One of the best ways to get ahead in anything that you work on is to find ways to improve efficiency. The faster you can get something done the more time you can put towards working on other important things. I think that’s a pretty straight forward concept to understand but the real trick is identifying what can be improved and how.
Let’s start with what you should try not to make efficient. It’s important to understand that not all things should be optimized for efficiency. For some things, the actual amount of time and the quality of that time both have an impact on the end result. One big area in this regard is in your relationships.
Don’t try to make Relationships efficient!
When we start thinking about efficiency we tend to start looking for lots of areas we can improve and this unintentionally bleeds over into our relationships, but…. this is the one place that you do not want to be efficient.
If you try to be efficient in your relationships people will know that you are doing just that, and it will come off as being too busy for them. Even if it’s not intentional, you just cannot put efficiency into your relationships. Instead, focus on quality and effectiveness in this area.
Automate your way to getting more done!
So what you can focus on for efficiency? Just about everything else. And there are a number of ways you can optimize efficiency. One of the best ways is to look for places to automate things. (read my article on automating: Automate FTW!).
Automation can provide you a great deal of efficiency and potentially remove the risk associated with people. Because let’s be honest, people are very error prone (I’m sure I failed a grammar test on this blog...).
Get better at what you’re already doing.
After automation you can look to training. Training can greatly improve efficiency. The more you do a task and the more you learn about a particular task, the better you can do it. Consider an athlete who wants to improve their shot efficiency and spends the off-season in training camps. You can approach your tasks the same way.
And you have two approaches to getting better training. You can learn to train yourself through practice and self education OR you can hire/find a coach or mentor. Both methods can be effective and both combined can be efficient, see what I did there 😉
Master… Delegate… Train… Master… Delegate… Train…
Your next option to improve efficiency is to delegate. A lot of people struggle with delegation and it’s because they have an expectation that another person… a completely different human being, with a different background and a different set of life experiences, is going to do something the same way they do when they delegate it.
But that never works. If you delegate something to someone, your expectation should be that they do it roughly 85% as good as what you really want them to do.
Once you’ve set a more realistic expectation on the tasks you’ve delegated, you need to start training. Now you are the coach or mentor and you need to help this person improve their efficiency, which in turn, will improve yours. Delegation is often an investment that is mistaken as a handoff. Delegation is not a hand-off. Be clear on that. It’s an investment and should be treated as such.
Now you have three different approaches you can use to improve efficiency. Remember, not all things should be more efficient. I find the best way to know what should be efficient, is to identify something that you’re doing on repeat. If you’re performing a particular task and it has become fairly routine for you, you should look to see if you can apply one of the three methods above to make it more efficient.
Can you automate it? There are a million ways to automate things. I automate my monthly budgeting and my weekly grocery list. I automate rules in my email applications to organize them for me. You can buy dog feeders to reduce the number of times you have to fill up a dog bowl. These are just some random ideas to get your mind on the right track.
Can you train on it? Can you learn to get better at the task and therefore do it more efficiently? I’m a very avid reader and reading has given me a ton of insights into how to complete tasks more efficiently. We live in an age of technology where literally learning to do anything faster or better is a google search away.
Take advantage of this opportunity and do a little research to teach yourself how to do things better. Just be sure to consider your source and know that not all information on the internet is equal. I recommend getting multiple view points.
Can you delegate it? Can someone else do this for you? I delegate chores to my kids and offer an allowance in return. If I have a particular work task I think someone else can do better than me, I offer to exchange a work item with them that I know I could also complete faster.
Can you hire an accountant to do your taxes for you? What about pay someone else to cook for you, like when you order take out? Delegation happens more often than we think but once we start to realize it we can take better advantage of it.
If you have other tips on how to improve efficiency share them in the comments!