It appears to be about that time. You know, that time where you make New Year Resolutions. More accurately, that time where you make New Year Resolutions you keep for two weeks and by week four, you completely forgot what you were doing. Yeah, I’m talking about those resolutions.
Chances are some of those resolutions probably involve your work life. Or better yet, the balance of your work and personal life. Heck, I am even going to go as far as to guess that your resolution revolves around, what I like to call, “working smarter, not harder.” If that is the case then you are like the millions of other people who have come to realize just how much time they waste on a daily basis.
Now I could provide you with some depressing statistics on time wasting (for example, the average person spends 4 hours a week on preparing for status update meetings), but, well, that would be a waste of time. Instead, let’s focus on easy ways for you to save time (for example, reading this article, duh).
Anyways, here are my top tips for working smarter, not harder.
Tip #1: Figure Out Your S**t
Sure, that sounds a bit aggressive but I do mean it. The biggest time waster is redoing work—let’s just say it kills me! No really, I die a little inside every time I have to repeat work (or, rather, repeat myself). If you are like me and die a little inside, then this one is for you: Get organized. Yeah, it is that easy. However, the trick is getting organized to fit your needs and your work style. Read up on some “best practices” for getting organized and pick and choose the strategies that will work for you (or that you think will work). Oh, and scratch out a good amount of time to do it right the first time; it does not help if you have to “get organized” every week.
Hold up, let’s go backwards a moment. If you noticed, I did not tell you what to organize. Many times, people have different levels of chaos that works for them. Reversely, being “organized” can mean nearly anything. I mean, maybe you need to organize your paper files (maybe you don’t even have paper files any more). Maybe you need to organize a specific excel sheet (maybe you need to create one). The point is, you should now be your type of organized.
Tip #2: Make a To Do List for 1,000 Things
First off, don’t freak out on me. I know, I know, task list with 1,000 tasks is, clearly, intimidating but I have a plan here. All too often we fail to identify everything we need to get accomplished. For example, you may have “End of Year Report” on your list but fail to put “Mail Out Vendor Check.” Each task is important and yet those little tasks tend to get lost in the bigger picture. Each time you forget to do those small tasks, it’s a waste of time.
Think of it this way: you forget to send out that check so the vendor emails you to ask when it will be sent. Then you forget to send it out again, so they follow up and then, maybe, even CC’s another member of your team. Now for a five second task, you have wasted your time, the Vendor’s time, and, now, your team member’s time. Again, dying here.
Needless to say, make a To Do (Task) List for every task you have to accomplish. No matter how small or, potentially, insufficient it may seem, put it on there. If you want to take it a step further, you can organize your list. Depending on your job, you may want to do it by project or by frequency of task. No matter how you do it, spill your life out on paper and make them all into actionable items. At least one thing is for sure to come from the 1,000 Task List, you can now show your boss that you work way too hard for way too little money.
Tip #3: Become Best Friends with Alexa, Cortana, Siri, and/or Google
Wait—you don’t have a friend named Alexa, Cortana, or Siri? That’s ok, I’m not talking about physical people, just, you know, computerized “people.” And by computerized people I mean Artificial Intelligence (AI) used as personal assistants. Yeah, that was a bad joke but you get it. Technology has become the world’s best friend for efficiency. Thanks to the crazy amount of data we give these lovely AI platforms, they are designed to help make you work smarter. You can streamline tasks with click of button and even create that 1,000 Task List by speaking. There is an endless amount of possibilities—all you need is to get it started.
Before you go out right now and buy devices that support these personal assistants, think. Again, remember, this is about working smarter, not harder. What ecosystem does your data live in now? Do you have everything saved to Apple’s Cloud or to Google’s Cloud? Do you buy things through Amazon’s platform or Google’s? Do you have a PC with a Microsoft OS or a Google Chromebook with, well, Google Assistant? These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself as you move towards using AI for efficiency assistance.
Thinking AI is not for you? Think again. If you are on the internet then chances are you are already fueling these four giants with data. With the direction of technology moving towards personalized devices, the question of AI is not “if” but “when.” Sure, there are advantages and disadvantages to adapting early to these. As far as working smarter is concerned, this is a no brainer: Get an assistant (the AI kind – get the pun?!).
Bonus Tip: “The sky is falling!” – Chicken Little
In case you missed it, the sky is falling! Actually, it’s raining in Los Angeles right now so it kind of is. Moving on (see, trying to not waste time), at times it will seem like the sky is falling and that’s alright. There will be times when you have to do it the long way. There will be moments where it seems like the world is throwing a billion things at you all at once. All of this is totally normal and, I promise, you will make it out ok.
Then again, when you start sounding like Chicken Little just remember to take a moment and regroup—figure out your s**t, make a to-do list, and see if technology will provide a more efficient way of getting things done. And if that does not work, then, well, there is Happy Hour calling your name.
My name is Samantha Walters and I am what you would consider a “millennial executive” over at Colocation America. Every Monday (get it, get it, Samantha on Mondays – the S.O.M column) I will write a little something on whatever is on my mind from business practices to current events and everything else in between.