Doing more with less seems to be the common theme out there today. Whether it is because business has downsized, or there is a reluctance to hire, leaders are constantly feeling the push to deal with short-term issues that take them away from long-term strategic growth. In other circumstances, leaders may find that they are continually tasked with problems that should be addressed by other members of their team. Here are some ways to deal with the piled up paperwork and get things done.
- Change your attitude – Productivity and Attitude are closely related. The worse your attitude is, the less productive you are. I was working with a client who was complaining about the number of things they had to accomplish in a day. After reviewing his list of tasks, we discovered that his staff assigned much of the work for him. As problems came up throughout the day, he would just handle them instead of coaching his team. Over time, he had assumed the role of the victim and felt everyone was just dumping work on him. Over the next several weeks we took steps to change his attitude toward tasks and co-workers to help him delegate responsibly and get things done.
- Invest in coaching – Not a shameless plug here. This is about you coaching your staff. Doing this involves an investment in time. In my earlier story, the reason the leader was taking on projects assigned by his staff was because in his mind it was quicker for him to do the work than teach someone else. People are an investment. To get the most out of your investment you have to teach them. Once you take the responsibility to resolve everyone else’s problems, you have conditioned them to come to you for the fix. Everything looks for the path of least resistance. If someone else is willing to take on a task that an employee is unfamiliar with, they will come back time and time again. Break the cycle. Invest time teaching your people and set expectations that they learn how to solve challenges on their own.
- Outsource when possible – No one to delegate to? How about outsourcing it? There is a lot of talent on the open market that can help you to get things done. While you may be concerned about costs, think about this first: calculate your expected value per hour. I was working with a business owner who calculated his rate at $1,000 per hour. Yet he was spending time doing tasks that could be outsourced to someone else for about $20 per hour. By the time we calculated the opportunity cost and lost revenue it made sense to hire someone to do the work. In his case that position went from being an outsourced role to a permanent staff position.
- Simplify – Yes, you’ve heard it here before. Find ways to streamline process and remove wasted steps. You should constantly ask yourself if there is a better way. A few years ago I was assisting a company with reviewing their bid process. Once we mapped out the workflow, we were able to see a couple bottlenecks and redundant steps that shaved as much as a day off of completing bids. Over time, we were able to smooth the process out even more without seeing an increase in errors.
- Empower staff – If you have a staff of people working for you, maximize their talent. Besides coaching them, empower your team to resolve their own issues prior to asking you for help. The key here is to let the team know what is expected. Set parameters for what your staff can do without seeking your assistance. What you may find is they are able to come up with a better solution using their own talents vs. seeking your help. Make sure your team keeps you in the loop with things they are working on and accept that mistakes are going to happen. Your people will learn more and your role as a leader will be a little simpler.
- Make things manageable – It is easy to create monster task lists of things to do. For some, those lists are motivation. For others, the amount of work can seem daunting. Keep things at a manageable level. One of the techniques I work with people on is to take a look at their list of tasks and create a shorter list that can be completed in that workday. It is important that they calculate their work knowing that there will be interruptions and stops. The goal is to make sure that the work on the short list does not carry over into a new day. It’s OK if you can only put one thing on the list as long as that item is completed by the end of the workday. Over time, stretch yourself and add a couple items to the list and make a commitment to complete them. Still don’t have enough time? Look to one of the other steps for help.
- Make time each day to plan for the future – Sometimes we are so deep into the day-to-day that we can’t even see what an hour from now is going to look like. Schedule some time to reflect on your current situation and what your future vision is. I recommend 15 to 30 minutes each day. For me, I work it in to either lunch or workout time, which helps me be more productive. This allows me to see if I am still on track and focus on what I need to do to reach my goals. It also allows me to take a breather from daily tasks to focus energy on big picture thinking which can be far more inspirational and motivating.
Take these steps and give them at try. By far, the most important is number 1. If you cannot change your attitude, you will have more than enough reasons why steps 2 through 7 will not work. In which case you can keep doing what you are doing and you will get what you have always got.