While every job has its own challenges, there are some strategies that can help in any work situation. By learning these basic skills and applying them when appropriate, it's possible to make any job easier.
Whether you're a top manager or an entry-level employee, approaching your job the right way can help you be more effective. It can remove stress, save time, and generally make your life simpler.
Here's what three of our Foolish investors had to say about making your job easier.
Maurie Backman: In any job situation, you're bound to find yourself pulled in many directions. Maybe your boss wants that marketing report done by week's end, while your team members are counting on you to submit slides for your group presentation. Meanwhile, you have meetings to attend, calls to return, and more emails to respond to than you can possibly count.
It's a scenario we're all familiar with, but a good way to reduce your stress load is to list the various things you need to do each week (or each day, if it helps to get that granular) in order of priority, and then tackle each task in order of most to least important. It's easy to get distracted when your phone rings or emails pop into your inbox, but if you don't have the time to address them, and you're facing a deadline, ignore those "bottom of the list" items and focus on the top ones instead.
Along these lines, resist the urge to knock out smaller, trivial tasks just for the sake of crossing them off your list. Sure, it might feel good to see that list shrink, but if you spend so much time on those minor tasks that you fall behind on your more significant ones, you're only going to feel the pain later. Setting priorities, and sticking to them, will help you stay on track, and that's the sort of thing that will not only make your job easier, but also help you stand out as a reliable, efficient employee.
Not knowing is OK, but not asking?
Tim Brugger: I spent much of my financial-services career in various management positions, and I can still recall the quizzical looks from those who weren't quite grasping whatever it was I happened to be discussing to my team at the time.
Not wanting to call them out, I'd glance in their direction every now and again to see whether the gist of our discussion was sinking in: Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn't. After the meeting was adjourned, I would pull the person or people aside to ask if they had any questions, and invariably they did.
The moral of the story is this: If you're actively listening and aren't certain of the particulars of an assignment or task, ask.
Yes, it sounds simplistic, and in many ways it is. But you may be surprised to learn there are a lot of folks who would prefer to hope they understood the nuances of what was being discussed, rather than go out on a limb -- at least in their minds -- and ask for some clarification on a certain point or two.
Thing is, at least in my years in management, I always appreciated an insightful question for a couple of reasons. One, it told me the person asking the question was genuinely engaged and wanted to understand the particulars of an assignment or task to ensure he or she completed it correctly.
Second, I'm far from perfect, and it is quite possible I neglected to clarify a key point of the project at hand. Your manager isn't perfect, either, so don't be afraid to step up and ask.
Front-load your work schedule
Daniel B. Kline: As a writing contractor for The Motley Fool, I have a lot of freedom to set my own schedule. That could be a recipe for disaster, where procrastinating could lead to my not meeting my work goals or having to scramble to finish them at the end of the week or month.
To combat that problem, I make a concerted effort to front-load my work schedule. That means I start my work week on the weekend, knocking out a few stories and doing some research for others. I try to work hardest early in the week. Sometimes problems occur, but because I got busy early, I have time to recover. In other cases, I end up with free time at the end of the week, when I can either do more work (and make more money) or take a break.
This plan works if you have a traditional job. Do the work you like least first, and get started early in the week on whatever is in your inbox or on your to-do list. Basically, fight the urge to procrastinate and you will be in better shape when the unexpected happens. You will also create a reputation as being reliable and on top of things, which could lead to added opportunities.