Increase Your Productivity Whether your cleaning up at home or working through the inbox at work, the quickest way to handle a task is simply to get rid of it. Shoving all your paperwork into the wastebasket will place you on the fast track to losing your job, though, so it’s important to understand how and when to get rid of a task.

What We Mean by “Get Rid of It”

Getting rid of a task doesn’t mean sweeping it under the rug; it means clearing the work from your desk, work queue, or task list in the most efficient means possible. Sometimes, that involves delegating the task to someone else or setting a follow-up reminder for a more appropriate time to deal with the task. Other times, it really does mean sending the item to the recycle bin.

On the surface, it sounds like getting rid of tasks is a way for lazy people to pawn their work off on others, but this method is actually a top tip employed by some of the most productive and successful individuals in the world. The tip works when you approach work with a certain mindset: You aren’t trying to work less, you’re trying to work smarter. The process works when:

• You understand what the most valuable use of your time is.
• You understand who in your home, organization, or business is best suited to address each task.
• You are willing to do the work yourself if that’s in the best interest of the organization.
• You can apply logic-based criteria to every task without allowing personal feelings about the work to sway your decision.

Steps To Making A Decision About Each Task

Before you get rid of a task, you need to evaluate it following the guidelines below.

Does The Task Need To Be Completed?

You’d be surprised how much unnecessary work people do, especially in the work place. When faced with a task, ask yourself if it still needs to be completed. Some reasons a task no longer requires attention include:

• Someone else has already taken care of the matter.
• The task is now obsolete, and taking action wouldn’t change anything or might even cause problems.
• The work was unnecessary to begin with. Make sure you point out unnecessary work requirements to leadership, as processes may need to be changed to avoid wasted labor.

Should you be the one completing the task?

There are three reasons to pass work along. First, you should always pass work along when routing is part of your job. In a large IT organization, help desk tickets are usually received, logged, and routed by an admin. The efficiency of the department requires the admin to get rid of work quickly by passing it on to qualified techs.

Second, you should pass work on when you aren’t qualified to handle it. This involves making a decision about whether the work was routed to you appropriately in the first place.

Finally, you should pass on work if it doesn’t use your skills in a way to achieve the highest return on investment—especially if you’re in a role to delegate work.

For example, a supervisor in a busy data-entry department should spend time training, motivating employees, dealing with challenges, and ensuring the team has all the right tools for the job. Although there’s nothing wrong with a supervisor lending a hand in the trenches, if leadership is choosing to enter data rather than address an employee’s concerns, then priorities are upside down.

Does the task need to be done now?

There’s a difference between effective work scheduling and procrastination. You should never push a task off simply because you don’t feel like doing it, but you should prioritize work according to need.

For example, if you’re going through your inbox and see a request for a report due in two weeks, you can “get rid” of the task by setting a reminder to work on the report next week. Chances are, there are more pressing matters in your inbox, and spending the rest of the day on the report is an inappropriate use of time.

How to Become More Efficient By Getting Rid of Work

In order to become more efficient, you must confront each task in your life with the questions from the previous section. Do you need to do this? Should someone else do it? Is this the most pressing demand on your time right now?

As you classify work to make the most use of your time, you’ll find that you’re actually getting more done. There are some challenges that can stand in the way of perfecting this habit. One of the biggest issues may be your own desire for perfection. If you are compulsive about checking items off your to-do list or you always feel like you’ll do a better job than someone else, you’ll have a hard time getting rid of work. Some ways to address this issue include:

• Considering the task “done” if you’ve decided it is unnecessary or can be passed to someone else; this way, you can check the item off your list and feel more productive.
• Provide clear instructions and training to employees or others, so you can rest assured the task is being complete correctly.
• Make sure others are motivated and onboard with the reasons behind delivering excellent work; when your employees or partners are motivated, they will push themselves to complete tasks with excellence.

How to Increase Your Work Productivity

Practice Makes Perfect

Building a positive habit requires repetition. You can start today by practicing this method. Make a to-do list of things that need to be done before lunch.

Consider each task in light of the above tips. Write down whether you did the task yourself, passed it on to someone else, scheduled a follow up, or decided it didn’t need doing. Do the same thing after lunch.

Practice every day, reviewing your to-do list at the end of the day. Were there things you could have passed on, but didn’t? Analyze your decisions and try to make more efficient calls with each list.

What You Can Expect

By getting rid of unnecessary work, you’ll open your schedule up to more important tasks. Utilizing your time for the work that is most meaningful, time sensitive, or related to your skills will help you achieve better results. You might also experience less stress as you better manage your time.

Getting rid of tasks works if you have any amount of control over your workflow and is especially beneficial to leaders, project managers, and supervisors. The tip won’t work as well if your tasks are dictated by workflow or scheduling. For example, a picker in a warehouse can’t pass on tasks—he or she needs to work to find other efficiency solutions to enhance performance.

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Bruce Hoover
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