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Work Smarter, Live Fully: Productivity Tips for Creating Space

The latest workplace statistics confirm that traditional time management advice and strategies in the last three decades have done little to alleviate work overload of full-time workers. Recent research shows that 40 percent of U.S. workers report feeling overworked. In the last 20 years, work time has increased 15 percent while leisure time decreased by 33 percent. Globally, an estimated 50 of managers said they work more than 40 hours per week, and four in 10 say the hours they put on the clock have increased in the last five years.

But what if we have a choice to feel less busy and overwhelmed and get more done? In a recent Geniecast hosted by the Spouse/Partner Business Network, Carson Tate — a productivity consultant and author of “Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style” —  challenged the YPO audience to “overcome the business epidemic” and reframe the issue to create space for meaningful change in their lives. “At times we give business merit badges to feel important,” says Carson, “but we need to work fewer, more focused hours. The objective is to work smarter not harder.”

Reframe your thinking

Carson’s approach to enhancing productivity and “move beyond busy” starts with making a choice.

“We can choose to do something differently. Between the stimulus and response is a space, and in that space lies your power to choose. So, the first step is to recognize we have a choice,” says Carson.

The next step is to deal with the “guilts” and “shoulds” that only serve to create downward spiral undermining your ability to work efficiently. “Deal with guilts and shoulds by using the P.O.W.E.R. no,” she adds.

P.O.W.E.R. stands for the following:

  • P is for power. Get clear about your priorities and ask whose priorities are in place.
  • O is for opportunities. Determine what opportunities might be overlooked because you’re overwhelmed.
  • W is for who: Ask who is making this ask that is triggering the “shoulds” and “guilts.”
  • E is for expectations: Ask what expectations are triggering these “shoulds” and “guilts”
  • R is for real: Ask what is the worst thing that can happen if you said no? What is really driving the fear and is the fear real?

Invest Your Time Wisely

To work smarter, not harder a paradigm shift regarding our time is required. According to Carson, “We don’t value time as much as we value our money. But time is a commodity that should be invested in wisely. And to see how you have chosen to invest your time, you can look at your calendar, which is your investment statement,” says Carson.

Specific strategies to optimize your performance

Carson also offers specific strategies that are easy to implement but have great impact on moving you from being busy to being productive. These include timing yourself, establishing routines and using keyboard shortcuts.

She also recommends to “protect your 90 minutes each day” to focus on high value tasks or projects while grouping similar tasks in batches to “get faster and enter that flow state”. Breaking up big projects into discreet next action steps that “start with a verb” can also help manage the to-do list.

“Act like a sprinter not a marathon runner … work in short segments of time to optimizes your productivity,” says Carson. Interspersing routine work with creative inspiring work and focusing on speed over perfectionism can also have significant impact in working more efficiently.

Carson shared ways to “tame your inbox,” citing research that shows that workers spend 41 percent of day managing inboxes. Some of these easy-to-implement strategies include using rules in Outlook or filters in gmail to automate and save time, color coding incoming emails; and using templates for frequently sent responses to avoid rework.

“Make your inbox work for you,” says Carson. “Recognize that it’s about optimizing your performance, working simply and living fully.”

Rola Tassabehji began her career as a marketing trainee in Unilever Arabia and from there moved into several management roles within the marketing and communications function in Unilever global and regional teams, including brand development manager, Dove, Unilever Africa, Middle East, and Turkey and communications manager, Unilever North Africa and Middle East. Following ten years with Unilever, she relocated to Abu Dhabi, U.A.E and joined the team that launched INSEAD campus in the Middle East as external relations director. Rola completed her undergraduate degree at McGill University in Canada, has a Masters degree from the American University of Beirut and a post graduate degree in journalism from London School of Journalism.