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Five Ways to Do More with Less – and Be Successful

Do you find yourself suddenly being asked to do more with less? Was there once someone in the office beside you whose job responsibilities have suddenly become yours? Are you feeling pressure from your boss to deliver, deliver, deliver?

It isn’t as if you were slacking off before. Between the meetings, the email and just doing your job there wasn’t a lot of time left over. So how, exactly, are you supposed to manage now? Here are five success strategies for getting more accomplished with the time and resources you have.

Success Strategy #1: Clarify your role and responsibilities. This is the first thing you should do. If you are taking on responsibilities that are new to you, it is critical that you spend some time with your manager defining what they are. While it can be tempting to rush over this because there doesn’t seem to be time, making assumptions about expectations can slow you down later. Questions to ask include: Why did you give me these responsibilities? What do you expect me to accomplish and by when? How will my progress and success be measured?

Success Strategy #2: Establish priorities. There is a pretty good chance you now have too much on your plate. You will need to look at your tasks and deliverables and start putting them into three categories: ‘urgent’, ‘must do’, ‘maybe someday’. One thing I advise people to do is make a ‘not to do’ list for themselves and their organizations – it helps us focus and be efficient when we know what we don’t need to worry about. Make sure you also think across the system – whose work might be dependent on your getting something completed? Once you’ve categorized things it is time for another meeting with your manager. Making sure the two of you are in agreement around priorities will save you time and effort.

Success Strategy #3: Identify what you need to learn. If you are taking on things that are new to you, you will have to invest some time and energy into your own learning and development. You should identify your gaps in three key areas: knowledge, skills and practical experience.

Knowledge is usually the easiest to acquire but can be time consuming. Figure out who can help you get up to speed or point you in the right direction. This is where having a good network inside and outside of your company can help.

Skills are tougher than knowledge – you have to actually do something. Maybe there is a quick course you can take to accelerate your progress, but that may not be realistic or in the budget. Think about how you have acquired new skills in the past and what worked for you. Some people like to start with the theory before they try something. Others like to start by experimenting and learn on the fly.

Even if you have the basic skills already, doing something well requires practice. Watch for these opportunities and seize them. Warning: this could push you outside your comfort zone! Finally, give yourself a break. This is new to you – don’t expect to be perfect.

Success Strategy #4: Ask for feedback. One item that frequently gets a low score on employee surveys is, “I get timely feedback from my manager.” Turn that around. Instead of waiting for someone to give you feedback, ask for it. If there is something you can do to be more effective or efficient, don’t you want to hear about it? It is up to you to create the conditions where others can give you good feedback – be open, listen, ask clarifying questions, say thank you, and put good ideas into practice. There is no better time to ask for feedback than when you can honestly say, “I’ve never done this before, I’m trying, but I would really like to get your suggestions on how I can improve.”

Success Strategy #5: Keep things in perspective. Yes, there is a lot on your plate and so little time. This can lead to a lot of stress, particularly if you are someone who strives to do everything well (maybe even perfectly). You are only human. Remember that others are feeling exactly the same way. What you can do is focus on what is most important and strive to get it done. If others see you doing your best, they will respect you for it.

Dr. Rebecca Schalm, who has a Ph.D in Industrial/Organizational Psychology is Human Resources columnist with Troy Media Corporation and a practice leader with RHR International Company, a company that offers psychology related services for organizations worldwide.