Too much work or just ineffective?

Recent research by the Australian National University revealed that two-thirds of Australians work too much. I’m emphatic to workers who are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work as I’ve been there myself and it’s not a great place to be when you feel as though there’s no end in sight.

Besides working long hours, the tell-tale signs include low levels of energy and inadequate work methods (disorganised, lacking clarity where to focus next etc). You might be experiencing this yourself or work with others who are. I don’t want to make light of those going through this, however, it’s also reasonable to question what comes first - working too much or the inadequate work methods? Reality is it’s likely to be a mixture of both.

Disorganised workers react to demands and bounce between tasks, which often remain incomplete. They focus on what’s urgent instead of what’s important. Essentially, they’re busy but not effective because everything cannot possibly be important (there will be a hierarchy of priorities) and it’s the volume of the little unimportant tasks that overwhelm and frustrate. Instead of trying to do or schedule everything, a better way is to only schedule the important key tasks. Results become apparent once there’s an increased focus on what matters most.

A way to address the small tasks that must be actioned is by the 2-Minute Rule, made famous in Getting Things Done. The logic is if a task takes less than 2 minutes to complete then just action it because it will probably take more than 2 minutes to add it to a list, remember the context of the task and so on. The 2-Minute Rule can dramatically improve productivity. The key is to not just get caught up in doing 2 minute tasks all day, but to also leave time for the more important key pieces of work.

By increasing effectiveness, benefits include feeling better from a sense of achievement, having greater clarity and seeing visible signs of progress. Implementation is achieved by building it into the rhythm of how you work - identify what needs to be done, set aside time to action and protect the time to ensure it happens.

Those who do more of what really matters and less of what doesn’t are those who find a way to be successful regardless of the workload. Too much to do isn’t always the problem because what we do with our time has a greater impact.