Work is something that fills our lives. Or so it feels, sometimes.
Just as we sign off from another hectic day, in a blink of an eye and dream-filled 7 hours of shut eye, the time has come to head back to the office. Again.
And then we came across an article that suggested out of a 45 hour week, only 17 hours were actually ‘productive’ or useful. It goes on to suggest that the reason why people drift in the working week is because they don’t really know what they should be doing, what the common goals are and so on.
It got us thinking…
When you run your own business, it can feel like all you do is work. The business sucks everything, life, body and soul. As other people are off out enjoying themselves, you are either still slaving away over your website, adding content, sourcing goods or packing orders.
If anything, trying to make the day more productive, squashing more in to the 24 hours we have, is something that, if we ever found the solution, we could bottle and make millions.
Time has a habit of running away with us but being productive is important. Setting limits – ‘today, I won’t work past 6pm’ we hear you cry! – is one thing, but do you really make best use of the time you do have?
The first 10 minutes
Inspiration can come from the most unlikely of sources. Anthony Bourdain, a legendary chef, is well known within fine-dining circles. Frankly, putting the kettle on in the first 10 minutes of being in his kitchen is a no-no.
Mise-en-place – heard of it?
It is a French phrase that means ‘putting in place’, as in setting everything up. It is a phrase commonly applied in the professional kitchen.
It is about the organising, the arranging, and the chopping and so on of ingredients. The preparation, as much as is possible, of food items ready for when the head chef shouts ‘check on!’, meaning an order has arrived. It can include the par-boiling of items, spices ready to hand and all this others ‘bits and bobs’ that could devastate a dish if they are not correct.
But why is this mise-en-place important in your line of work? Not all of us work in a kitchen, par-boiling potatoes or chopping veg.
It is the essence behind it that is important. The meticulous planning of what will happen; as many a professional chef will tell you, mise-en-place is not a quaint, jolly practice of chopping and boiling; it is a state of mind, an extensive of your nervous system – we jest not.
Where the original application of the mise-en-place principal applies to the professional kitchen, why not apply this principal to your work station?
What is your work station?
Is it the board room or, like many people, a desk with a PC, phone, mobile and other electronic gadgetry that we cannot survive without. At the end of another long day, do you switch the desk lamp off and limp home to a microwave meal for one?
Do you walk back in the next morning, with no idea of what the day will hold? Probably. In other words, in your day, do you spend time planning your next day?
Do you need to embark on an intellectual mise-en-place?
To look forward, we need to reflect
What can happen is that we are so very busy, that we sometimes get to the end of the day and, as we stare into the abyss of yet another ready meal (who can be bothered to cook at 8pm?), we can feel that we have…
- Achieved nothing
- Achieved only a small fraction of what we wanted to
- Achieved nothing of any great importance
Make a list (groan!)
We all love making lists; they can go on for ever and actually show you what you have not achieved, in some respects. However, from this, you could create a plan of attack that could see you end up with rather a natty list of ‘goals for today’.
However, instead of this…
x Do Monday’s presentation
… which is far too much of a general, broad action, do this – start every ‘to do’ job with a verb, a doing word. Now we are really honing in on the task.
So, back to Monday’s presentation, what is it exactly you need to do for it?
- Collect sales figures
- Draft slides
- Add images
See? You have ‘doing words’ that actually tell you the action that needs to be done. The more specific you are in what you are trying to achieve, the more chances you have of success. Mapping these steps out in advance will also help with the focus you need to make something happen, without it dragging on, becoming essentially, a rather large millstone around the neck.
When you have this list, prioritise it. After all, you cannot draft a report or slides for your presentation if you don’t have the information to put in it.
When the willpower starts to weaken during the day – the phone keeps ringing, Facebook was looking exciting or you enter the post-lunch lull – this prioritised list from your intellectual mise-en-place can help focus that thinking back to where it should be.
Need extra help?
The day is full of distractions, and sometimes a little discipline can go a long way. Studies of entrepreneurial habits have shown that it is this sense of discipline that helps people achieve and accomplish things in a productive way; try these…
- Check emails at pre-determined times in the day, responding only to those immediately that warrant such a response; delete others that are of no use. For all other non-essential emails have two slots in the day when these are responded to – once in the morning, the other near close of play for the day
FACT – emails take up 28% of an ‘average workers’ day; in a 7 hour day (that is around about 2 hours a day…)
- Phone calls to voicemail is something that your business may or may not be able to stomach; clearly, if the majority of your work comes via the phone, it would be sheer folly to not answer it. However, if you can, the suggestion is to batch your calls, like you do emails; let the phone ring, and then twice a day, clear the messages, responding as necessary
- Social media is important but it also has a nasty habit of sucking your time, with many of us being rather embarrassed to admit the true amount of time we spend on Facebook or Twitter! As you would expect, there are online programs and apps that can help track time…
- Keep an eye out for time wasting too; we all know what these are… the faffing about with fonts, formatting, colour coding files… the list could go on. Getting caught up in these time wasting jobs is doing nothing more than procrastinating.
Instead of staring in a ready meal for one, you could be part of family meal times, with productive hours behind you, accomplishment in the blood and a plan of action for tomorrow.