Being Productive Part 1

June 23, 2003

7 Keys To Being Productive

By: Jim Olsztynski

1) Work smart.
Everyone strives to adhere to this cliché, although it's easier said than done. There are several elements to working smart.

First, it means delegating. As you climb the ladder in job responsibility, you must learn to give up certain tasks you may find enjoyable and do well. For example, I consider myself an excellent proofreader, but it's time consuming and most of our junior editors are just as good at it or even better than I am. So generally I proofread only if nobody else is available, or if the article or document is particularly sensitive.

A good rule of thumb to follow is, anything that can be adequately performed by an individual of less experience or skill should be. Use your time for crucial tasks nobody else can handle - and if you identify too many of these, it's a sign of weak managerial ability. Of course, it helps a great deal when you have good people to delegate to. A corollary to "work smart" is to hire smart.

Experience goes hand-in-hand with working smart. As you grow in any job, you learn to distinguish the important tasks that require a lion's share of time from those that require only a little attention. Also, along the way you should identify some things that are not worth doing at all. Experience also reduces the amount of time you need to spend on any given task. Experienced people should be more productive than novices, although in the real world it doesn't always turn out that way.

2) Parkinson's Law works both ways.
"Work expands to fill the time available" is known as Parkinson's Law. It describes how people can stretch out a workday even if there's not enough work to fill it.

I've found the opposite to hold true as well - work seems to contract to fill the time available. No matter how much I have to do, I always seem able to accomplish everything within whatever deadlines I'm working with. Partly this comes from taking shortcuts whenever there is not an unacceptable penalty in quality. Not every task is crucial or needs to be performed to perfection. Knowing which tasks to short-shrift is part of what experience teaches.

Example: as you might expect for someone in my position, I tend toward perfectionism when it comes to written communications. My tendency is to labor for several drafts when it comes to writing articles, letters or anything else that will be read by others. Misspellings or grammatical errors are deeply embarrassing to me. Yet, thanks to e-mail, my daily volume of written communications has expanded considerably over the years.

It's no longer practical for me to spend time proofing everything I write and searching for precisely the right words to convey a given thought. The pace of modern life has made it necessary for me to compose faster, and live with the occasional typo or clumsy expression for routine communications.

The key, of course, is sound time management. Partly this has to do with the experience factor mentioned earlier. I used to put in longer hours when I was younger and had fewer responsibilities. That's because it took me longer to do many tasks, because I hadn't learned to prioritize, and because I didn't have anyone to delegate to.

Excerpted from e-PHC Profit Report
A weekly e-newsletter filled with money-making tips for busy PHC professionals.
Contact: Jim Olsztynski, Editor-Publisher
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