Work Smarter, Not 24/7

Prediction: At the end of 2010, when workplace writers publish their lists of the most maddening catchphrases of the year, "do more with less" will rank first.

But why wait till December to cold-cock the motto? Instead of continuing to equate working in a layoff-ravaged office with toiling around the clock, I say we start telling those last employees standing how to work smarter so they can get home for dinner at a reasonable hour.

For tips on how to avoid drowning in today's hyper productivity-minded workplace, I consulted with a handful of employees, managers, entrepreneurs and workplace experts. Here's what they had to say.

VIDEO: Stress in the Workplace
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Be Memorable, Not Exhausted

Contrary to popular belief, the road to job security isn't necessarily paved with 14-hour workdays and 1 a.m. BlackBerry replies.

"I see people focusing on the industrial ethic of working longer," said management psychologist Karissa Thacker. "But how good are your ideas if you're working 24/7, and how useful are you if you show up to work bug-eyed? Nobody's rewarding that anymore."

While Thacker doesn't advocate "slacking off," she says there's a far more effective way to get noticed than taking up permanent residence in your cubicle: opening your mouth.

"In this climate of fear, I have observed people in a meeting or on a call who had the information and didn't speak up," Thacker said. "But if you're going from meeting to meeting and you can't point out what you did that made a difference, nobody else can either."

As the new reality TV series "Undercover Boss" has shown, management doesn't always have as clear a grasp as their staff does on customer needs and workflow inefficiencies. If you're the person closest to a client or project and you're sitting on a game-changing detail, you're missing a prime opportunity to prove yourself invaluable, Thacker said.

"Find ways to make what you know about the front line of the business or the execution of the operation heard," she advised. "That's high impact."

Head Off Meetings at the Pass

Of course, no one's suggesting you cram more meetings into your jam-packed workweek. If you're like most employees, you're already attending far too many of them.

Take "Max," an employee at an insurance company "rife with acronyms and drunk on meetings."

To stop the conference room insanity, he's had to get a little sneaky these past six months.

"At the start of every week, I book as much project time on my calendar as I can, using various abbreviations like TPS Proj Time, ICP Strategy or TQT Ideation," said the Madison, Wisc. resident, who didn't want his real name mentioned for obvious reasons.

"We have such a corporate culture of acronyms that nobody has questioned it," Max said. In fact, he said, "I'm still able to have as much influence as I've ever had in my role."

Only now, instead of being "mindlessly booked into 7 to 10 meetings a day," most of which he calls "pointless," he's freed up 40 percent of his time to work on the projects and research he was hired to do.

Forget E-Mail -- Pick Up the Phone

Another plight of today's fatigued employee: death by 1,000 weekly e-mails.

Danny Wong, marketing guru for Blank Label, a custom men's dress shirt company, has found an innovative way to cut down on the thicket of superfluous communication crowding his inbox: if he wants to talk to another member of his virtual team, he picks up the phone.

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