In this post I explain why it is so important to work efficiently and why efficiency has value for all aspects of your life. There is a lot of benefit in making it your habit to think and be efficient. I also describe why it doesn’t mean that you have to enslave yourself by trying to be efficient in life. It actually means quite the opposite.
Choices we make
I strongly believe that our habits ultimately determine who we are. You may think “Nonsense, I have certain habits because of the person who I am”. True, probably uncounted times you have heard someone justifying bad habits as give by nature.
“Well, I am born a slob. Can’t help it”.
Does that mean this guy is unable to ever clean anything up? Do you really think? Well I don’t. Unless this person has a serious mental or physical problem of course. So let’s say our slob has some incentive to clean his room, car, desk, or whatever, that makes it worth for him to do it. Punishment otherwise would be one option, but we want to stay positive and assume for example someone paid his all-included cable fees as long as the apartment is impeccably clean. In other words someone offered him something that makes it worth for the slob to spend the energy for keeping everything tidy.
If you visited him now you would not think he was unable to keep his apartment clean. Obviously he is not. Although it may be in his nature to do otherwise he makes the active choice to be different. That is what distinguishes us from animals. Millenniums ago man made the choice against his nature not to be afraid of the fire but to control it. See, where this choice has gotten us.
I am also pretty sure no baby is born with the need to brush her teeth, even more so considering she doesn’t even have any. However, most of us wouldn’t go to bed without dutifully brushing day in and day out.
Obviously, good habits can be built over time.
Work efficiently – live happy
The most basic definition of efficiency describes it as the extent to which any resource is well used for its intended purpose.
In the business world the ultimate resource is money or currency, which can be easily traded against other resources. By working for financial compensation we trade our time against money. This is part of our culture and there is nothing wrong with it. Generally speaking we actually spend time for the purpose of receiving financial compensation. Logically, the less time we spend to earn the same amount of money the better. That is not a new revelation is it?
Now you may throw in that if you are employed you’ll have to work the same amount of hours to get the same salary. Even worse, when you work more efficiently you’ll end up working more for the same salary, not less. So where is the benefit? I am not trying to pitch self-employment here, employment has many benefits and the reasons why someone’s work is being compensated are the same either way. Because ultimately someone pays money for a product. If your company can sell more numbers of a product in a shorter time the better of course. So ultimately you should get rewarded by your employer when you consistently achieve more in the same time than others, because that will make them earn more. If you are slow on the contrary you may have to work extra hours and thus will directly pay back the extra time needed to finish your objectives out of your reserves.
A product can be anything tangible (you can tough it) like a car or something intangible like a massage. I am pretty sure it is a similar picture for a service. Certainly, no one would want to be dealt the same treatment of an one hour massage in 40 minutes, but I am sure the massage is more enjoyable when the masseur is on time, relaxed and focused. That is possible when he in fact does work efficiently either by getting everything done and off his mind or by optimizing his technique and focus. When customers are happy you’ll get direct feedback particularly in service. That can make or break your day.
Our slob from above may realize that an extensive weekly cleanup takes much more time than immediately putting his stuff away instead of dropping it everything where he happens to stand . If he is consistent he won’t need to spend hours clearing up the floor before he can vacuum. I guess the consistent search of misplaced items takes some time, too.
Have you ever notices that some habits are picked up so easily and other not at all?
Here are some examples of “easy habits”:
- checking emails on the cell phone all the time
- eating chips while watching TV
- using credit cards to pay for everything
- stopping by Starbucks on the way to work
- having a cigarette break
These are some “difficult habits”:
- taking the stairs every time
- riding your bike whenever possible
- packing your lunch to save money
- facing your problems head on every day
- don’t use a remote when watching TV
These are all very different and I don’t want to make the point that all easy habits are bad and all difficult habits are good. But you’ve probably already realized why some habits are easy to form and others not. It is because they are very convenient and usually have a short term reward attached to it. In contrast all the difficult habits require to follow a less convenient route and usually don’t have an immediate reward attached to it. The good ones among them, however, have a long-term benefit. Like the positive effect it will have to your health over time when you consistently quit using the elevator.
How to make it your habit to work efficiently
Many people want to sort of change their life, but never actually do it. And I admit there are still many things where I want to get better, but don’t get around doing it. Can you remember when you were a kid and wanted something you saw in a commercial so badly you felt your life depended on getting it right now? You couldn’t think of something else. Why was that? Because for a short time (which of course for a kid is forever) it had the highest priority in your life. Well, as grown-ups we realize that many things became much less interesting after getting them and the desire to obtain something that requires lot of work and discipline is limited.
That is particularly the case when the gain of more time is the goal. It is already difficult to follow long term financial goals, but time is free. Five minutes here 10 minutes there, what does it matter? Think about it.
Step #1 Acknowledge that your time is limited!
It is your Life, that is what it matters. I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but time is not free! You only have an unknown, but limited supply of it. Imagine you knew you had exactly five more years to live from now on. Do you think you would see time differently? Would you change how you live your life? Maybe not, maybe you are absolutely happy how you live it. But at least – I am pretty sure – you would no longer consider your time free.
And that is my point.
Step #2 Identify situations when you are wasting time!
An example: How often have you just completed a task and come back to your desk just to aimlessly brows through your documents, the internet, your phone? Or you we looking up something online and got sidetracked while doing it ending up on a totally unrelated webpage? I call this idle time, when I am just not focused enough, but it still feels like work, because I think I am working while I am not achieving a thing. I describe more examples of time wasters in my post Admit you are wasting time. Whenever you find yourself in a such a situation act! Instead of having these idles times, have an active break instead. Go outside breath some fresh air, go for a walk and do not thing about work of a few minutes. You’ll see you will be much more productive afterwards. If you enjoy browsing the net and you won’t get in trouble for doing it, then catch up on the news, read blogs, do whatever refreshes you, but choose to take an active break. Very often we are just not aware that we are wasting our time in such situations and it is a very important step to actively identify these and act accordingly.
Step #3 Don’t let convenience lead you. Make active choices!
Try to give yourself a push whenever you realize you should put in a little bit more effort. Make it a habit by doing it always. I am suggesting to start at work because it is much easier. At home we are exhausted, want to relax or have other things to do, but at work we have not as many options to evade our duties. Let’s do it right. By following it consequently you will soon see that you’ll change your habits at home, too. You will soon start to identify time wasters and soon gain extra time for you. This is time that is earned back, time you can use in any way you want, by meeting with friends and family, connecting with people, following your passions/hobbies, or earning extra money or just by actively being idle…
Thank you for reading the entire post. I hope it can help you to earn more of your time back and be more successful at work and in life.
Keep those last three points in mind!
Admit you are wasting time helps you identifying some of the time sinks.
In Simple Secret to Efficient Time Management I show you how you can easily get more done just by prioritizing tasks differently.