Become more efficient in the workplace by slowing down

The average working day is pretty fast paced, and it often seems that keeping this pace going is integral to productivity.

Have you ever considered whether you could actually get more done, and to a better standard, by slowing down a bit?

While working at speed has its advantages, it also has its drawbacks, often caused by giving issues too little attention so that the next task can be moved onto. When this happens, you inevitably have to go back to the task, and give it more time, attention, money and energy than you anticipated. This, clearly, is not an efficient use of skills or time, and in the long-term is a weak working style that can cause knock-on detriment throughout a company. By approaching work with a steadier pace, you are able to ensure that each task has been given the right treatment, eliminating the need to go back and make amendments later. Here are some strategies for taking on jobs at a better rate.

When setting goals:

  • Consider alternative approaches to achieving the same end result, with one being the quickest or easiest way of doing it. This helps you to gauge exactly how much a task will require of you. At what point do you stop adding to the quality of the finished product, and start throwing away time and effort. At what point is it overkill?
  • Take a break from the task for a while and return to it with a fresh mind. Spending too long on making one decision can numb the brain somewhat, so give yourself time to forget it all, and go back to it when you have recharged. This helps the flow of solid ideas and prevents you from coming up with another when it’s too late.
  • Visualise the goal in your mind and consider how it looks to you. Is that what you hoped to achieve, and if not, what do you need to change in order for it to match your intentions and inch closer to your goal? Maintain this visual throughout your working process, and come back to it at regular intervals to consider how your current state measures up to your projection. If at this point you feel that your vision needs tweaking a bit, what has brought you to this decision and how you imagine it will affect the rest of the task. When you finish, compare the end result to how you imagined it would turn out, and if they are vastly different, consider what you could have done differently to get better results. For future reference, was this a good approach to the task?

Think carefully about the ‘why’:

  • Why are you taking a particular action, or choosing not to? Is your decision influenced by any previous experiences, and if not, are there any previous experiences you could take lessons from and put into practice in this instance?
  • What relevance does this action have to your goal, to your company ethics and purpose? Are you taking this opportunity to explore an approach that deviates from the company’s beaten path? If so, what do you hope to discover from doing so, and what has compelled you to make this bold move?
  • If you were to choose an alternative course of action, what would the result be?
  • Would a particular action result in any undesirable consequences, and what could you do to avoid these consequences?
  • Are there any alternative approaches you could take that would substantially alter the outcome?

When considering these points, do it an open and honest a way as possible – being in denial about your working style will only cause problems further down the road. Invite the input of your team to get as many perspectives and ideas as possible. The wider you cast the net, the better a catch you are likely to procure, and the better a base you will have from which to plan your plan of attack. Pacing yourself, particularly in the planning stages, can really pay off, and as soon as you start to adjust your working style in this way, you will become aware of just how much better a technique it is for doing a job that is worthy of your skills and expertise.

By Karen Meager and John McLachlan, co-authors or Time Mastery (£12.99)