Ever feel like your workload is never ending? It’s a bottomless pit and you just can’t keep up. In today’s episode, I’m sharing with you 15 tried and true ways to simplify your work and get back on track. From time management to delegation, I got you covered. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and you need some practical tips to simplify your workload, this episode is for you. Stay tuned and let’s get started.
The thing that started this podcast episode, the thing that was the inspiration was a quote that dropped into my inbox from Readwise. Now, Readwise, if you don’t know, is like a note taking app.
It also syncs with your Amazon Kindle. And so anything that you highlight in your Kindle will drop in and then you can reread them over time. And every Sunday, it sends an email with some random quotes. This arrived last Sunday from Unstoppable Self Confidence by Andrew Leedham. And I quote:
“So much of overwhelm comes from not simply saying no to the things that don’t have any benefit for you. Don’t advance your purpose, plans, and agenda, and fill up your life with meaningless crap. The problem is that the low value and meaningless crowds out the time and mental space that you could otherwise direct towards becoming who you want to be and creating the life you want to live.”
Wow, blew my mind. It was a great book. I loved it. And really that idea that what am I saying yes to that I should be saying no to? Am I helping other people live their best lives while I’m neglecting my own? I don’t know.
Anyway, got me thinking about the context of key account management and how busy we are and how much we have to do to keep our customers happy, our boss happy, our colleagues happy, as well as stay on top of our day to day work and just stay in control.
How to simplify your workload
So I thought, let me put together a list of 15 things that you can do to simplify your work, avoid the overwhelm, and just keep on top of things. So let’s get into them. I’m going to bang through them real quick.
[02:26] Prioritise tasks
Identify the most important tasks and work on them first. They call that eat the frog. Tackle the big things first and the little things will fall into place.
[02:37] Focus on one task at a time.
I’m so focused on this, not always successfully, don’t get me wrong, but I avoid multitasking and I try to do one thing until it is complete. If I can’t do it in one sitting, then I’m going to try to break it down into smaller steps so that in one session I can complete a full step. It’s a real easy way to feel that sense of accomplishment as well as to not feel overwhelmed with the bigger project.
[03:03] Delegate tasks
No brainer. We do other people’s work, or we do things that other people could do for us instead of the things that only we can do. Look at your workload, look at what’s in your inbox. Can you forward an email for somebody else to do—to action? What can you do to free up more time for you to work on the most important things, the things that only you can do, the things that are not getting done because there is no one else to do them? That’s where you should focus. The stuff somebody else can do, let them do it.
[03:34] Use a task list
Create a list of tasks to be completed and check them off as they are done. Now, I use ClickUp
. I have done for a while. It’s my favorite tool. You can get started for free
, but even the paid plan is cheap. I’ll share a link in the show notes but absolutely, my number one tool for managing all my tasks.
However, let me just add a little bit of extra dimension to this. Just this week, I read From To Do to Done
by Maura Neville Thomas. Easy read, it was an audiobook. It was like two hours. But one thing that she recommends is to categorise your tasks. And this was a game changer for me.
So here’s what I did. Let me just open up, ClickUp and I’ll tell you.
All right, so now I have six lists of tasks.
- The first is one offs. These are things that are one and done, like go to the bank, go to the post office, send that report to this client, whatever it might be. But once it’s done, it’s done. Simple tasks, ready to go.
- The next is current projects. Now, these are projects, (a) there’s many steps involved, but (b), they have deadlines. They have specific timelines when they need to be done.
- The next list is called next actions. So these are essentially projects, but there’s no timeline. You want to do them, you’ll get around to them. They need to be done, but you don’t have a specific date in mind, or there is no external deadline applied to those tasks.
- The next is future. So something that you do intend to do one day that will get done, but it’s on the back burner. Nothing you need to focus on right now, but it’s there, and you want to make sure that it happens at some point.
- The next list is someday maybe. This is just random stuff that you think, Hey, that’d be nice to do at some point, not in the future.
- And then I have another one, which is the first point of entry for a lot of my tasks, which is just called ideas to sort. So this is where I just brain dump anything that I think I need to do. And then at the end of the day, I move them into these separate folders, current projects, one-off, next actions, future, and someday maybe.
I rearranged all of my tasks literally two days ago. Wow, what a difference. I think what happened was I was getting so overwhelmed because I had the easy things mixed up with the hard things, and some of the hard things didn’t have the steps documented, and I was treating them all like they were simple to do. But in fact, they weren’t. Some of them were lingering around for a long time because they were projects, they weren’t tasks.
[06:07] Minimise distractions
Now, if you want to simplify your work, it sounds obvious, but minimise distractions. Turn off notifications, avoid interruptions, set your Teams or your Skype or your whatever it might be, to do not disturb, physically shut down your email, put your phone in another room, turn it to silent, whatever it might be. Those are all things that take you away from the moment and will interrupt your focus.
[06:31] Take breaks
Sounds counterintuitive, but take breaks. Every time I complete a task, I take a quick five minute break. I might just have a quick walk around the block. I might just stick my head out the window to get some fresh air. I might just grab a cup of tea and stare into space, whatever it might be. But sometimes those breaks just to close one task before you’re ready to take on another helps you sit back at your desk and be ready to start instead of bouncing from task to task and suddenly feel burned out.
[06:58] Learn to say done
Avoid perfectionism, learn to recognize when a task is complete and move on to the next. Good is good enough in many situations.
