Imagine if one day, you walked into your office (or opened your email or received a text message or a phone call with the following information:
Congratulations! You’ve worked yourself out of a job.
Now, what will you do next?
I don’t mean to make light of this situation totally – if it’s a layoff notice, you might wonder, “what will I do next?” and feel a sense of anxiety or fear or anger. If the message is the result of an acquisition, you might wonder, “what will I do next” and feel those same emotions, along with excitement. And if it just happened “because”, you might feel another cocktail of emotions.
Act Like It’s Already Happened
“What will you do next” should be your mantra, not a tried-and-true axiom that you pull out when things change in your work situation due to forces beyond your control. You should be already trying to work your way out of a job by being more productive, learning more, and doing things faster than you did last week, month, or year. Ha! You say. “Do more, better, and faster” sounds great as a book title but isn’t always immediately attainable, so what can you do today to get a little closer to that point?
Find the “white space” – the space in between your productive activities – and do more
We all have our down time during the day, whether it’s checking social networking obsessively, taking a coffee break, or just chatting around the office (or perhaps a combination of those things.) Why not speed up the really unfortunate and boring parts of your day so that you can still spend time doing more of the things yon want to do? Nope, it’s hard sometimes to speed up the things that are beyond your control, but you can use tools like TextExpander to take anything you type more than a few times…ever and place it into a macro keystroke where you can use a tool like Tungle.me to hack your schedule.
Turn “hey, do you have time to meet next week?” into
Please suggest a time for us to talk at http://tungle.me/gregmeyer – this is a service I use to schedule meetings with fewer back-and-forth emails – I hope you find it useful.I look forward to speaking with you soon.
Let the other people around you schedule meetings with Tungle, and try to take a walk every day with the time you save not sending emails back and forth.
Do Better by Measuring
You can start measuring your work today. Don’t be afraid of it – it might just be noticing how many productive emails you send in a day (hint: look back at a week’s worth of this on a Saturday and you’ll realize which ones ended up being good emails.) If you improve your process and what you expect from yourself and your team, good things will happen. Now, spend 20 minutes in a room with a whiteboard, dry erase pens, and post-its, and you’ll have more ideas for tackling that next project than you thought you had when you started. Then, ask a friend to collaborate, document the results and … voila! Process mapping.
Do Faster by Asking, “Why Do We Do This?”
“It’s what we do because people have always done it this way”
Might be a good idea, or it might not be a good idea. If you don’t like an idea, suggest a different way to do it, demonstrate that it can be done differently, and see if everyone around you is faster. A great example of this is cutting down the default meeting length to 30 minutes (or even 15 minutes). Ask people to do homework. Send shorter emails. Use Skype to explain to remote people what you mean when you have an idea.
What will you do next?
None of this should sound unfamiliar to you (if it does sound unfamiliar, pick one of these ideas, try it out and see if it helps you do more things, be better at the things you do, and to be faster than the average bear.) If you ask a few productive people for one tip every other day, you will quickly accumulate ways to hack your time and help you work yourself out of your job (and spend more time working on the things you like to do and the things that provide value to you and the people around you.) P.s. Don’t forget to exercise and sleep. You’ll need both of those activities as you start writing your next job description, pitching it to your bosses, and winning new responsibilities and ideas.