Working smarter

Take a fresh look at how you’re working, to see if you can “work smarter” by prioritising, delegating, allowing enough time for tasks to be completed, and getting rid of perfectionism and procrastination.

Sort your priorities

Prioritising means that we attend to what is essential or important to us and put other things on hold (or delegate them).

  • Sometimes it can be useful to divide daily tasks and responsibilities into essential, important, and less important (or trivial).
  • Draw up a piece of paper into these three columns, and write everything down. Then start the day with tasks in the “essential” and “important” columns.
  • Only move on to the tasks in the “less important” category when you’re finished with all the tasks in the other two columns.
  • Or you can postpone the less important tasks in order to give yourself recovery time.

If you find that work is always in the “essential” category, it may be that you’ll need to put recovery time – time for rest, recreation and relationships – into the “essential” category as well, to get a more balanced lifestyle.

What can you delegate?

Delegation means either asking or letting someone else take care of a task that has lower priority for us, or to undertake an important task that we don’t have to do personally. The key to delegation is a willingness to trust other people’s capabilities and to allow extra time initially to explain or show what is needed. Perfectionism often gets in the way of delegation.

Build in a buffer – allow extra time

Ideally, we like to be able to estimate accurately the amount of time required to complete each task during the day, but in practice this is not always possible. As a general rule, it helps to allow a little more time than you would expect for each activity.

Letting go of perfectionism

Perfectionism is setting standards and expectations of ourselves and of other people too high. If you lean towards perfectionism, you probably find it difficult both to accept mistakes from yourself and other people, and to live with a less than perfect result. Letting go of perfectionism means that you need to learn simply to do your best, make some mistakes along the way and accept the results you get, even if these are not perfect.

Remember, aiming for “good enough” can often be a helpful antidote to perfectionism. It can also be useful to experiment with setting yourself different standards and seeing what happens.

Changing perfectionist attitudes can be difficult. If you find yourself getting stuck, you may need some professional help.

Overcoming procrastination

Procrastination means putting things off. Many people struggle with it, and it always gets in the way of getting things done on time and done well. There can be lots of reasons for procrastination.

Sometimes you really don’t want to do a task in the first place. Solutions can be to delegate that task, or to prioritise it. Prioritising it means doing it first, before anything else, rather than putting it off.

Promising yourself a reward once it is done can be a useful way to break a procrastination pattern. You can even give yourself rewards for getting started and for making some progress.

Perfectionism can also be the reason for procrastination: Unless I can do this well, there’s no point doing it at all. Breaking the task down and just getting started, as well as changing the perfectionist thinking, can be helpful here. Think: I can have a go at this, I can always come back to it to improve it later but the most important thing is to get started.

The other key to cracking procrastination is to pay more attention to the thinking patterns that are getting in the way of your doing something.

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