As you pivoted your way through the pandemic, goals and needs kept changing. Being effective was and is a challenge. Being efficient was even harder. With the heavy time constraints we have, we need to improve our techniques for being more effective – and by doing so – become more efficient.
Merriam-Webster defines Effective as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” It implies knowing what needs to get done and then getting right down to the task. It’s a good goal for students and for you. But it is elusive.
We know that working harder is not the solution. It is draining, making you less productive and therefore less efficient. John Rampton says the way to do it is to Work Smarter, Not Harder: 10 Ways to Be More Effective at Work.
- Trim the Fat – This sounds like a good diet idea, but it refers to making your to-do list work for you. Putting too much in sets us up for feeling frazzled, not accomplishing everything, and encourages multi-tasking which doesn’t work (we’ll get to that). Besides identifying your three highest priority (and goal-related) tasks, get at least one finished early, giving you a feeling of success.
- Measure Your Results, Not Your Time –Whether it’s weeding or collecting books, measure your success by what you accomplished in one day. You know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Rampton quotes Leo Widrich, who recommends keeping a “done” list. It allows “you to review your day, gives you a chance to celebrate your accomplishments, and helps you plan more effectively.” I do the same with my Success Journal which I keep next to my computer.
- Have an Attitude Adjustment – Your mindset has a powerful influence on your effectiveness. When you feel you are getting things done, when you recognize your help to others has made a difference, you don’t have the weariness that keeps you from being effective.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate –Communication is key to our success. It’s not just our words or our texts. It’s the choices we make in using them and the silent communications happening simultaneously. Active listening is your responsibility in communication. Suiting the message to the communication channel enhances the chances of it being received as intended. Long emails often don’t get read completely. Don’t bury the lead. Say what needs to be said—and stop.
- Create and Stick to a Routine – The more things you don’t have to think about, the more effective you become. To help make this happen – use the next tip.
- Automate More Tasks – There are apps and programs for planning, calendars, reminders, and more. Ask your PLN what’s helping and see if it makes sense for you. The best automation can help you get through your day with fewer decision points leaving more energy for bigger issues.
- Stop Multitasking – Once the touted way of getting more done, studies have proved it doesn’t work. Unfortunately, we do this more often than we realize. The worst offense is when we are mentally planning what we will do or say next while we are talking to someone. Stay focused and you are more likely to stay effective.
- Take Advantage of Your Procrastination – Historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson, author of Parkinson’s Law said, “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.” Not that this should be a general practice, but it suggests we cloak our tasks in more time than they need. Give yourself shorter, clearer, deadlines and you’ll find yourself getting more done.
- Relieve Stress – Stress impacts work performance. You’ve heard this before and likely know the techniques that work for you. Get up and move for a while. Take a break in another part of the building. Look out the window or find a way to sit in the dark for fifteen minutes. Lowering stress increases effectiveness.
- Do More of the Work You Enjoy – You have many roles, but you like some better than others. Put your emphasis on those. It will give you the positive attitude you need to do the other ones. It’s also a good reminder when it seems like most of what’s on your to-do list are the tasks you like less. Use the things you love to jump start your day or as a reward for getting other things done.
Chances are you already do some of these to make your days go smoothly. If you’re looking for ways to be more effective, choose some of the ideas on this list and put them into practice. Hopefully, you’ll see an increase in your own effectiveness.