If you want to increase your productivity at work, you have to get better at choosing what you do. With all respect to the great Ella, T’ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It) is lousy advice. It is what you do that gets results. Too often we waste time doing the wrong thing. How you do it is irrelevant if what you are doing just ain’t going to get you nearer your goal.
- Never do things because of tradition. That your organisation has “always done it” is often a good reason to stop doing it. At least spend some time having a hard think about whether it is still worth it.
- Muttering “what a waste of time that was,” isn’t a way of expressing frustration and letting off steam. It’s simply a sign that… guess what?… you’re wasting time. So do something about it. There are a crazy number of people at meetings who aren’t really sure what they are doing there. Don’t be one of them.
- Look back at things you’ve committed your time and energy to. Evaluate honestly whether they were worth it. Don’t rely on later justifications, for instance, for a meeting that was uninspiring. It’s easy to find plausible benefits and kid yourself that’s why you went. Match what actually happened against the notes you made in advance when you decided to go. And if it doesn’t further your goals in some observable way, ditch it.
- Be deeply suspicious of vague justifications such as “a good networking opportunity”. Yes, people and your relationship with them are a vital part of your job. But that doesn’t mean you have to attend an all-day seminar of marginal interest just to do some social grazing. There are faster, more efficient ways to network.
- If one of your problems is internet-based work avoidance, bookmark this neat page, adapt it, and visit it frequently to remind you what you are doing with your brain.