Monday, September 1, 2008

Busy Isn't Always Effective

As a trainer, I often send out emails regarding classes and schedules and I know for a fact that a number of my co-workers don’t bother to read them. They say to me with pride, “I don’t have time to read that stuff. I have a job to do.”

It may be a day or two later, but some of these very busy people will contact me, and they will ask questions that I have already addressed and answered in the email that they couldn’t be bothered to read.

Being busy is not the same as being effective. The irony is that these people waste time by trying to save time.

Busy people are devoted to multi-tasking. They write e-mails while on a conference call. They return phone calls while trying to read a report. How effective is it when the calls takes twice as long to make, the email is riddled with typos and time is wasted reading and re-reading the report because they weren’t paying attention?

As my mother would say, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when are you going to find the time to do it again?”

It sounds like heresy but you get more accomplished if you focus on one thing at a time. Take 30 seconds to read the email. When you are on a critical call, be on the call and not doing something else. If you have a document to proofread, proof read it.

Complete your tasks sequentially and don’t waste time by jumping back and forth. Every time you stop one thing and start another, you lose time shifting gears and regaining your focus.

If you must multi-task make sure one of those tasks is very simple: talk on the phone while stuffing envelopes or doing some light filing. I often return phone calls in the early evening while I’m walking my dog. However, if both tasks require your attention, set aside a block of time to complete each one.

Be better than busy, be effective.

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