Work Smarter, Not Harder: 3 Ways to Get Started

At times do you feel like there aren’t enough hours in your workday? Like you’re running after your work instead of being firmly in the driver’s seat? If you do, you’re not alone—not by a long shot. This is exactly what life was like for one of my coaching clients, a young, bright manager clearly on the fast track. Although he loved his work, it seemed no matter how many hours he put in, he never felt caught up.

During our coaching, my client and I spent much of our time uncovering what was going on and what he might be able to do differently. He narrowed in on some actions he could take and he set to work. Here’s what he did:

  • Identified top priorities. My client made a commitment to himself that every morning he would schedule an hour alone to identify his top five priorities. He thought clarifying his priorities each day might stop the constant feeling of being pushed and pulled by whatever was shouting the loudest.
  • Stopped saying yes to everything. As a smart, hardworking, and knowledgeable manager, he often was the person others came to when they needed something done. He initially appreciated being the go-to guy, but eventually realized he always had more work than time to do it. Through our coaching, he acknowledged to himself that he was a very hardworking and capable person. This helped him see that the reason he couldn’t get all his work done was because he was taking on too much. He realized he didn’t have to try to be all things to all people. Using his newly established priority list helped him determine when to say yes and when to say no.
  • Guarded his calendar. Setting priorities and being willing to say no created another new awareness for my client—that he was getting sucked into multiple meetings every day. No wonder he was always on the run! He determined that he didn’t have an active role in many of those meetings, nor was he gaining mission critical information. So he slowed down and considered what meetings he could drop off his calendar. In their place, he worked on his priorities.

I want to point out that these action steps were not easy for my client—because he wanted to be known by his colleagues as a team player. He wanted to be readily available to his direct reports. He wanted others to recognize his can-do attitude. But, more than all of these things, he wanted to stop working twelve-hour days.

I spoke to my client a few months after he began implementing this action plan. There was a lightness in his voice. He told me he felt his efforts were truly paying off. He was finding himself working more on tasks that were really important, which was resulting in better quality work. He was now able to give higher quality attention to his staff and co-workers. All of this had produced a greater sense of accomplishment—and, most days, he was able to leave the office on time.

If you can relate to the feeling of not enough hours in the day, maybe you’d benefit from affirming your priorities, learning to say no, and controlling your calendar. Implement these three changes and let me know how it goes!

About the Author

Joanne Maynard headshot.jpegJoanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

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