Work is always going to be a little hard, even if you enjoy what you're doing. That's why we call it work. But that doesn't mean you have to tolerate unnecessary hassle and inefficiency. These few tips are solid weapons for intelligently getting more done without all the strain.

 

1. Pencil in disaster.

 

Most people I know schedule what they want to happen through the day, only looking forward. But guess what. Life's messy. The unexpected happens, so drop the habit of scheduling based on the best case scenario. Assume crap is going to happen, and instead of desperately trying to find time to fix it on the fly, leave yourself a gap in the day where you can sit down and address whatever problems have cropped up. You'll stress far less and focus on the other to-do items better if you know you have time set aside for what you didn't expect.

And if you have a smooth day where there's nothing to put in the "disaster hour"? Just grab your next to-do item or, better yet, spend some time in self-care, such as a power nap, walk outside or meditation. Education items, including reading, are fair game, too.

2. Control your communication.

There's a huge pressure in the 24/7 business culture to be available on call--that is, to give the perception that you're always able to "jump to". But the irony is, if you're actually doing your job and working, this never can be fully true. Controlling your communication is the simplest way to avoid non-critical demands from distracting and derailing you.

You can pick your perfect poison for this, but a few viable options are to

  • Actually pick up the phone and talk instead of writing everything out.
  • Set up an away message that states you will not reply to messages sent during the away period, and which either redirects the sender to someone else or instructs the sender to try again at a specified window.  
  • Wait until the end of the day to send non-critical email drafts to avoid inbox growback that mentally messes with you.
  • Turn off your phone and disable device alerts. If you can't address a new issue right away anyway, there's little value in watching them pile up as you're trying to concentrate.
  • Limit your availability to one platform at a time and use status messages or policy statements to funnel people to your platform of choice.
  • Be politely clear at the beginning of conversation that you only have x, y or z minutes to offer.

3. Choose tasks according to impact.

One curse of being a good leader is that you probably feel like there are a million things you should do. You can run yourself ragged trying to pursue many paths you feel obligated to walk. But successful people know they can't possibly get to everything that's worthwhile. Instead, they focus on just a few key areas that are going to deliver the biggest influence or legacy over the long haul.

Be ruthless about trimming your priorities, letting real analysis drive your decisions as much as your gut. Then obsess over and put as much fire behind what's left on the priorities list as humanly possible, insisting on quality from start to finish.

4. Focus on the how, not the why.

Don't misunderstand here. They why is brutally important. But if there are flaws in your system, in the way you're going to try to run to the finish, well, then you'll likely fall on your face before you even catch sight of the finish line. Fully consider all of your options before you start and have a darn good reason for selecting one over all the others. Ask yourself

  • Have I tested?
  • Is this adaptable?
  • Can I repeat this?

Once you have a viable system, it's simply a matter of following through.

Published on: Jun 12, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.