Throughout most of my working life I managed people and property and events, often many all at the same time. I learned very early on that some type system and order were necessary otherwise nothing worthwhile could be consistently accomplished. I began learning this lesson when I was 18 years old and continued to learn and refine systems that improved efficiency over the decades that followed.
Some where along the way I discovered W. Edwards Deming and his philosophy of continuous improvement. I studied his ideas and methods and I continued to study others as well. In short what most managers and leaders do is to respond reactively instead of being proactive. They fail to see things coming that they should be able to anticipate and then they fail to take proper actions to deal with them. Instead they are routinely blindsided and then scrambling to deal with a crisis and then clean up a mess. This is inefficient – it is also quite normal and routine for far to many people and organizations.
On a more personal basis if you want to become more efficient at whatever you do and if you want to get better results, and get them consistently here are a few things for you to try;
- Have a written plan – It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated. Use a simple cheap spiral notebook. Start with tomorrow. At the top of the page put the date and the day of the week. Then make a list of what you want to accomplish tomorrow. Think about it carefully and then write it down – one line for each item.
- Follow your plan – if something comes up, or others bring things up wanting to divide your attention – then say no and focus on accomplishing what you set out to do. Otherwise you will be pulled in so many different directions by so many people you will get nothing done and you will be stressed out beyond belief. Learn to say no – and keep your focus.
- Track your progress and update your plan – as you complete tasks mark them as completed. If for some reason a task does not get completed on the day it was scheduled – then ask yourself why. Then either reschedule it forward and note that it has been rescheduled – or consider whether it is something that can be canceled or not. Either way do it in writing.
Keep your planner – whether it is a cheap spiral notebook (and my favorite) or a fancy leather bound planner with all the bells and whistles – keep it in front of you all day every day and constantly review and update as you go through the day. At first it will seem like a pain and not natural – but if you stick with it and have enough self discipline to force yourself to do it – then after a couple of weeks or so it will begin to become a habit. After a couple of months it will be a deeply ingrained habit that will not be hard at all to keep doing.
You will also become more efficient at scheduling and completing things that matter as time goes along. Make sure at the end of each day you look over all that you have accomplished – and take satisfaction in what you have completed. Then look at anythings that need to be carried forward as rescheduled items and move them forward then before you go home. Next write out your schedule for the following day and review it for a few minutes before you leave for the day. Then the following morning before you do any other work related task – review your schedule again and start working on it.
This simple concept will improve your efficiency dramatically if you use it effectively and consistently every day. Each day keep the concept of continuous improvement in mind. It can be applied to virtually everything that human beings do.