Ok, so you’re stuck in a cubicle for 40+ hours a week, your boss doesn’t appreciate you, and you know most of your work is not adding bottom-line value. How can you improve your work situation (while you plan your exit)?
- Work outside the office. These days remote work is more and more viable, and can really add to your quality of life, and if done right, with discipline, can increase productivity. Tim Ferriss gives great coverage to the concept in his seminal book The 4-Hour Workweek.
- Only attend meetings with defined agendas, and request that meeting minutes be sent to all stakeholders. It is well-known that meetings can be huge productivity killers, and extremely painful to sit through. Accept meeting invites with extreme prejudice.
- Identify action items, the responsible person, and target date, and not just for formal meetings, but any conversation, email chain, or IM chat. Always ask yourself: is the outcome of this discussion a decision, an action item, or does it require follow-up? Always reiterate at the end what is the expected action, who (an actual person, not just a department or group) will perform the action, and by when it should be expected.
- Organize Data. This is a critical to a modern organization, be it small or large. It is very important to look carefully at what data is being collected, and how it is organized, stored, and analyzed. I guarantee you are squandering the opportunity to gain business understanding due to disorganized data.
- More communication. And more efficient communication. This relates to items 2 and 3 above. Tell everybody what’s going on! It can’t hurt.
- Share vision. In most large companies, the majority of the workers have no concept of the shared vision. If there is a vision, it is shared maybe once a year at the annual meeting and then quickly forgotten. Each manager should have a vision and share that vision constantly with his/her staff. We need to be reminded everyday what we are doing.
- Set expectations. This is top-down and bottom-up. Every person should be setting expectations in every interaction. See item #3.
- Set a pleasant work environment. I have no idea why for decades it was though office space needs to be sterile and drab. Let’s get some color and some windows in here for Christ’s sake!
- Eat right. It is very easy to get sucked into the office culture of coffee and donuts. Don’t do it. Demand healthy options.
- Work when you want. Flex time, like remote work, is more and more common these days. We are all adults and should be able to set our own schedules. Figure out what works for you. I personally like to be in the office by 6am and out by 3pm, because I’m freshest and most productive in the morning, and that schedule allows me to avoid traffic and gives me some afternoons to enjoy during the week. That last part is especially important in the winter where I live (Southern California), when it gets dark at 5pm.