Improve your work performance

I'm starting my fifth work week after the holiday season.  December is always slow because my main areas of practice are family law and wills.  It makes sense that, in December, people would not (1) be interested in spending money on an attorney; and (2) start a custody action or think about what happens when they die.  But I digress.

After my 2-week holiday vacation, I was not prepared for the huge influx of e-mails and prospective client requests.  I was, however, excited (and relieved).  Then two weeks later I realized I had hopped on the treadmill of a reactive approach to work.

I let emergencies, not of my own doing, take priority of my plans for a productive day.  These reactive decisions would affect the rest of the week.  When I would finish helping with the emergency, I would remind myself not to do it again.  And then, I did it again.

This morning, on my drive to downtown Des Moines, I made a promise to myself to work for 3 hours before opening my e-mail.  Then, I broke my promise.  To find a nugget of information in an e-mail, I logged in to my account.  I quickly found the information I needed and then, unconsciously, I followed the bread crumbs through all the new e-mails.  

E-mail ended up hijacking my plans for the morning which pushed my a.m. priorities into the afternoon which was already planned out.  Instead of chastising myself for not following through with my promise, I remembered something I realized eight years ago.

Every day is different but your approach to work remains the same.  

In December, I wasn't busy enough to use the approach to work that helps me get things done.  Out of practice, I started being reactive, which resulted in less satisfaction at the end of a workday.   

If you are reacting or letting other people hijack your time, try to do one thing different each week.  I suggest these steps:

  • Write out ideas for changing your own work behavior;
  • Prioritize those ideas; and
  • Calendar each one for a Friday afternoon, as a tickler for the next Monday.   

On Monday morning, during your commute to work, get yourself mentally ready to implement your idea.  

You may already know what you want to change, but if you need ideas, keep reading, then browse other posts in this blog.  

In the new year, I abandoned the well-reheased, extremely effective, strategies below:

  • Making and returning all phone calls at the same time.
  • Making a list of people I need to e-mail so I don't enter my inbox without a plan.
  • Eating lunch away from my desk.
  • Giving myself extra time to decide if I want to respond to another person's emergency.
  • Committing to a short deadline because of emotions.

When you make changes to your work behavior, the main person that will notice an immediate improvement will be you.  Find a way to reward yourself each week for sticking to the plan.  Mondays are always the hardest.

Photo credit: