How to Simplify Your Work, According to a Simplicity Expert

April 9, 2018

Simplicity Expert Lisa Bodell has a persuasive take on what it really means to be productive.

“I believe that productivity isn't about doing more on your to-do list,” Bodell said. “It's about ensuring what's on your to-do list is worth your time in the first place.”

Her view – you can do a lot of work, without being particularly productive. Instead, the real key to being productive is doing a few important things really well.

To achieve that, you need to simplify your work, so you give yourself time to focus on those important items. In her course on LinkedIn Learning, Bodell explains exactly how to do that, both individually and for your team.

Here’s just a sample of some of her tips – a few of her personal favorites for simplifying work.

A clip from Lisa Bodell's LinkedIn Learning course, Boosting Your Team's Productivity.

Seven tips for simplifying your work

Some of Bodell’s favorite tips are:

    1. If a conversation goes past three emails, pick up the phone.

Email is perhaps the biggest time-suck we all face in the office. And nothing is worse than a long chain of emails back-and-forth.

If you email back-and-forth with the same person more than three times, there’s likely a misunderstanding between you and them. Rather than continue to email, pick up the phone and call them – this will resolve the issue faster and more effectively.

    2. Make your weekly meetings bi-weekly meetings.

Meetings are another huge time-suck for most employees. Bodell has a simple way to reduce your meeting time – turn your weekly meetings into bi-weekly meetings, meaning you meet every other week.

    3. Change hour meetings into 30-minute meetings.

Along those lines, see if you can cut your existing hour-long meetings down to 30 minutes. And, when you schedule a meeting moving forward, make 30 minutes the norm, instead of an hour.

    4. Have company-wide meeting guidelines.

Continuing off this trend, your company – or, at least your team – should have a set of meeting guidelines that ensure maximum productivity. For example, maybe no cellphones are allowed in meetings. Or, each meeting needs to have an agenda.

This again will keep meetings concise and productive.

    5. Have a company-wide signal that a person shouldn’t be disturbed.

A productivity killer is when you are focused on critical work and then are interrupted, even for something small — it kills time and energy refocusing yourself. When you are in the zone, you want to stay in the zone.

To ensure this happens, Bodell recommends a company-wide signal that a person shouldn’t be disturbed. Some companies have private areas for their employees where they can get away and work quietly. Others empower employees to put up red signs on their cubicle, which signals do-not-disturb.

You should have something.

    6. Each morning, identify your two biggest priorities and tackle those first.

Bodell suggests starting each morning by asking yourself the two biggest tasks you need to accomplish that day. And then she suggests accomplishing those first, before doing anything else.

“People who do this find that their afternoon is less likely to be derailed by distractions or unplanned requests,” she said.

    7. Follow the golden rule of simplification.

What’s the golden rule of simplification? For every new task you take on, you need to eliminate a task you are already doing, Bodell said.

Pretty simple. But, if you follow it, it has a profound effect.

The takeaway: Simplicity equals focus

Requiring simplicity forces focus. And a clear focus is the most essential ingredient to accomplish something great, whether it’s individually or as a team.

“In this era of complexity, one of the most powerful ways we can add value to our business is through simplicity,” Bodell said. “While there's no magic button for making our meetings and emails disappear, I hope that these tips help you reclaim some of your time for work that's both productive and fulfilling.”

Looking to make your team more productive? Watch Bodell's LinkedIn Learning course, Boosting Your Team's Productivity.

Other courses you might be interested in are: