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How to achieve more while doing less

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“Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why do we think it’s a sign of success to be constantly busy? How many of you walk into a morning meeting or the office to explain, whether someone has asked you or not, that you need to answer emails since you haven’t had a chance all week. “I’ve been on deadline, haven’t slept and hardly ate,” you say like the honoured soldier returning from behind enemy lines, waiting for your colleagues to look at you with admiration, wonder and maybe even a little bit of envy. Guess what they are doing next, spending 30 minutes wondering why they are not as successful and busy as you, making plans to be more busy.  I call BS.

The fact is, waiting a week to get back to a colleague or client on email will soon give you a negative reputation, as will always just-just meeting deadlines, rushing from meeting to meeting looking frazzled, and never having time to really consider a problem, because you are “so busy!”

Get rid of your busy, and really succeed, with these tips:

Know what you need, and take itDemands

Take a week or two to study and analyse how you are working. Do you travel constantly for back-to-back meetings because you assume the client will prefer face-to-face? If this is an element adding to your busyness ask for more Skype or Google Hangout meetings. Never say no to team meetings because you fear you may miss out? Meanwhile your emails have still not been answered.

Use this time to actually make a list of the things you do that drain your energy without actually aiding your work day. Perhaps you like the team meetings because you do your best brainstorming during those times? Schedule your own meetings then.

Delegation is not a sign of weakness

Focus on what you are good at and be ruthless in delegating the rest. This not only gives you more day to be great, it also empowers your co-workers since they will now be able to focus on the tasks they are best at.

Take time to thinkIdea planning

Whether you meditate or just enjoy quiet time to think, scheduling time to do this at whatever frequency you might need is as vital as any other business to-do.

Taking the time to slow down helps you train your brain to focus. You will now be able to concentrate on whatever problem might rear its head during high-stress times. Taking regular time to think is not only good for you in that moment, but also in the long run since your productivity, creativity and ability to focus will be far more efficient.

Give yourself a break

In that moment when you feel that you have not crossed enough of your to-do list, you haven’t met the highest targets or signed enough deals, remember what you’ve done. Apply some self-compassion, even in times when you feel you’ve made a horrible mistake, recognise your recent achievements or even just that you have made a mistake and will fix it, tomorrow.

Taking care of yourself, accepting what you can achieve, or fix, in one day, will not only reduce your stress, but make it easier for you to learn from your mistakes.

The other side of the coin holds true: If you’ve achieved something don’t just jump right into the next task, give yourself a reward or break – make a fresh pot of coffee or take a walk. You’ll feel energised and less inclined to want approval from others by constantly finding something to be busy with.

Set yourself routinesSchedule

By reducing the number of decisions you need to make each day you not only eliminate uncertainty and stress but also save yourself some time. You need to have breakfast every day and stop working every day. Have a clear morning routine that energises you and eliminates trying to decide what to eat, and know when to sign off for the day and start your home routine.

Schedule time to focus on something you find interesting

Take a few minutes every day to read an article on a subject you find interesting (Facebook is not an article and a story on 10 best holiday resorts in Zanzibar while entertaining, is not the kind of interesting we mean). Do something that will expand your brain.

Taking the few minutes a day to do something completely unrelated to the task at hand might seem counter-intuitive but it will in fact replenish your energy with that replenished energy flowing into your work.

Make your to-do lists a sure thing

Up in the air to-do lists with no self-imposed deadlines mean you are at risk with ending up with an impossibly long list that needs to get done today or this week. You need to find a way to get tasks crossed off that list in a timely manner. Scheduling your own day in this manner will assist in getting things done while leaving you less frazzled since you know what to expect next.


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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