You work hard. You covet every day of vacation you’re entitled to. So why aren’t you using them? According to Expedia.com’s annual “Vacation Depravation” survey, nearly one-third of Americans do not always take their vacation days. In fact, Americans are likely to give back more than 421 million unused vacation days in 2005.
Before blaming your job for forcing you to surrender your precious time off, take a look at your own habits at work and home. The best way ensure that you don’t forego a single well-deserved day on the beach, on the slopes or just relaxing at home, is to increase your personal productivity. By tweaking the way you work and structure your day, you can get more done in less time and feel good about it. Best of all, you will never have to say no to a vacation again. Here’s your five-step game plan for seizing control of your time and boosting your personal productivity:
1. Draw a line in the sand
Creating boundaries is a crucial step in regaining control of your time and increasing your personal productivity. The hard part of setting boundaries is telling other people what’s important to you in a way that doesn’t compromise the relationship.
First of all, schedule everything in your planner: exercising, going to church, taking the kids to the zoo, having a date with your spouse, spending time with friends, etc. That way, when a coworker says, “Will you come help me raise money at this event?” you can open your calendar and honestly say, “Gee, I’m really sorry. I have something planned.” If it’s not written down, you might accidentally say, “Uh, no, I’m not doing anything on Saturday. I guess I can help you out.”
2. Don’t be so darn picky
Have you ever delegated a task to someone, then taken it back because the person didn’t do it the “right way”? You may suffer from the disease of perfectionism. If you demand that people perform your way, according to your perfect standards, many people will be content to let you do things your way, leaving you wondering why you have so much on your plate! The bottom line is: distinguish between a high standard and an unrealistic expectation. Some things require high standards and have to be done “just so.” Most expectations we impose on others, however, are simply picky-picky standards without merit.
3. Learn to trust your subordinates
You should always retain broader management duties such as overall planning, policy making, goal setting, and budget supervision, as well as work that involves confidential information or supervisor-subordinate relations. But if there is another person who is 80% as capable to doing a task as you are, then delegate.
Consider delegating the following types of work:
• Decisions you make most frequently and repetitively
• Assignments that will add variety to routine work
• Functions you dislike
• Work that will provide experience for employees
• Tasks that someone else is capable of doing
• Activities that will make a person more well-rounded
• Tasks that will increase the number of people who can perform critical assignments
• Opportunities to use and reinforce creative talents
4. Question job responsibilities and related tasks
Have you ever looked back on a completed task and realized that if it had gone undone, there would be no consequence? When you’re faced with too much to do, assess the tasks by asking, “What would happen if I simply didn’t handle this?” If the answer is “nothing,” don’t do it.
In order to create effective work objectives, you need to know where you are expected to invest your time, energy, talents, and company resources. If you are to be evaluated on your successful accomplishment of work objectives, do those performance objectives really match what you do during the day? The things you want to or should be working on aren’t always the things you’re being evaluated on.
5. Stick to your guns
Many of those people have a jam-packed calendar because they can’t say “no.” Others prey on them, because they know a people-pleaser can never refuse. Perhaps you’re afraid of losing control on something you may eventually be responsible for. It’s time to get realistic and determine if the demands on your time have exceeded your ability to handle them.
Saying “no” does NOT undermine your authority or competence. Your credibility is actually enhanced when you honestly tell people you lack the time or the interest. First, it makes you seem more desirable (we always want what we can’t have). Second, you ensure that you don’t perform tasks slipshod, making you appear less competent in the end. Third, you’ll have more time to devote to the tasks that do return the highest value for your time. So flex that “no” muscle, create your rules, and make sure others stick to them.