The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan



Simply Better Work Habits

By Dr. Greg Story

It comes as “no shock and awe” that most people spend more time working than on any other activity. Life is becoming more hectic, as we all switch to a 24/7 lifestyle, thanks to Blackberrys, iPads, etc.

As a consequence, stress levels seem to be constantly rising. To avoid major health problems, we must find simple ways to reduce on-the-job stress.

1. Clear your desk of all papers except those relating to the issue at hand (the TRAF approach)

    Toss it. Whenever I look in my physical files, I notice a lot of paper that I never look at and never need. At the magical point of deciding to toss or file, I utter these fatal words to myself, “I had better keep this in case I need it.” Years go by and I never need it. In fact, I usually completely forget I even had it in the first place. I am sure I am not alone. So better toss it out early rather than later.

      Refer it to someone else for action. This is Delegation 101, but most of us are weak on the delegation front, mainly because we don’t do it the right way. Normally, we say things such as, “It will be quicker if I do it myself.”

        When we actually get around to delegating tasks, we just dump the offending documents on someone’s desk, tell them to take care of the items, and then breezily glide off into the distance. Instead, we need to have a proper conversation with the delegatee on why doing this task is in their interest and map out the follow-up process.

          Action it. Either knock it off right there and then, if you can do it in less than two minutes, or add it to the to-do list, prioritized for a later time.

            File it. Before you take the plunge and file it, ask yourself if you really, really need this information. Maybe you only need a small part of it, in which case take a photo of it or get that bit into the Evernote application or a similar alternative.

              Some workplaces have adopted the paperless nirvana, where everything is scanned and stored digitally. I look at that and say to myself, “If they can do it maybe I can too!”

              2. Do things in order of importance
              Major insight: not all bits of paper have the same value. Prioritizing work is a must. We can’t do everything, but we can do the most important things. Just decide what those things are and start there.

              3. Learn to organize and delegate responsibility
              This is similar to Refer, except that with expert delegation, the task never arrives on your desk in the first place. You head it off at the pass, and make sure it is re-routed to the delegatee. Discuss the task with the delegatee before they start work on it.

              Monitor their work to make sure they are on track and then let them do it—don’t buy it back under any circumstances.

              4. Don’t keep putting off problems
              There is both positive and negative procrastination. Deciding not to do something now may be the best choice. We just need to be aware that this is what we are deciding.

              Negative procrastination is not doing something we should, when we should, because we are immobilized through fear of making a decision. When you have a problem, solve it then and there, if you have the facts necessary to make a decision. As the saying goes, “If you have to swallow a frog, do it in one gulp!”

              Most of us understand these ideas, but we don’t apply them. Simple works best, so let’s get started with some simple solutions to problems from work overload.



Dr. Greg Story is president of Dale Carnegie Training Japan.