The New Year is a time to focus on personal resolutions such as getting fit, organising the house or saving money. But, many of us could use the fresh year to get our work life in order too, as we struggle to cope with the demands of super-busy modern business life working in SMEs.
Workers around the world are currently facing what we call triple overload: data, communication and cognitive. As a result, the UK is falling behind when it comes to productivity. So here are some handy tips you can use to organise your workload and be more productive in 2019.
1. Avoid cognitive overload
A knowledge worker gets interrupted or switches tasks every three to five minutes on average, according to research, leading to a very unhealthy cognitive overload, exhaustion and mini burnouts at the end of the working day.
So you need to learn to protect your attention. Think about when you’re at your best and protect your best-attention-time so you can do your best work. Reduce or remove distractions like your mobile phone and close your email inbox, which can be a big distraction.
Develop strategies to get your inbox regularly back to zero unread mail, like batch-processing email at particular times of the day instead of having your inbox open in the background all of the time. Or you can forward important emails to an Evernote notebook to clear inbox clutter and save crucial info to refer back to later.
2. Make meetings more productive
Knowledge workers spend about 80% of their working time communicating or collaborating through emails, meetings, chat, and messenger, according to an article by Rob Cross et al. That doesn’t leave much time to do deep work, so getting the most out of meetings is crucial.
Make sure you never have a meeting without an agenda in the calendar invite. Also, add links for pre-meeting reading directly to the invite so everyone can prepare properly.
Try shrinking your meetings. Just because your calendar may default to creating 30- or 60-minute meetings, that doesn’t mean you need to have meetings that long.
Also, take notes in every meeting and create a running list that you can refer back to when figuring out next steps and action items. Sometimes these can even come in handy much later, when you’re trying to figure out what was decided when in a long-term process.
3. Clean your workspace
A messy office or desk leads to lost documents and information, which in turn leads to lost time searching needlessly. Research shows that because of data overload the average knowledge worker wastes about two and a half hours per day searching for information.
Clean up your desk area and sort through any messy piles of unfilled documents and folders. Then use Evernote to scan receipts, documents, photos, business cards and whiteboard notes directly into your phone, so you don’t have to remember which desk drawer or file folder you put your paperwork in. Then toss the hard copies away or file them out of sight, if you still need to keep the physical paperwork.
Also, have a digital declutter by deleting any unneeded documents, files, programmes or apps on your computer, and correctly file away documents saved in temporary areas like your desktop.
Ultimately, a few small changes to the way you organise your workload, plus a couple of hours of preparation, could make a huge difference to how productive you are in work in 2019.