WORK SMARTER TO ACCELERATE SUCCESS
The world of work is changing, according to Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew, founders of online careers hub The Muse and authors of The New Rules Of Work. Follow their advice to fast-track your career progress and find more time to do the things
Winning the war against time isn’t about trying hundreds of online tools claiming to help professionals be more productive. Yes, those tools can help, but fundamentally, it’s about rethinking how you use time. And this starts each and every day with how you organise your tasks.
Employment network LinkedIn compiled a survey that revealed just how much our professional to-do lists are in need of a makeover. It turns out we’re great at listing the things we need to do, but not so good at actually doing them. In fact, almost 90% of professionals admit they’re unable to accomplish all the tasks on their to-do list by the end of an average workday. So if you’re sick of tackling the same stale to-do lists every day – and coming up short – here are four key strategies to change all that.
KEEP A SINGLE MASTER TO-DO LIST FOR WORK
Let’s be honest: if you wanted to get a complete view of all the tasks you had to get done for work right now, chances are you couldn’t find it all on a single list. Instead, you probably have a few Post-its here, a saved draft in your email there, notes jotted in stickies on your computer, and maybe a checklist app or two on your phone, right? But if the goal is to actually get everything done, having a single place for your work-related tasks is a must. So pick your method of choice, and start consolidating.
The list can be a handwritten one inside your trusty planner, a document you keep on your desktop, an app on your phone, or whatever else – this isn’t about the medium, it’s about the thought process. Just make sure that whatever method you use, you can add to your list from anywhere. This means that if you use a desktop app, you’ll want to set up a system to capture to-dos that crop up while you’re away from your computer, such as assignments you get while in a meeting, or the phone call you remember during your commute home that you need to make tomorrow.
Our preference is to email these reminders to ourselves, then delete the email once we’ve transferred them to the master list. But simply writing them down on sticky notes and transcribing them to the file works too.
FOLLOW THE 1-3-5 RULE
One way we have transformed not only our own productivity but also that of our entire team at TheMuse.com is by following the 1-3-5 Rule, which Alex developed. Here’s the gist: on any given day, assume that you can only accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things, and narrow down your to-do list to those nine items.
Sound scary? Well, it is, at first. But like it or not, you have only so many hours in the day, and you’re going to get only a finite number of things done. Forcing yourself to prioritise by creating 1-3-5 lists means the things you accomplish will be the things you choose to do, rather than those that happen to get done.
Of course, the number of tasks themselves can be flexible. If you spend much of your day in meetings, for example, you might need to reduce the number of tasks. Or if your position is one where each day brings lots of unexpected to-dos and assignments, you might try leaving one medium and two small tasks blank in preparation for the last-minute requests from your boss.
This doesn’t mean you need to limit your master to-do list to just nine things. Rather, you should keep two kinds of lists: one large “kitchen sink” comprehensive list of everything you have to do at some point (all in one place), and another that is shorter and gives you your marching orders for what needs to get done today. We recommend that before leaving work in the evening, you take a few minutes to define your 1-3-5 for the next day, so you’re ready to hit the ground running in the morning.
Planning ahead like this also means you’ll be able to have more informed conversations with your manager when he or she drops something new on you that needs to be done right away, as well as the tools to re-prioritise your other work. For example,
The New Rules Of Work by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew (RRP £14.99, Orion) is out now