that would have otherwise been another major piece of work. Some pausing and brainstorming about how we could use the same coin – hiring competencies – in two ways, recruiting, and assessment and development, saved us the time.
2) The second way is to think about how you individually sequence your day. Many, if most of us, have times of the day when we’re more effective doing certain types of work compared to others. For example, I’m much better doing writing in the afternoon when I’m more reflective, than first thing in the morning when I’m better at “do and transact” type work. While we may not always have total control of our schedules, when I can I batch the reflection type of stuff in the back end of the day and the do and transact stuff in the morning I’m more effective.
Transactional meetings like recruiting status updates, outlining project deliverables, etc. get batched in the early part of the day when I’m more efficient with that stuff. Things like pie-in-the-sky brainstorming, or what if sessions, or writing, get scheduled to the back of the day, when I’m more reflective and output a better work product in those areas.
Jonah Lehrner – author of the books “How We Decide” and “Proust and the Neuroscientist” – has reported recently in a post entitled Intelligence and the Idle Mind that letting your mind roam may have benefits for the development of greater intelligence. To that point, it helps to know when you want to let your mind wander, and when it’s best to have your mind prepared to quick step to tasks at hand.
Learning to do things like sequencing tasks, and batching tasks in a way that makes the completing of them more optimal are just two ways to be not only more efficient, but more effective as well. And all it takes is a little forethought ahead of time about how you want to tackle things.