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Workday Advice, Not Tips

Monday, July 20, 2009 by Slaughter Development

Usually, productivity advice appears in the form of direct suggestions that seem impossible to implement. An article by Deborah Hildebrand of Office Arrow, however, contains some profound ideas.

The problem with tips such as “check your email only once a day” or “always carry a notebook to jot down ideas” is that they seem unworkable and generic. You can see how they could be beneficial in ideal circumstances, but they just don’t apply to you. Hildebrand’s four points, however, resonate on a deeper level:

1. Stop telling yourself that you don’t have enough time.

Psychologists have known for decades that self-talk influences attitudes and attitudes influence productivity. Changing your perspective on your workload does not actually decrease the amount of work you have to do, just your perception on whether or not you can climb that mountain. The claim is not surprising, but it is relevant. Check out The Methodology Blog’s coverage of the science of brute force positive thinking and the destructive power of bad attitudes in the workplace.

2. Be very clear about what has to be done.

The best way to decide what has to be done is to make a list, and the best way to decide how to conduct workis to draw a picture. Productivity and satisfaction arise from executing defined workflow. Is there anything better you can do at the office besides knowing how you’re going to do something and then getting it done?

3. Remember: It’s okay to ask others for assistance.

Hildebrand’s connotation is that we are hesitant to delegate. We fear a loss of control and a reduction of quality. Sometimes, it seems easier for the customer to do the work. Failing to ask for help results in more than just lost time: it is also a source of countercompetence. The profound revelation is that often the most productive choice is to state “That’s not my job.

4. Look for unexpected time during the day.

This final comment might appear to be merely encouragement, but it may be the best advice in the entire column. We assume that all time is expected, that it is all filled with tasks and work, and there will never be enough time to complete the work before us. However, there are tremendous quantities of time in the seconds between actions. Think how often you’re waiting on tools, software or other resources to catch up to your own thinking. Consider how often you reinvent workflow which you have done before, but never captured on paper. How many documents could be templates? How many procedures could be automated? The greatest loss of time is our unstated opposition to metawork. We are too busy plugging away to think about how or why we are working.

Slaughter Development provides comprehensive methodology engineering consulting services. Yet, we try to avoid giving tips. Instead, we focus on offering advice and counsel to change perspectives and empower stakeholders to take ownership over workflow. We can help you identify business challenges and redesign business procedures, but ultimately you must make the change you want to see in your organization. Read our reasons to reach out and if they sound familiar, contact us today!

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Like this post? Here are some related entries from The Methodology Blog you might enjoy:

14 Tips to Motivate Employees - A recent article lists “14 Management Do’s and Don’ts to Motivate Employees.” Yet, unlike many opinion pieces on this topic, every one of the suggestions is fantastic advice.
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Sharing Tips Is Money - Jacqueline Mueller is a waitress at a top-rated LA restaurant. She’s been named highest in sales revenue among dozens of servers for three years running. Despite popular opinion, Ms. Mueller believes that the most lucrative payout is not pocketing tips, but sharing them with colleagues. Read on »
Seven Weeks, Seven Productivity Tips - Go look at the calendar. It’s mid-November, which means there are a mere seven weeks left in 2009. Now is the time to look forward and prepare to make 2010 your best year yet.
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Want to learn more? Register now for the 2011 Productivity Series

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