Guest contributed by Daria Rippingale, CEO, BillPro
Recently I was having a drink with a friend of mine and she was telling me about her newest obsession, the New York Times best seller The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. In it she describes a method of decluttering your home that, according to Kondo, refocuses your mind and your life on the things that “spark joy” for you. Essentially, all of the items in your home should bring you some level of joy, while not adding to your stress, so that you can focus on the most important elements of your life.
The end goal is having a home that is clutter free and creates a relaxing environment. Each possession that takes up space should be meaningful – every piece of clothing, every book, every trinket is chosen with purpose and conviction. Anything that gets in the way of the end goal, anything that isn’t regularly used or doesn’t bring happiness, gets tossed.
I left that conversation thinking about clearing out the clutter in our personal lives and how that applies to our work lives, too. We hear the phrase “Do more with less” all the time, but I cringe at the idea of what that traditionally means – longer hours, the same amount of work done by fewer people and usually a drop in quality as a result.
I know from my own experience that with a little practice and some creative ideas, you can streamline your days, making every minute of your work-life meaningful and therefore less stressful and more effective. De-cluttering your work and even your company will allow you to live the true spirit of “doing more with less”.
Below are a few of my essential strategies:
Hone in on your objectives
Firstly, be clear about your goals and objectives, both for you and for your company. Having the destination in mind will make the trip a lot quicker. To continue the travel analogy, your goals are like your True North on a compass. True North is the objective to which all your projects should lead.
Take time to muse over what those goals and objectives might be. Try setting aside time, once a week, to get away from the rush of the office and just think. It probably sounds counter-intuitive to saving time, but the results can be astonishing. Take a walk, sit with a notepad in a quiet room, or do anything where you won’t have too many distractions, allowing you to fully focus on your thoughts. Stepping back from the daily grind, even for 15 minutes, lets you focus on what is really important.
Once you’re clear on where you’re going, it becomes easier to look at your current and upcoming projects and use your compass to guide you towards True North. Focus on the projects that will move you towards your destination. The others are just “busy work” and will only act as barriers to achieving the important things that do “spark joy”. Merely being busy isn’t the same as being productive. Activity doesn’t necessarily equal results.
Ensure that your team is clear on what their objectives are too. Communicate with them as to how their individual projects will lead to the desired destination. Empower them to identify “busy work” and to ask questions about processes and projects that don’t seem to fit with what the organization is trying to achieve.
Simplify Your Work Day
Clearing the decks of focus-stealing “busy work” will recover lost time at the macro level. Simplifying your day-to-day work stream will recover that time at the micro level. Start by eliminating the two biggest hindrances to your productivity – emergencies (that rarely are) and interruptions.
Start each day by looking at your to-do list and calendar, not your email. This sets your mind in motion on what needs to be done instead of what has already happened. Take a few minutes to order your task list for the day. Be sure to tag tasks that are high value and focus towards True North, not just urgent. Completing the high value tasks will return greater rewards on the time you invest in them.
The next time thief to tackle is interruptions, and the biggest culprit here is email. Email is like a spoiled child who wants your attention, and they want it now.
Start minimizing the impact email has on your day by turning off email alerts. If you’re like me, you know there is a never ending stream of messages, so there really is no need to be constantly reminded. Allow yourself 15-20 minutes for checking in and responding to your emails in between larger tasks, making it a welcome distraction rather than an annoyance.
When you’re ready to corral your email even more, consider the advice of Tim Ferriss from The 4-Hour Work Week. He suggests only checking your email twice a day and using an auto responder stating the times you intend to review messages. For emergencies, they can always call.
Lastly, take 30 minutes before you finish up to reflect on the day. Examine what you accomplished, and what the value of those tasks were. Check your calendar for upcoming meetings and deadlines. This keeps you in that proactive state of mind instead of reactive, and prevents you from feeling anxious about the next day’s tasks.
If you want to do more with the time available to you, start by taking the time to focus on your True North – what’s important to your own goals and to the company. Use this as a compass to guide everything you do. Remove those projects that are simply “busy work” and concentrate on the tasks that move you forward. I believe that focusing on objectives and on simplifying everything has truly been integral to my success in leading the BillPro team on the journey of rapid growth. Certainly, without a sharp focus on the destination, we would not be in this position today.
BillPro CEO Daria Rippingale is considered a global authority on merchant processing. As an industry leader in e-commerce innovation, her fresh thinking regarding international payments and risk reduction has brought thousands of previously unserved merchants into the global marketplace. Follow on Twitter @BillProPayments