The 4-hour work week by Tim Ferris, a book that seemed to promise a way for us to worker smart and not harder. With 2.1 million copies sold since it’s 2007 launch you would think working long hours would be a thing of the past. While there is an overall downward trend in the hours we work per week, recent surveys have suggested that half of the UK professionals are working longer than ever due to working from home.
It seems now more than ever we need to be smart about the way we work.
With so many tasks and so many digital tools at our disposal working smarter should be familiar to us – so why is it that we have less time and are often still working after our finish time. When you discount the distraction from technology, we still seem to be inefficient, playing catchup.
The book was met with many negative views. As Amazon review go, readers felt it only applied to online business and those doing high level managerial work, that’s not true…
Anyone can work smarter
Working smarter can apply to anyone at any level. It doesn’t matter what job you have and at what level, anyone can benefit from working smarter. You can also apply working smarter to your personal life and get those household errands done faster so that you have more time to spend doing what you want to do.
The trap that most people fall not when trying to work smarter is that with extra time they gain they take on more stuff and a vicious circle continues. They take on more, become overworked and demotivated and end up achieving less. Getting out of this trap means that you need to be able to say no and stop trying to be everything to everyone – we can’t have it all and we need to be realistic about what it is we can offer in our business and personal life.
Being realist is the first step, the next taking a good look at your current working ways with an audit.
The to do list
The to-do-list is only as good as you are at prioritizing. When starting a list its tempting to start in order of important. However just because its important does not mean its urgent. The 4 D framework – delay, delete, delegate and do. Assorting tasks from an initial to do list into a new list will make for a more efficient use of your time.
Audit yourself: The daily log
If you don’t measure things, you spend doing in you working day, then you can’t manage them. So, until we know what we are spending time on then we can change it.
A daily log is what some call a done list. It the easy way to honestly record all activities no matter how small, as you are going through your day.
The better you become at being honest by recording the actual time and tasks it will allow you to work what activities that are not brining the most benefit in terms of productivity. You can then tie some of the time eating tasks to your next to do list and apply the 4D’s to them.
Another way to audit yourself would be to note what times of the day you work best. Most people have 2-3 energy peaks per day – with mid-morning later afternoon and early evening being. Learning to take advantage and use your energy peaks for high demanding tasks will work to your benefit. Similarly, doing less demanding, little tasks are better at low energy times.
Doing a daily log after adjusting for your energy levels will show if it works – so its important to regularly log your time. Its not something you need to do every day or even every week but it important when things change.
Theres nothing new about outsourcing but now it’s more accessible thanks to the many freelance websites.
Outsourcing is often underutilised as startups try to do everything themselves to cut costs when they should really outsource the cheaper tasks e.g., admin so that it free their time to concentrate on more revenue generating tasks like marketing.
The best thing about freelance website is that you are not tied to a person, so outsourcing is a flexible way to get stuff done.
Small things that make a big difference
· Take more breaks – an obvious one but few overworked people do this. Doing more is often counter-productive and results in more mistakes.
· The 2-minute rule – if it can be done in 2 minutes then do it now/do it first
· Tell yourself you will start a task – don’t concentrate on the whole tasks.
· Find a place with no interruptions and switch off connect devices
Having a system
This one is more for businesses, especially small businesses (and startup companies).
You need to have systems. Systems help standardization jobs and people roles in consistent way that improves quality.
By documenting all the roles and process within the company that are vital to its operation the business can flourish. In his book “The E-myth”, Michael Gerber explains that highly systemised business is more successful and still around after 5 years by moving away from a people-based approach to running the company. This way you can reply on the process to get results and not the person.
Implementing smarter ways to work is a practice that gets stronger the more you do it. It’s a daily habit honed over time. Don’t expect big drastic shifts in your productivity straight away.
There are plenty of short cuts that do work, success will largely be dependent on you letting go of the need to be everything, be everywhere. Reduce your need to control everything and say yes only when it matters.
The ethos of the 4-hour work week was not about being financially rich but time rich so that you have more time to do more of what you enjoy so it’s good to remember we get more than money when we work smarter.