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Checklist: Are you doing these five things to be more effective at work?

effective-work

How to be more effective at work

 

1) Have A Solid Daily Ritual

Here’s a solid one from Peter Bregman that will help you maximize use of your time .

Via 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done:

STEP 1 (5 Minutes): Your Morning Minutes. This is your opportunity to plan ahead. Before turning on your computer, sit down with the to-do list you created…and decide what will make this day highly successful…

STEP 2 (1 Minute Every Hour): Refocus. …Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour and start the work that’s listed on your calendar. When you hear the beep, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don’t let the hours manage you.

STEP 3 (5 Minutes): Your Evening Minutes. At the end of your day, shut off your computer and review how the day went, asking yourself… questions like: How did the day go? What did I learn about myself? Is there anyone I need to update? Shoot off a couple of emails or calls to make sure you’ve communicated with the people you need to contact.

 

2) Make Things Automatic

The secret to getting more done is to make things automatic. Decisons exhaust you:

The counterintuitive secret to getting things done is to make them more automatic, so they require less energy.

It turns out we each have one reservoir of will and discipline, and it gets progressively depleted by any act of conscious self-regulation. In other words, if you spend energy trying to resist a fragrant chocolate chip cookie, you’ll have less energy left over to solve a difficult problem. Will and discipline decline inexorably as the day wears on.

Build routines and habits so that you’re not deciding, you’re just doing. When you first learn to drive it’s 1000 activities like steering, shifting, checking mirrors, braking — but with practice you turned it into autopilot and it’s no stress at all.

 

3) Checklists are magic

Use checklists. Yeah, everybody says that. And you probably don’t consistently do it.

Harvard surgeon Atul Gawande analyzed their effectiveness in his book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. What happens when you consistently use checklists in an intensive care unit?

The proportion of patients who didn’t receive the recommended care dropped from seventy per cent to four per cent; the occurrence of pneumonias fell by a quarter; and twenty-one fewer patients died than in the previous year. The researchers found that simply having the doctors and nurses in the I.C.U. make their own checklists for what they thought should be done each day improved the consistency of care to the point that, within a few weeks, the average length of patient stay in intensive care dropped by half.

What makes for a good checklist? Be specific and include time estimates.

 

4) Beat Procrastination

Use dashes:

“…a dash, which is simply a short burst of focused activity during which you force yourself to do nothing but work on the procrastinated item for a very short period of time—perhaps as little as just one minute.”

A big part of procrastination is dread. The task seems terrible and overwhelming. And that’s the first issue that needs attacking: those feelings.

By breaking the problem down into smaller chunks — even comically small ones that require only 1 minute of activity — and doing just that one little thing, you prove to yourself the task isn’t insurmountable.

The most motivating thing in the world is progress. Any trivial progress can motivate and boost positive emotions that will help build a productive momentum.

So this sounds good in theory but you’re probably thinking: what’s that first step and won’t that be horribly, horribly painful? For any procrastinated task, first thing is to take one minute and just write down the steps you need to do to finish the task.

This should be enough to kill negative emotions, build some momentum and get you going.

 

5) How to relieve stress

The secret to being stress free is feeling in control:

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Over and over, scientists see that the perception of control over a stressor alters the stressor’s impact.

Do things that increase your control of a situation ahead of time. According to one study, the stress management technique that worked best was deliberately planning your day so that stress is minimized.

The best way to reduce job stress is to get a clear idea of what is expected of you.

The trick to not worrying about work stuff while at home is to make specific plans to address concerns before you leave the office.

Most of the things you instinctively do to relieve stress don’t work.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

The APA’s national survey on stress found that the most commonly used strategies were also rated as highly ineffective by the same people who reported using them. For example, only 16 percent of people who eat to reduce stress report that it actually helps them. Another study found that women are most likely to eat chocolate when they are feeling anxious or depressed, but the only reliable change in mood they experience from their drug of choice is an increase in guilt.

So what does work?

According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. (The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.)

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About Eric Barker