The world of work is changing, according to Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew, founders of online careers hub The Muse (opens in new tab) and authors of The New Rules Of Work (opens in new tab). Follow their advice to fast-track your career progress and find more time to do the things you love.
Managing your time more efficiently doesn’t only mean organising your to-do list. It also means learning to think differently about the value of your time. Often, this mind shift means knowing what not to do and what to stop doing. Saying no, giving yourself boundaries, and understanding whether all the tasks on your to-do list are really necessary or important can make a huge difference in your productivity – and your happiness. Try testing yourself with this list of five questions to make sure you’re investing your time well.
1. Are you “yes-ing” yourself to death?
Many people have a deep need to be liked. As a result, they say yes to almost everything that’s asked of them. The problem is, this makes it impossible to do everything well, and zaps their time and productivity. Take a look at the last ten requests you received (except assignments from your boss, which you may not have control over). If you said yes to more than half, it’s probably time to push yourself to start saying no.
2. Are you delegating enough?
Whether or not you’re a manager, there are opportunities to delegate to colleagues. If you’re doing everything yourself, and think “it’s just faster for me to do it”, you may be a delegatophobe. Take a good look at your tasks over the last week. Are all of those really your job description? If not, then you want to begin to delegate more.
3. Is everything on your to-do list necessary?
Don’t look at an endless to-do list as a challenge to get it all done but as a challenge to prioritise. If you haven’t tackled a certain task for weeks, or if you keep pushing it to a later date, that might be a sign that it’s not actually necessary. Use your manager and colleagues as sounding boards to try to remove unnecessary items from your to-do list, so you can dedicate more time to high-priority items that will move your goals forward.
Having trouble removing to-dos at work? Go through each one and write down the impact it will have (eg “revenue opportunity” or “user growth”). You’ll be surprised how many items aren’t aligned with your company or personal goals. If this is the case, let them go.
4. Do you really need to be at that meeting?
News flash: you do not need to agree to be at every meeting you’re asked to attend. Don’t think you have to be a slave to those people who inconsiderately add meetings to your calendar without asking (every workplace has them!). Know that you have permission to decline anything that isn’t critical to your job.
Set a high bar for giving people your time, and you’ll find that some questions can actually be sorted out more effectively via email or by picking up the phone in a small fraction of the time they would take to address in a meeting. Try, “Thanks for the invite, but I’m not sure this is the best use of my time, and I’m confident that the other parties can move forward without me” or “In the interest of time, why don’t we try hashing this out over email? Here are the next action steps on my end.”
5. Are you a slave to your inbox?
Speaking of things you don’t need to do: you do not need to answer every email. Give yourself permission to archive irrelevant and “FYI” emails you’re copied in on. And while you’re at it, unsubscribe from any newsletter you signed up for and don’t read. Trust us – if you don’t have time to read it now, you probably never will.
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