“Email Isn’t Work” And Other Tips For Working Smarter

As dads, our time is valuable. And it’s really hard to keep track of everything going on when you’re balancing a family and kids with a career and any other numerous activities you may have on your plate. One of the best things a dad can do is discipline himself to work smarter, not harder. Our work expands to fill the time we allow it. So, although it goes against our instinct, perhaps one of the best ways to work better is to work less.

Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean your being productive. Email and 24-7 communication streams mean that we can always be working if we want to. When you work all the time it’s easy to lose sight of the things that have to get done now –vs- the items that can wait. By working less but working smarter, you force yourself to be more thoughtful in your planning and to focus on what needs to get done now. You get it done because you don’t have time to be inefficient.

Make a choice to work less and work smarter. Devote more time to your family. Devote more time for yourself. By working less and working smarter you’ll probably be more productive than you have been. Crazy, isn’t it? Here are 5 quick tips on how to do it!

EMAIL IS NOT WORK: Email keeps you busy, but it’s not necessarily the same as getting work done. Email makes us feel busy, but it usually doesn’t get the project completed. And, ironically, the more emails we send, the more we get in return, the less we get done and… the more emails we have to send out again to push everything back. It’s a vicious cycle. That said, email is a great tool if used properly. Use it for updates. Use it to share information consistently with a dispersed group. But use it sparingly; it’s a distraction from real work. Shut off your email. Check it twice a day maximum and square away any and every piece that can be taken care of then and there. Many professionals have trouble with this approach saying, “I have an important job and people have to be able to reach me!” But the reality is that most things can wait a day or two. If people need to get a hold of you, they have your phone number. If you really are that important, people will wait for your reply.

FACE TIME IS ALWAYS BETTER: Picking up the phone to convey something (or, better yet, popping by someone’s office) is always preferable to email. Why? Because in this day and age of electronic communication, face time is rare. And face time always trumps every other form of communication. It’s classy. It’s memorable. Plus, it gets you brownie points, and, once the conversation has been had, it’s done and squared away! No more follow-up emails and “reply to all” nightmares wasting your time.

DOUBLE-BOOK YOURSELF: We are wired for action with our email and cell phones in a way that helps us run with ideas… In other words we’re great at getting things started, but we’re running around so much that we never slow down to finish them. Solution? Double-book yourself. If you’re heading up a project and have a 1 hour team meeting that you know will require follow-up work, then schedule an additional hour right after that meeting so that you can get the follow-up work done. Make a point to block the time and get it done right away. Otherwise it becomes yet another “to-do” on the pile!

TALK TO YOURSELF: Afraid you won’t remember that big idea from today’s lunch? Send a text to yourself from your cell phone or text it to your email at work. It’ll be there waiting for you when you’re done. Know that you’ll have to follow-up on an item six months down the road? Put it in your Outlook as a reminder/appointment for six months from now. At that time it’ll pop up and remind you. The trick is to use technology in a way that will free up the space in your brain. Is it strange to leave yourself a voicemail at work? Maybe. But you won’t have to worry about remembering that big lead all night if you know it’s waiting for you to tackle in the morning.

TRACK IT ONE PLACE: Whether you have a Blackberry, a Moleskin Planner, or a pen and paper, track your life in one place. One central to-do list. One central calendar. When you start maintaining separate info for work, home, play, etc., it gets confusing and, invariably, critical details get lost in the shuffle. You forget the girls’ soccer game. You forget that game of basketball with the guys. You forget that presentation. Keep it all in one place you can access at any time.

What’s the best way to put these to work? Just dive in. You’ll screw up. You’ll make a mess of it, and you’ll still have infuriatingly busy days here and there. But bad habits are hard to break, and the more you discipline yourself to live this way, the easier it will get. Try it again and again. After awhile it will stick because you’ll find yourself getting more done while working less. Good luck!

Image by: Jeff the Trojan, Flickr

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