If you want to get more results in less time, you need to simplify and streamline your work. So how exactly do you do that? By listing and then doing only the most important tasks, being effective instead of just productive, and working only when you’re most creative.
Basically, you’re cutting out the fat and excess from your workflow. By doing so, you’ll spend less time working and actually get more important things done. More results in less time.
Here are the 3 ways to simplify and streamline your work – those work for me, of course feel free to chime in by leaving a comment at the end of this post.
1. List and Do Only the Most Important Tasks
What are the handful of most important tasks to get your project done? It could be finishing your client’s website design, or setting up the CMS (content management system), or creating all the graphics for promotional material, or whatever.
What it definitely isn’t is things like tweaking font spacing, or choosing the best shade of grey, or figuring out what sidebar widget arrangement is best.
Too many designers, developers, and any creative types have wasted too many hours tweaking too many unimportant details. I’m as guilty as anyone of sinking a day trying to get some spacing or color combinations right, or trying to get a snare sound in a tune to sound a certain way.
Yeah yeah, it can be a sign of a geek who’s passionate about his or her craft. But at the end of the day, if you don’t have a website or tune to show for your efforts, then no one cares. And you don’t have any cool finished product to show off as your beautiful work.
Avoid this by only focusing on the most important tasks.
If you’re having trouble listing the most important tasks, use the 80-20 rule: what 20% of tasks will get you 80% of your desired results? Those tasks are the most important ones.
For example, the obvious one of finishing the website design is important. No finished website design means no website. Tweaking the vertical alignment of the headers is not – your client can live with a 1px spacing difference or whatever, if it’s even noticed.
This is the first step to simplifying and streamlining your workflow. Focus on doing that 20% of tasks that bring you 80% of desired results, and ruthlessly ignore the rest of the 80% of tasks (or at the very least, take care of them later).
2. Be Effective, Not Productive
The Western world unfortunately lives in a productivity-obsessed culture where the quantity of work is valued more than the quality of it. People who put in 10 hours are seen as more valuable than those that put in 1 hour, even if the outcome is the same.
What’s important is the quality of work, not quantity. It’s about the results, not the amount of time put into it.
Who cares that you spent 10 hours getting something done? If it’s not that important, or if the amount of results is small, then it doesn’t matter. It’s not about how much time you put in, but how good the stuff you made is.
So what’s the solution? You need to be not productive, but effective.
Here’s the difference:
- Productive means to push a lot of widgets.
- Effective means to push only the right widgets.
When you’re effective, you could only work 2 hours a day. But if the work you get done actually matters and gets desired results, then that’s all the time you needed to put in. It’s not about the number of hours you clocked, it’s about how many results you achieved.
Let’s repeat that, since it’s ultra-important: results is the only thing that matters – not the number of hours you put in.
This will avoid sinking an entire day “working” when you only really spent a few hours getting meaningful work done. Be conscious of being effective, and when you finish an important task, stop wasting time pretending to do more work. Either move onto another important task or go relax or play.
3. Work Only When The Most Creative
Find when you’re at your most creative, and only work during that time of the day.
This is taking being effective to the next level. Not only are you only focusing on the important tasks, but you’re getting ‘em done when you’re at the top of your game. You’ll not only finish faster but produce higher quality work too.
The truth is, we’re human (shocking, I know). We’re not robots, and we can’t churn out equal-quality work all the time. Each of us has a certain time(s) of the day when we’re simply more creative. We’re more excited to create, our mind is racing faster with new ideas, and we have more clarity and direction.
It could be when you wake up first thing in the morning. Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo said that’s when he writes all his songs: during the first hour when he wakes up. His mind is at its most pure, with the songs effortlessly flowing out. Then his mind starts getting tainted with thoughts on tasks for the day and whatnot, so he stops.
Or it could be at night. In fact, this time seems to be the most common for most creative people (musicians, writers, developers, designers, filmmakers, whatever). That’s when the mind can calm down from the hustle bustle of the day and get into a trance-like state.
How do you find when you’re at your most creative? A tough question to answer. The simple answer is, you’ll know it when you find it.
Okay, okay, here’s a less wishy-washy answer: it’s when you think about day-to-day stuff the least. When you think of today as being the most fun. Y’know, when you have the least amount of “what do I need to do today” or “have I been productive/etc today” thoughts. That’s when your mind is at its most pure, and your true creative work can simply flow out.
- The best designs.
- The most ingenious ideas.
- The tightest code.
- The most creative visuals.
- The simplest solutions.
Whenever that time is, find it, seize it, and try to work only during that time. You’ll get your best work done in the least amount of time.
Get More Results in Less Time
You can get more results in less time by simplifying and streamlining your workflow. And the 3 ways here can help you achieve that. Appropriately, these 3 ways are simple. They’re not easy, since anything worth doing takes effort – but they’re simple.
What’s important is to not think about doing them, but to just do it. Don’t worry, be crappy (we all suck at first), start with small changes, keep at it, and you’ll start making getting more results in less time.
To recap, here are the 3 most important things to simplifying and streamlining your work:
- List and do only the most important tasks
- Be effective instead of just productive
- Work only when you’re at your most creative
Your turn: in what other ways have you been able to get more important results done in less time?