Stop scrambling at work by using this checklist

Reclaim your day by taking a closer look at your to-do list

Leah Weiss, a professor, author, and researcher at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, wrote recently for the Harvard Business Review about how thinking deeply about your actions and goals can     improve your time management and productivity.

Paying attention to every task you are completing at work and declining nonessential requests when necessary is critical, Weiss writes, to increasing your sense of value and purpose.

She argues that professionals often build a to-do list full of tasks that don't advance their personal goals or those of the organization. She says this can quickly spiral into mindless, rote activity that disguises as hard work but is really scrambling.

Not only is scrambling bad for the bottom line, it is also not good for your health; it can increase the risk of a stroke, increase hypertension, the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and decrease longevity.

Based on the tips provided by Weiss, here are three questions that may help provide a sense of purpose in your day-to-day work responsibilities:

  1. What are your personal and career goals? Weiss encourages you to think about what parts of your job you enjoy and what you're good at, as well as which parts help you prepare for the next step in your career. She also encourages you to consider how your role fits into the bigger picture of the organization and helps it meet its broad, strategic goals.
  2. What tasks help you meet them? Once you're clear on your goals, you can use them to help you audit your to-do list. Start by identifying the tasks that make the biggest impact on your goals and plan to spend most of your time and energy on those tasks. Weiss recommends reviewing your tasks weekly to check whether you stuck to your plan.
  3. What tasks get in the way? It can be tempting to run through several quick tasks to feel a sense of gratification. But Weiss argues you should be ruthless in cutting out distractions and tasks that don't help you reach your goals.

Struggling to 'find your calling'? Here's some advice.

(Weiss, Harvard Business Review, 3/23)

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