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Working Smarter – 5 Strategies to Stay in the Zone

January 12, 2015

It happened to me this morning. I’m sure it happens to you as well. a key person on a project had worked hard all weekend, but most of the time on a project in which they were personally interested, while not finishing up the project we’re hard against on a deadline. It makes you mutter, “We’ve got to work smarter” doesn’t it?

Then someone else had set up an appointment for me with no contact info to make the call, and the name mis-spelled, just to make things a bit more challenging. My brain was spinning, I called one staff someone else’s name just to add to the confusion and confirmation that my brain was getting overwhelmed with time splitting on multiple projects. Time to stop and take a breath; but what a great opening for the topic of “working smart” or as I like to call it “working smarter”. Right?

Some of us want to work smarter or have others work smarter, because we believe it will improve performance. But I think we all wish that others worked smarter when we feel the after-effects, e.g. frustration, because not working smart means you’ll inevitably frustrate other people that work with you or follow-up on a task behind you.

You’ll see a drawing below of some of the factors that impact on whether or not on any given morning we are functioning in that “working smarter” zone. There are 5 strategies or daily disciplines to help you stay in working smart, and I find that they all depend on how at any given moment you manage priorities, information and your work smart, work smarter, smart workattitude. That’s it. Sounds simple when you look at it on paper, and it’s sure a lot less frustrating at work when we and our team work smarter. Don’t you and I wish it was easier to “crazy glue” you and your staff into that zone? Unfortunately it’s a zone, so the best suggestion I have for staying in that zone is to make a regular, daily practice of the following 5 strategies.

  1. Priorities. Two things to know about making priorities really work for you.
    1. To work smarter they have to be based on what creates the most value. Otherwise people get off on side tangents, like I started out describing in this blog. Please note that most days we do a short stand-up checkin sort of meeting on what’s priority today. Why? Because with all the moving parts, it’s pretty easy to have differing views on what’s priority #1, as your perspective on what’s priority gets dramatically shaped by whatever hot seat you are sitting in.
      2. The other thing I know about priorities is that you have to set aside quality time, often morning time, to get them done. If you don’t, your day gets hammered by usual, low level stuff, and it’s suddenly end of day and you’re wondering where the day went and frustrated that you didn’t really accomplish what you had planned.
  2. Leverage your time. Think about treating your time as the most valuable asset you have. Believe me, as someone who has had cancer a few times, it is. And then leverage your time. That means leverage other’s expertise to shorten your learning curve on anything you need to do well. Leverage your time by getting really good at using systems and insist on others in your team doing the same.
  3. Collapse the gap between Ideas and Talking… and Action and Results. It is my intent and purpose to follow-through on the follow-up of every top priority task. I just don’t leave it to chance or best intent. I do that in part because I get peace of mind and better results, but it’s also my process for reducing the gap between he/she said and what got accomplished. More about that below.
  4. Do the “iStep”. Everyone at the office has to do this step. You’ll definitely get challenged by someone if you don’t. The “iStep” is taking care of information. It’s like living in a shared appointment, and everyone needs to put away the foot in the same place or wash the dishes after they use them… otherwise it doesn’t work so well and in fact creates more work (and frustration) for the other members. More about this below as well.
  5. Check your attitude. It may not seem obvious, but the final strategy is actually one of the biggest in terms of keeping you in the “working smarter” zone. It’s what goes on between your ears. It’s your attitude. An attitude of complacency or defensiveness will certainly set you up to make mistakes that takes you out of the working smarter zone. But it’s hubris and the accompanying sense of entitlement that really shuts down our ability to work smart, usually at the cost of us missing that we are out of the working smarter zone.

Bottom Line:
Working Smarter is a zone of high performance, and avoidance of frustration.  It’s available for us to work in every day. I’ve shared 5 strategies to help you work in that zone, ranging from how you use priorities, to information management to attitude. You can find more details on each strategy at http://www.managepro.com/working-smarter/ 

2 Comments. Leave new

A great reminder! Wow! I wish I worked for or with you. But since I work for myself I am free to follow the
advice. Thanks. Mary

January 15, 2015 9:29 pm

Mary, Keep us posted on what works best for you as a solo entrepreneur.


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