How to 'Do More with Less'
"What is the greatest challenge facing your team today?" I asked the team leader while preparing a program for a group of mangers from a major international corporation. He first described the reduction in resources accompanied by an increase in expectations these managers now faced. He then asked "Can you help us to do more with less?"
In giving that question considerable thought and research, I came to the conclusion: You can't do more with less-at least not in any sustainable fashion. To think you can accomplish more with fewer resources is a strategy that is doomed to fail. Giving someone resources won't guarantee their success, but taking them away and expecting greater results is a recipe that will most likely end in disaster.
Today's corporate reality, however, often forces people to discover ways of accomplish more with fewer resources than were available in the past. So it begs the question: How do you do more with less? In studying the practices of those who consistently outperform their peers, there are four strategies that may help make it possible, if not to do more with less, at least accomplish the same with less.
- Goals & Priorities.Knowing where you want to go, makes it easier to get there. Knowing what you want to achieve makes it easier to know how and what you need to do to reach your goal. That is goal setting. A good question to ask at the start of the day is "At the end of the day, what do I want to have accomplished?" The answer to that question should form the priorities and tasks of the day. In other words, you know what needs your attention today, and-equally important-what does not need your attention today. To do more with less requires a greater focus on what really needs to be achieved, and what can be let go.
- Routines.Establishing routines that minimize time devoted to everyday, mundane, repetitive tasks pays enormous dividends in terms of reacquiring a most precious resource: time. Having routines for simple, repetitive tasks like getting a workday started, setting and monitoring daily goals, responding to email, reviewing documents, and the like can drastically reduce the time devoted to these tasks. Good routines allow you to handle your mundane tasks efficiently, giving you more time and energy for the really important things you do. Unfortunately, we also tend to develop routines that result in unproductive outcomes-gossiping, mindlessly surfing the internet, dwelling on events and circumstances beyond our control. Those kinds of routines need to go. Aim to develop routines that get things done efficiently and effectively.
- Organization.The third key to doing more with less is organization. That is, develop a plan for your time and other resources, and be committed to executing your plan. To get more accomplished with fewer resources means that you must extract maximum use from the resources you available. For some, a "To Do" list is helpful, while others are equally successful keeping the plan for the day in their head. Maximize the use of your resources by wisely and judiciously by organizing them to achieve your goals.
- Get in the Zone.Everyone has a period, or periods of time, during the day when they are get maximum productivity with minimum energy. For most people, mornings are when they are most rested. Others seem to get a charge late in the day or in the evening. It is important, therefore, that you identify your most productive time, and insure you don't waste your peak performance time checking email or returning phone calls. The key here is to align your most important, or challenging, tasks with those periods in day when you have the greatest reources to take them on.