How To Get More From Your Working Day

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OK, so here is a $64,000 dollar question: how do you get more from your working day? Here are our WorkGuru Top Tips:

Prioritise, Prioritise, Prioritise
And when you have prioritised: delegate! The ‘trick’ to prioritising is learning to distinguish between your important and your urgent tasks. Important tasks contribute directly to your work goal, and usually have a long-term perspective. Urgent tasks usually demand urgent attention and tend to be dictated by someone else. They have a short-term perspective. Learn to delegate your urgent but not important tasks, and begin to focus on your important not urgent tasks. These are the tasks that will really help you to achieve your goals.

Learn To Say ‘No’
The bottom line is, that you can’t keep squeezing more and more into your day. Something has to give – and usually that something is you. Learn to say ‘no’, even to the things that you would really really love to do but you know that you just wouldn’t be able to do justice to. Saying ‘no’ to new stuff will help you focus and deliver on the things that you are already committed to.

Create Routines
Creating routines helps you to converse energy. Decision making depletes your energy, leaving you less able to focus on the things that are important. Creating routines enables you to cut back on the decisions that you make every day and provides you with the foundation from which to build your working day. Routines help you to be more consistent and effective.

Don’t Multi Task
We have said this before (and I am sure we will say it again) don’t multi task. We all have a finite capacity for paying attention. The amount of attention we have is limited, so we can not effectively focus on more than one thing at a time. Learn to focus on one thing at a time and to batch similar tasks together, saving on energy and keeping yourself focused.

Match Your Task To Your Energy
Another WorkGuru classic – learn to match your tasks to your energy levels. Our energy levels fluctuate during the day – and often during the week. Learn when you are at your most alert and use that time for complex or creative tasks. Learn when you are most depleted and use that time for routine tasks: answering emails or telephone calls. By routinising (I think we might have made that word up!) your tasks to your energy levels you can make the most out of your working day.

Are We Working Harder?

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One of the questions that we ask ourselves at WorkGuru is whether as a nation we are working harder than ever before. Our very first blog asked the questions “Has Work Become Harder or Have We Become Softer?” We argued that changes to the way we are working; flatter more agile organisations and a greater use of technology, meant that the workplace had become more fluid and that we were having to take more responsibility for our own training and professional development. The pressure of work had intensified.

A report published last week by CIPD asks the same question: “Are We Working Harder Than Ever?” They conclude that whilst we have a sense that work is becoming more intense with greater workloads and pressures to meet deadlines, customer demands and performance targets, our working hours are not becoming longer.

The average number of hours that we work has been falling for decades. In 1997 26% of us worked over a 45-hour week, in 2013 this was under 20%.

Whilst on average we may not be working longer hours, this doesn’t detract from the fact that our working lives have become more intense. In 2012 45% of us agreed with the statement “my job requires that I work very hard”. That is an increase from 32% in 1992. 41% of us feel under excessive pressure at work at least once or twice a week, with 13% saying that they were under excessive pressure every single working day.

One explanation for this put forward by the CIPD is the impact of the recession. Employees that feel under pressure on a regular basis are more likely to be concerned about their job security and more likely to be working in a workplace where the recession has led to cuts in jobs, pay or other benefits.

Another explanation might be the context in which we are now living. Our lives in general have become more complex, with greater demands made upon us leaving us with a depleted energy to tackle a demanding job.

Whatever the explanation, clearly more of us are experiencing work as being more demanding with excessive pressure and increased intensity which is definitely not good for our mental and physical health.