The secret is simple – make a list and do the hardest thing first. Then comes the hard part: Doing it NOW is the time for efficiency. February is almost upon us and it’s time to perk up, make things happen, and generally whizz through your work at such a pace that, with a bit of luck, you’ll be told you can knock off early. So, what’s the secret of becoming a workplace dynamo? The first rule of efficient working is simple:
Make a list. That’s right, a list. It might not sound the kind of revolutionary idea that will launch your career into the stratosphere. It might even seem like the kind of thing your grandma would tell you to do. But, give it a chance. Sometimes, the old stuff really works.
At the very least, you’ll be able to get rid of all those scrawled Post-it notes, overdue Outlook reminders and nagging suspicions in the back of your mind about things you’ve been meaning to do since September. After a while, it might feel like you’re writing the longest list in the world, but don’t fret. It’ll end. As long as you hold your nerve and keep going, you’ll be well on the way to rule two, which is: Do the hardest thing first.
With rule two, you work out what the knottiest, thorniest challenge on your list is, and then do it. First thing on Monday morning, if at all possible. You’ll feel so much better for it, you see. Once you’ve got the Hardest Thing out of the way, there’ll be no more guilt, no more procrastination, and you can spend the rest of your time doing work you actually quite enjoy.
The problem with the Hardest Thing, though, is that it’s ... erm ... hard. Square up to the challenge and you immediately begin to remember all the little reasons why you’d been putting it off since September.
The Hardest Thing always involves nasty, difficult tasks like asking a favour of a colleague you don’t get on with, ’fessing up to a mistake you’ve made, or finding an invoice you’ve mislaid somewhere in that row of filing cabinets the size of a house. And it’s Monday morning, after all — not the time when bosses or prickly colleagues are going to be at their most receptive. Might it not be better to wait until the boss is on his way out of the office for a mini-vacation, or the colleague you don’t get on with is cresting the wave of cheerfulness that comes on Friday afternoon?
Maybe a few quick, easy-to-strike-offyour-list wins, like watering the plants or browsing the stationery catalogue for a new mouse mat, would be better ways to kickstart your working week? Before you know it, you’re straying from the straight and narrow of rule two, and the Hardest Thing still hasn’t been tackled.
Ah well. Maybe a bit of flexibility might even be a good thing. You’re trying to be efficient, after all, not get the Vatican to recognise you as a martyr. In any case, everybody knows that people who enjoy their jobs are more productive. So, whistle while you work, and ease yourself in gently.
You can put your list quietly away in a drawer, and the hideous hard thing will be ready when you are. After all, if you’ve managed to put it off since September, how important can it really be?