Live A Last Minute Lifestyle? 12 Insights To Be More Productive At Work
You know that adage, “Work Expands so as to fill the time available for its completion?”
Dubbed Parkinson’s Law, this maxim precisely describes my work life. After 25 years in the business world, this trait is ingrained in my being—a way of life. Believe me, I’ve tried changing, building hard deadlines into my life that, like roads that suddenly dead end, have left me panicked and perspiring, rushing to the finish line, putting final touches on a high-level written communication at rapid-speed, fearing that the final deliverable leaves a participle dangling or sentences weakened by hurriedly selected and ill-fitting verbs.
Inclined toward deliberation, introspection and precision, I also get energized when all thought cylinders begin clicking, and in that momentous flow, productivity swells and writing is wrought with power, exactitude and meaning. However, finding that flow often exhausts more time and energy than anticipated, leaving me frazzled and up against the deadline wall.
Does this describe you, too? Though many folks I know are early-risers, pre-deadline achievers and always ahead of the curve by hours, days or weeks with regard to work deadlines, that does not depict me; and I’ve resolved to the unfortunate fact that this will never reflect how I am wired.
Whether a last-minute gathering or an appointment planned weeks in advance, I am the person who, though preparing literally is less than a 90-minute event, plans a two-hour window for showering, primping, nail coloring and perfecting. I do this only to find myself anxiously fine-tuning my appearance just minutes before it’s time to walk out the door, fumbling to find my keys and realizing I haven’t Map-quested directions to the never-before-visited location on the south side of town.
Anxiety erupts and the meet-up starts out on the wrong footing. My preparation activities clearly ‘expand to fill the available time for completion.’
If you have experienced the same, energy-depleting and anxiety-wrought symptoms, then I’ll share a few realizations and action steps I’ve taken to work around my ingrained traits and boost productivity and work performance:
- Recognize your work style. In recent years, I modified my business operations, client relationship management and self-leadership initiatives to better fit necessary processes to my innate work style – creating a synergy, if you will, between my tendency toward wanderlust when deadlines loom, and my ambition, and need, to satisfy workplace productivity goals.
- Be honest with yourself. I became more honest about the energy and thus, time, it requires to innovate and strategize the career communications products that I write for career transitioners and individuals who want to jolt their current career situation, empowering themselves along a more fertile career path.
- Know when to plan ahead. As my business evolved, and my knowledge expanded, so too did the in-depth work processes I underwent, in collaboration with clients, to produce compelling career positioning messaging. In tandem, the time and energy required to invent career writing swelled, requiring that I add days—even weeks—to the processes.
- Realize when it’s time to adapt and change. Similarly, careerist, in your day-to-day work routine, what processes and procedures need a tune-up to reflect recent changes, improvements and epiphanies impacting the time and resource requirements needed to produce your results? Open up an Excel spreadsheet and start itemizing each and every action step you take to get from point A to Z; then, assign a numerical ‘time’ value to each step. Total that time. Now, back into this finding, assigning dates on your calendar for each step.
- Accept what you can’t plan for. Be real and honest with the interruptions that may occur throughout the days, weeks or even months ahead and allow for those in your planning, mounting the time-frame. Print out a hard-copy calendar and plug in the key milestones to your activities and goals; in addition to your virtual, electronic calendar with its bells and whistle reminders, a printed calendar adds a visual dimension that supports a wanderlust attitude, visually solidifying and encouraging goal attainment.
- Create a cushion. Add in wiggle room – that extra time that accounts for interruptions and other business obligations that are unplanned, or simply which, though planned, took longer than anticipated.
- Strategize your work flow. In addition to planning and calendar-ing your action steps, consider what day-to-day disciplinary strategies you can apply to your behavior that will boost productivity while allowing you just the right amount of flexibility to remain fluid and emotionally healthy.
- Set aside time. For me, a key action step is parsing out focused, uninterrupted time where neither phone nor email nor Twitter nor Facebook nor (you get the drift), will impede my flow. Totally committed to the task at hand for hour-long slots facilitates in-the-flow thinking and productivity, as well as a concrete sense of achievement.
- Allow for creativity. Other times, I am fueled by the interaction of a Twitter engagement, unlocking thoughts and creativity. If that is the case, I troll the Twitter stream a bit, reading and posting Tweets and blog stories to stir up my creative juices. If you allow yourself the flexibility to remove your productivity barriers via tactical initiatives such as Twitter engagement, a stroll down the hall for a coffee break, a peek outside to feel the crisp cool on your face, often productivity is revived and task movement compelled forward.
- Know your bounds. Moreover, consider how much and often you commit to new tasks and goals outside your work requirement parameters and adjust your thinking, if needed. When someone approaches you for a new project for which you have the option to accept or decline, pause before reflexively saying ‘yes.’
- Feel comfortable pushing back. If your schedule is bulging, yet you are inclined to tackle this new initiative, negotiate time-line boundaries and push back, where you can, to comfortably fit this newest goal into your calendar. Though not all deadlines are adjustable, many are fluid and adaptable.
- Remove the junk. Declutter your work life in a variety of ways including reevaluating and cutting back on volunteer roles and trimming back toxic relationships that create energy drain, interject unneeded drama and derail your time-line goals. Remember, another person’s lack of planning doesn’t suddenly become your emergency.
Quality results generally outrank speed, and being methodical and real are keys to organic movement and progress throughout your day. Reevaluating your workday to create revamped systems can result in higher productivity results, increased personal satisfaction, enhanced customer feedback and better annual performance reviews, a potentially career-catapulting outcome.