“All work is not equal,” writes Scott Belsky, the CEO of Behance and author of the book Making Ideas Happen, on The 99 Percent blog. Though we are always busy and easily fill every work day, are we using our time in the best way possible?
Belsky recommends doing an audit of your work day, taking note of how you allocate your precious time in five different categories. How do you spend your time, and how can you make changes to increase your personal effectiveness?
Work Productivity Takeaways
1. Reactionary Work
“In the modern age, most of our day is consumed by Reactionary Work, during which we are focused only on responding to messages and requests – emails, text messages, Facebook messages, tweets, voicemails, and the list goes on. You are constantly reacting to what comes into you rather than being proactive in what matters most to you.“
Takeaway: When looking at your own work habits, pay particular attention to how you start your day. What do you do as soon as you get to your desk in the morning? Do you create your priorities for the day or examine problems that need to be addressed, or do you first do reactionary work tasks like replying to emails and social media messages?
If you’re like many people, you probably fall into the latter category and may be losing work productivity as a result. Reactionary work often takes priority over everything else, especially since we are almost constantly connected to others with smartphones and other mobile devices. It may not be feasible to unplug completely to focus on other types of work, but you can make deliberate efforts to set aside certain time periods for reactionary work instead of checking in on it every few minutes.
2. Planning Work
“At other times, you need to plan how you will do your work. Planning Work includes the time spent, scheduling and prioritizing your time, developing your systems for running meetings, and refining your systems for working. By planning, you are deciding how your energy should be allocated, and you are designing your method for getting stuff done.”
Takeaway: It is often hard to focus on the future when you have a long list of immediate tasks that require your attention right now. Planning work is frequently (and unfortunately) neglected because of more urgent needs of varying degrees of importance. You must be deliberate and organized with your time to be proactive about planning. Every person has a different workflow system that is right for him or her, but you need to experiment and create one for yourself to get out of crisis mode and into a more sustainable environment. Use technological tools, timers or old-fashioned calendars and notebooks to improve your personal effectiveness and accomplish your goals.
3. Procedural Work
“Procedural Work is the administrative/maintenance stuff that we do just to keep afloat: making sure that the bills are paid or preparing tax returns, updating a deck for a business presentation, or tracking old outbound emails to confirm that they were addressed/solved.”
Takeaway: Procedural work is what keeps your organization running smoothly, but it is often these small details that take up too much of your time and prevent you from doing more important tasks. Examine your day-to-day procedural work — for example, invoicing clients or following up with in-progress projects — and think about how you could make it more efficient. What can be automated? What can be delegated? For example, if you are in a management role and spending too much of your time manually creating invoices every month, invest in a computer program that will do it automatically.
4. Insecurity Work
“Insecurity Work includes the stuff we do out of our own insecurities… Insecurity Work doesn’t move the ball forward in any way – aside from briefly reassuring us that everything is OK – and we’re often unconscious that we’re even doing it.”
Takeaway: We are all guilty of giving into obsessive insecurity work on occasion. But how much time do you really spend checking your company’s Twitter followers or online reviews from customers? This type of work doesn’t help your work productivity and doesn’t help you make progress toward your goals. Schedule in a short period of time in your day to indulge in insecurity work and train yourself to let it go the rest of the time.
5. Problem-Solving Work
“Creativity becomes most important during Problem-Solving Work. This is the work that requires our full brainpower and focus, whether it be designing a new interface, developing a new business plan, writing a thoughtful blog post, or brainstorming the features of a new product.”
Takeaway: Problem-solving work is probably the most challenging (and often the most rewarding) type of work. This is the part of your day when you brainstorm new marketing plans or find solutions for the kinks in a new product. You can’t make real progress in this area when you are simultaneously responding to emails, checking your Facebook fan page and thinking about tax season. Problem-solving work requires your full focus, so you need to set aside uninterrupted, distraction-free time to harness your personal effectiveness best.
How do you spend your time at work? Share your comments.