Technology was supposed to make life easier, but the end result is often that we feel more swamped than ever. How can you make the right technology and organisational choices to work smarter, not harder? This is an extract from Lifehacker's new ebook Working Smarter: The Technology & Tactics You Need To Get Ahead In Business. Download the full version here for free.
How Big Is The Problem?
Almost every week, a study appears in the news telling us how much harder we're working and how much busier we are. It's hard to believe isn't it? 150 years ago Australians won the right to the eight-hour work day. A look back through figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that each year, the number of hours we're putting in is slowly working its way back up. Once known as the "working man's paradise", Australians now work as many as 240 hours per year more than the international average of 1643 hours. Think about it — that's 4.6 hours per week, or almost an extra hour per day or a whole extra six weeks per year. And research also shows that we're also spending more time on housework than before.
This is an extract from Lifehacker's new ebook Working Smarter: The Technology & Tactics You Need To Get Ahead In Business. You can download the entire ebook for free here.
Technology was meant to fix all of that wasn't it? Instead, we're more connected to the office than ever through notebooks, smartphones, broadband and VPNs so we work outside the office. Even holidays are invaded unless you ditch your smartphone. Technology has resulted in a deeper connection to work, but work practices haven't changed. In fact, many of us feel like our bosses have simply acquired more ways to nag us – they're like kids in the back seat asking if we're there yet.
The Key Is Working Smarter
We've all head the mantra "work smarter, not harder". The trouble is that there's no silver bullet solution that works for everyone. We all need to take time to find organisational systems that work for us and then be prepared to adapt them as circumstances change or as we learn more. But we also need to look for ways to reduce the time it takes to carry out repetitive tasks and to remove unproductive time.
Over the years management gurus such as Kaplan and Norton (who wrote The Balanced Scorecard) and Peter Drucker have emphasised a basic concept to help you get more from your business: you can't fix what you don't measure. The same idea applies to your personal work as much as it applies to your business's operation. Keep a personal log for one week and note down everything that you do and how long it takes. That way you'll have data to help you understand how long it actually takes you to get something done rather than gut feel or your memory.
Measurement will deliver lots of useful information that you can then use to create a smarter work strategy. You'll be able to work out when you work best, where too much time or effort is being expended on a particular activity and what you're actually spending time on.
As well as measuring what you do it's a good idea to carry out an audit of your toolkit. What equipment are you using? How often does it get in the way of you doing your work? Are you leaking money on equipment that seems to work but requires constant maintenance?
Once you get through looking at your personal productivity you can start to look at the bigger picture of your staff and colleagues. There's no point trying to get anyone else's behaviour to change until they see the benefits through your actions. Also, what works for you may not work for other people so take the time to find what fits particular situations.
Although many people feel that technology gets in the way of work, using technology smartly can save you time and effort. Knowing where people are, being able to see them during remote communications and knowing whether they are busy can create a working environment that doesn't get in the way of productivity.
Improving your personal and professional productivity is not a one-off project. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, many companies promoted productivity and quality programs. But, to get long lasting benefits, you need to make improving your productivity part of your regular work plan, not just a short-term activity, and incorporate appropriate technology as it appears.
Want to read the rest of this chapter and more business productivity advice? You can download Lifehacker's new free ebook Working Smarter: The Technology & Tactics You Need To Get Ahead In Business here.
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