Articles

When I was the Business Support Manager for an old company I used to get so inundated with emails it was hard to do anything else. I set up a rule on Outlook. If I was cc’d into any email it went straight to a folder on my outlook. I checked them once a week at first and then eventually stopped checking. Occasionally I would get caught out but so often people are cc’d or emailed when it is unnecessary and a tool designed for productivity actually hinders it.

Useful rules to live by with emails:

1. Most people can get away with checking them ONCE a day but twice for most is probably optimal

2. Everyone is different and if you need to be in constant touch via email then set your times for when you need to check them but don’t use it as a distraction!

3. Turn off your notifications

4. Don’t worry about sending the perfect emails, typos, spelling errors happen, perfection hinders progress

5. Got a lot to cover? Use the phone

If you haven’t read Tim Ferriss ‘The 4 hour work week’ then I highly recommend some of the strategies in there.

I can get more done on a Sunday morning in the office in 3 hours than I can in a couple of days sometimes. I refer to this time as peak working hours. The goal should be to maintain during the week as much ‘peak’ working time as possible but it is not possible to constantly be operating in this state. 

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This is largely due to mental capacity, in that the brains optimal efficiency can only be sustained for short periods of time. A New Scientist study in 2010 evidenced that our concentration diminishes as ‘hours tick away’. 

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That isn’t to say we can’t minimise distractions that avoid us being in peak state for longer. The main causes that enable more work to be done on the early hours of a weekend vs a work week are:

 

  1. Travel time – no traffic on the road and therefore the commute is considerably reduced

 

  1. Phone calls – I can sometimes spend hours on the phone to staff, consultants and clients and this can have twice the impact on peak state because it interrupts flow but also consumes time

 

  1. Meetings – can often be time consuming and necessarily long

I’m sure a lot of you are guilty of falling into the trap of doing jobs that are adding small amounts of value to your day. Whether we are employed, self-employed or a business owner we are all paid according to the value that we are expected to return to the business. In simple terms if your services cost a business £20 per hour then the business would expect to see a £20 + margin return on that value. In practice it can be more complex than this.

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As staff develop and improve their skills through investment in themselves or the company investing in them, the return on their cost per hour should go up as they are paid more and therefore the total return for the business should go up.

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The practice of auditing your tasks on a regular basis, perhaps monthly, should ensure that you are providing the best return to the business so long as you eliminate those jobs that can be completed at a lower value than your hourly cost. In the same hand this only works if, by eliminating those jobs that require less skill, you utilise your time to the best of your ability in line with your skills and competencies.

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This practice can be applied across all areas of your life in theory including personal life. For example if you spend 3 hours a week washing and ironing clothes but you can get this done by somebody else for £30 and spend those 3 hours adding value to your business to the amount of £300 then you have delivered a 10 times return. The same caveat applies. Those hours you now have free from outsourcing work must be utilised to generate business or a return.

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Practice:

  1. Understanding your hourly rate or value
  2. Regularly writing down jobs you do
  3. Auditing the jobs you do
  4. Work out how to outsource those lower skilled jobs
  5. Maximise your output during those outsourced hours
  6. As your skills and values increase continue the process

 

Don’t just go through the motions during your next work week. Many employees will get frustrated that they haven’t received that pay rise they were promised 7 months ago or that they are under resourced or their colleagues are providing them a great deal of stress at work and so the list goes on.

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If you wish for things to change take control of your week starting before you get stuck in to your Monday morning emails. 

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This means writing down (and I mean writing down) what a great week looks like to you, then you can proceed in making that happen. An experiment conducted by Mangen showed when written down that people are more likely to remember and execute their goals compared to their non scriptive counterparts. 

Don’t just go through the motions during your next work week. Many employees will get frustrated that they haven’t received that pay rise they were promised 7 months ago or that they are under resourced or their colleagues are providing them a great deal of stress at work and so the list goes on.

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If you wish for things to change take control of your week starting before you get stuck in to your Monday morning emails.

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This means writing down (and I mean writing down) what a great week looks like to you, then you can proceed in making that happen. An experiment conducted by Mangen showed when written down that people are more likely to remember and execute their goals compared to their non scriptive counterparts.

Do you ever hear from your partner at home or a colleague that someone in the office is useless at their job, are always holding things up or you don’t know how they got where they did etc.?

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I’ve heard this plenty of times over my years in business and I’ve even been guilty of doing it myself. The truth is a lot of times this comes down to each party involved having different priorities and expectations. Staff will often complain to other staff because it’s the easier thing to do but it doesn’t resolve anything. In fact it actually exacerbates the situation by creating a toxic culture. So what do you do?

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Sometimes it’s not easy to have these types of conversations with people because naturally as humans it’s in our nature to avoid confrontation especially in the work place. There is a level of diplomacy required in doing this but sometimes if someone is driving you mad at work, unfortunately sometimes you may just need to tell them! If you don’t it will never change.

Over my career I’ve had many different types of managers, some good, some great and a minority not so great. Interestingly looking back over the years some of the managers I didn’t rate I now look at with a completely different view.

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There is a difference between managers and leaders and the truth is that there is a time and place for both. A manager should oversee a process. A leader should provide a vision and bring people along that journey with them.

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I’m in a position now where I am my own boss, if there is ever such a thing. We still have to service clients and other stakeholders so I’m still accountable regardless. I’ve learned over the years that it’s the priority of the leaders or managers in the business to make decisions and solve problems. It is their role to empower their staff to execute. If you are constantly checking in on your staff you risk losing sight of the prize, failing to drive the business forward and worst case having it all crumble down before you know it.

Whether it’s your Lamborghini or your first VW Golf everyone at some stage suffers from new car syndrome. You work hard for years or month in month out to make the repayments on a prestigious car but whether it’s 2 months or 2 years eventually it just becomes another car. So what is the point?

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1. Don’t pride yourself on having materialistic things to meet the standard that you think others expect you to be meeting. Eventually even your yacht won’t be big enough. This is slightly different to having things for practical purposes i.e. a product, home or car that serves a purpose for a family or a specific activity.

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2. If you wish to strive for greatness there should be no finish line. It’s not enough to aspire to achieve your goals. This may be a business goal or an altruistic ambition to support a charity. Once you are done, great, move on and make your next ambition even bigger. This is how we grow.