We are busier than ever. We have more technology to contend with, which means many more forms of communication and interaction to master and address. We have more work to do, as many companies are making do with fewer employees, piling the work of many onto the shoulders of few.
Do you need to simplify your work life? Well, you might, if:
Simplifying your working life will help you find balance and do a better job.
Your physical environment has an enormous impact on your wellbeing, productivity, and intellectual ability. Your workspace should be as minimal and efficient as possible.
Look around your workspace. If you have a lot of clutter, chances are it’s creating or contributing to inefficiencies and distractions. The key is to create a clutter-free distraction-free, stress-free, and productive workspace.
First, organize your computer desktop. Move things off that do not need your attention. Next, edit your walls and desk. Does all that stuff really need to be there? Yes, you want a few personal and inspirational items, but you only need a few. Pick two and get rid of the rest.
What papers or files are on your desk? Decide what you need and file the rest away. Organize your tools. Do you really need a stapler, tape, and paper clips on your desk? Put them in a drawer.
Simplifying your workspace will help you become more productive, and it will also provide a powerful psychological support system for keeping your work life simplified.
Now that you have streamlined your work environment, you can get to work. Start by prioritizing your workload. Look at all your projects and determine the method of prioritization.
If you are self-employed, use whatever system aligns with your business. For example, most of my work is based on a deliverable, so I prioritize my work based on due dates and the amount of time each project will take.
If you work in an organization, your supervisor or manager should direct or help you prioritize your workload. Meet with them to go over your projects and find out what the priorities are. When a new project is assigned bring up existing projects, go over your workload, and reevaluate all of your priories.
Work with your manager to stay clear on your priorities. People who are afraid to have this conversation with their supervisors are not going to be able to simplify their work life. And it’s a simple conversation, not a complaint that you can’t get something done or a demand that they give you less work. What you are doing is asking for clarity.
Look at the different technologies you utilize to complete your work. Do they make your life easier or add an unnecessary layer? Email is a perfect example of a very common time-suck. Ask yourself: Do I need to start what could be an endless and unnecessary stream of electronic messages when I could have my answer in a minute with a little physical effort or a phone call?
The problem with technology is that we fall into the trap of relying on it for things that may be better and more efficiently handled the old-fashioned way. Decide what actually works for you and use it. Lose the rest.
In terms of your physical work habits, it is imperative to be realistic about what you can accomplish, both in terms of time and skills. You must know what is important and what isn’t. Then, focus on what is important and let go of the rest.
You also need to learn to seek clarity and/or say no. If you are completely swamped, say so. Perhaps you can renegotiate the projects you already have or get someone to help you. Seek clarity on assignments and expectations. Find out exactly what is expected and what will satisfy their requirements. These are called the conditions of satisfaction, and you should understand them from the beginning.
By simplifying your work life, you can be far more productive and much less stressed at work. Minimize distractions—physical, visual, and technological. Start small and build to where you can prioritize your projects and work on them with focus and clarity. Simplify, and you will increase your productivity. And your sanity.