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Work Culture

These are the 5 tasks you should stop doing today


Published on July 12, 2017

When you have a ton of work on your plate, multitasking seems like the obvious answer. It’s natural to want to ensure every detail is perfect—no matter how many projects you have to oversee. One thing you can’t control, though, is the number of hours in your day.

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So, what do you do when your default mode is DIY, not delegation? Simple: shift your focus from figuring out how you can do more, to how you can do less.  Here’s how you can cross off the to-dos you don’t want to do, starting with these five time wasters.

1. Editing your own presentations

When you’re overloaded and overwhelmed, it’s hard to maintain attention to detail. That’s not a reflection on you. It’s a scientific fact about our brains. So when you ask collaborators for help with editing, don’t think of it as shirking your responsibilities. Consider it a chance to empower your team and improve your work.

Next time you need to create a presentation, focus on the first draft. Don’t spend too much time on wordsmithing or formatting. Get your raw ideas down, then ask your team to help refine them. In the process of proofreading and revising your work, they’ll bring an important outside perspective that will strengthen not just the style, but the substance.

2. Solving problems in hallway conversations

One-on-one conversations seem more personable and efficient than email or text. But did you know drop-bys from co-workers take up nearly a quarter of our time? Those conversations can be a great way to make connections and build relationships with your team, but it’s the random and unplanned aspect that can be better managed.

To avoid getting sidetracked by questions that distract you from your priorities, set up office hours. Send an email to your team and invite them to schedule time on your calendar to collaborate. Establishing a formal process for face time sets the expectation for a productive meeting that’s focused on solving specific problems.

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3. Attending meetings without an agenda

Gathering your team together is an important (and unavoidable) part of your job. Beyond being a fast way to reach consensus on the key decisions that keep projects moving, team meetings help you build camaraderie and stay aware of what’s happening and what’s ahead.

The problem is, over 60% of our meetings are scheduled without an agenda, according to some studies. It only takes a few minutes beforehand to establish a clear plan, and letting people know what to expect and how to prepare ensures you won't waste time reviewing news everyone already knows.

4. Answering instant messages

Mobile devices make us more accessible every hour of every day. But does that make us more productive? Some surveys have found we spend up to half of our time texting and taking calls. And when you’re trying to write, brainstorm, or do creative work, those interruptions make it hard to stay in the zone and finish the task at hand.

To prevent the back-and-forth of an IM conversation from derailing your train of thought, set a three-response limit for any text exchange. After that, suggest moving the thread to email or meeting in person to finish the conversation.

5. Checking email every minute

According to a 2016 report, US workers spend over 4 hours a day writing and responding to email. That’s over 120 messages every day for the average business person. It takes a lot of commitment to stay responsive and keep your inbox under control. But that doesn’t mean you have to react to every new email as soon as you receive it. Instead, try dedicating blocks of time to check all your email at once. You might even add it to your calendar to let your team know this is how you’ll manage your email, so they have a clear idea of when to expect a response.

Since your time is better spent on the work only you can do and decisions only you can make, give that work your undivided attention. Eliminate any task you could be delegating. When you master the art of simplifying your to-do list, you’ll be able to free yourself from time-consuming tasks and focus your energy on the creative work you enjoy.


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