In today’s 24/7 world, is the 40-hour workweek still possible or is it a pipe dream?
It is absolutely possible; you just need to work smarter, not harder.
In my role as VP of Communications at Porch.com, a home-improvement network, I communicate this philosophy to my team along with the importance of adopting work-life balance principles.
So how can other businesses implement these ideologies? They need to have a plan of action.
To help people crack the code for how to create an efficient and impactful 40-hour workweek, here are four methods to set a course for successfully working smarter, not harder.
1. Ignore the visibility trap.
Over the years I have observed one consistent action that extends their workweek well beyond 40-hours: The never ending quest for visibility. The No. 1 sign you are stuck in the visibility trap is you are going to too many meetings and particularly meetings you don’t really need to go to. Why is this trap so common? I have found that many people may feel left out or left behind if they are not at every meeting with their colleagues. Ignore this trap. I know it can be hard, but if you are in meetings, chances are you are not working.
How do you ignore this? Meetings are expensive so don’t spend valuable minutes in meetings you don’t really need to be in. Do a hardcore audit of your meetings. What is being discussed in the meeting that you can’t get after the fact? Does the meeting really need to be 60 minutes or can it be 30 minutes? What are the goals of the meeting? If a meeting does not have a structured agenda, clear roles for participants and a set of desired outcomes, it is probably not going to be a great use of your time.
2. Outcomes over activities.
Throughout the day you need to ask yourself, are you producing tangible outcomes or are you just participating in activities that you think are important? If you don’t have any goals in mind for the week, you won’t know if you are on track and driving actual value to the business. When this happens you also won’t have clarity, predictability or know if the week was truly a success (and if you spent your time on the right things).
How do you do this? Set up weekly priorities and stick to them. Communicate daily with your manager to ensure you are always on the right track and your week is setup for success. Are you getting the right support and resources? Do things need to change on the priority list? Have a conversation on Monday to set the table for the week. When you get to Friday, how will you know that the week was a success? If you focus on the outcomes over activities you are halfway there.
Only you can truly control the fate of your week. Yes, things come up that you can’t plan for, but if you are focused on working with your manager on the right outcomes, you will have the air cover you need to stay focused on the task at hand. If you allow people to pull you off on the wrong path you will lose focus. Pick your spots, leverage the help of others, and control your day in a way that keeps you in the driver’s seat.
How do you do this? At the beginning of the day take a serious look at the day ahead. What MUST get done? What needs to happen to hit your daily goals? If you feel randomized call a time-out and reassess how you will carve up your time for the rest of the day.
4. Fly above the noise.
When you need to truly get work done nothing matters more than finding a way to fly about the noise. You can easily fall behind if you are spending too much time chatting in the hallways with colleagues, taking extended lunches, getting wrapped up in conversations and other activities that pull you away from the task at hand.
How do you do this? Stay heads down. Stay off Facebook and Twitter. Don’t get wrapped up in the gossip chains. Ignore the shiny objects. If you can do that you are well on your way to maximizing out your workweek to produce great results.