[00:07:09.360] Continuously evaluate and improve
Review and evaluate your work processes to identify areas for improvement and increase efficiency. It’s a bit like when you drive somewhere and you go the way you know. It might be the long way, but you would rather go that way to avoid getting lost.
The problem is it is always going to be the long way. It is always going to take more time.
If instead you took 10 minutes, programmed it into Google Maps, followed the path that Google Maps suggests, you might shave 10 minutes off your journey instead of just taking the way you know. I look at that as well with my processes. Okay, am I doing things the way I’ve always done them? Maybe it’s time I learned that formula in Excel. Maybe it’s time that I looked at an automation tool. Maybe it’s time I documented the steps so that I’m not wasting time figuring things out. Maybe it’s time I set my directories or my resources up properly so I’m not constantly searching for information.
Whatever it might be, take a look at the way that you do things, see if you can make them more efficient, or better yet, eliminate them altogether.
[08:12] Use templates
Number nine is to use templates. Use templates for commonly used documents such as email
responses or reports. That’s going to save you a ton of time and maintain consistency. One tool that I use that I absolutely love is TextExpander
. So it’s basically a little shortcut. You assign a shortcut key and then it will insert whatever you set up. So I have one, I just type KCFP, don’t ask me why
that’s the label, but anyway, I type KCFP and it automatically inserts the subject line saying, “Oh, your payment failed”, and I can insert the full email with my signature and customize the recipient’s name with just those letters.
Another one is a.cal. So that just automatically inserts a line with a hyperlink to the link to my calendar in an email. So I might be like, “Hi, Warwick, if you’d like to book some time with me, a.cal.” And then it automatically inserts, “Here’s the link to my calendar.”
Massive time saver and saves me fiddling around, clicking, hyperlinking, saves me a massive amount of time using those templates.
Or just having all of my proposal documents templates in one spot saves me and creating them my onboarding processes, using templates for all of those email correspondence, having specific emails that I send for different types of interactions. All of that stuff helps them. Or you can use templates, the less thinking you have to do. You might tweak and customize them, but ultimately it’s going to save you a ton of time and you’re not reinventing the wheel every time you have to communicate.
[09:45] Manage time spent on email
I’m a big fan of this. Set aside specific times to check and respond to emails so you’re not constantly being interrupted. If you think, Okay, first thing in the morning, maybe 9 till 10, I answer emails. Then I have another hour around lunch each, 1 till 2. And then at the end of the day, 4 till 5, I do some emails as well. That’s three hours worth of email a day at designated times.
It doesn’t mean you’re unreachable. People can still contact you by phone or instant message if there’s an urgent need to get in touch. But if you think three hours in those little one hour breaks means that you’re giving attention to your email, but you’re not working from your email. That still gives you a good five hours a day to work on important tasks versus constantly just thinking emails, answering emails, means you’re productive in getting things done.
So yeah, give yourself the gift of being disciplined with when and how frequently you interact with your email.
[10:38] Get feedback
Ask advice from colleagues. How could you improve things? What do they see? Are there any ideas they have to make this better? Take advantage, crowdsource ideas to be more efficient and effective. You don’t need to know it all. Sit next to the smartest person in the room and eavesdrop. Learn from them and see what you can incorporate into your own workflows.
[11:00] Learn to say “not now”
When somebody interrupts you and says, Hey, Warwick, have you got a minute? Suddenly you’re dropping everything you are doing, whatever they’ve interrupted you to do, and then you have to go back and get to what you want to do. Or a client sends something into your inbox and says, Warwick, can I have this report? And instead of saying, I’ll get it to you tomorrow,” you just do it then and there. Prioritise the tasks that are urgent and important, but remember, there are always, in fact, mostly going to be tasks that can be postponed until later without negative consequences.
Don’t create the monster, don’t feed the beast by being this super productive, instant responding machine that actually is distracting you from important work. So yeah, don’t have to always say “no”, but you can certainly say “not now”.
[11:47] Take advantage of technology
Now, use technology tools like project management software, like time tracking apps, like note taking apps to streamline your work processes and increase productivity. There is a host of sales related and communication tools that can help you, tons of them. I actually did an episode on Chrome extensions, Episode 15 I think it’s called 16 Essential Chrome Extensions to Really Improve Your Workflow
. I will pop a link to that in the show notes. There are some fantastic apps that can do just about anything. It’s amazing stuff. And they’re all free, by the way.
[12:21] Stay organized
Use a filing system and keep important documents in the right place to avoid wasting time searching for them. I cleaned up all my email folders. Now I only have a “hold” folder for things that are pending, and then everything else just goes into “archive”.
I cleaned up all the folders on my PC. I’ve got a much simpler folder hierarchy so I can find things easily. I introduced a naming convention for my files so that I always can find stuff easily.
I introduced a knowledge base so I capture all of my notes, my client notes, my business notes, my product notes all in one place in a standard way.
Just organizing my work environment, making sure that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place has really helped prevent overwhelm and made sure that I save time and that I know where everything is when I need it.
[13:09] Celebrate small wins
Celebrate the small accomplishments along the way. It’s going to help you stay motivated. It’s going to help you maintain that positive attitude towards work, and it’s going to help you realize that you are making progress even if it does seem like you are buried under a mountain of stuff.
So that is a wrap on today’s episode, Heroes. 15 tips in less than 15 minutes on how to simplify your work. I hope you found it helpful and that you’re feeling more in control of your workload.
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Thank you for tuning in and I’ll catch you on the next episode.