Close your eyes. Ok…wait…don’t. You won’t be able to read what I’m saying. Ahem. Metaphorically close your eyes. Think back to your favorite part-time job growing up. Was there ever a time when your boss commended you for getting a project done in a very timely manner? No? Ok that’s awkward…pretend they did. I remember this one job where my boss just loved me and loved how dedicated I was to getting work done. She constantly ranted and raved about how quickly I worked and I’ll admit, I enjoyed the appreciation.

The truth is that I didn’t necessarily mean to work super fast—I just love efficiency. If there is a way to expedite a task, I want to figure it out. Time is one of those things we only get so much of. Task lists can grow and grow; meetings can multiply; emails can pile up; but time—time is a different story. We usually get eight hours to accomplish our to-do list each day. I think each of us knows how precious that time is, and we do our best to guard it and make it last. But, how well do we respect our co-workers’ time?

I heard a comparison the other day between monkeys and tasks. Typical Tuesday. Here’s how it worked: Each item on my to-do list, each responsibility, is like a monkey. I need to feed or get rid of each monkey on my back. My monkey, my responsibility. Each time I pass along an email or ask someone to help me, it runs the risk of becoming their monkey. Our team learned to avoid passing off monkeys to other employees. This concept was intended for responsibilities and tasks, but I think it also applies to taking up co-workers’ time. Time is monkeys!

I want to be efficient in the way I complete my work, but I also want to respect my co-workers in a way that allows them to be efficient! Each time I carelessly send off an email or pop into an office to ask a question, I am lessening the efficiency of the office. Recently, I have considered the following things before endangering efficiency:

  • Is this meeting I’m holding something that needs to take up everyone’s time? Or could I just send an email and get the same results?
  • Is this email I’m about to send giving helpful information? Or can I make more effort to get answers before wasting the reader’s time reading it? A couple times now, I have stopped typing and realized I was basically saying, “Hold on, I don’t have answers yet.” Ok, maybe it’s good to communicate that if it’s taking a while, but if not, don’t clog up inboxes with non-helpful tidbits.
  • Have I considered whether or not my co-worker is super busy and stressed before “popping in” to his or her office and spouting out my question? I have a co-worker who consistently asks me if it’s a good time each time we have a conversation. This person has mastered the concept.
  • Am I thinking for myself and doing all I can before bringing someone else into a conversation? It’s easy to become lazy and needy in a role. Especially being fairly new, you can rely too much on asking everyone for help. I’ve begun to internally assess how often I am relying on others for answers. I noticed recently there are times I ask questions I’ve asked before. This is a small way, but still a way to waste time—re-asking questions. I want to be a little more self-sufficient in this area.

Find the most efficient balance of communication in your specific office. Many times, it works well to email/visit offices/etc. Maybe you have an understanding of how your co-workers best communicate. If not, try sitting down with your team and talking through how each of you best communicates. If you don’t know, you might be running into needless roadblocks on projects, when you could be more efficient by understanding each other a bit more.

Efficiency is a beautiful thing. I think I’ve decided it’s my office love language.

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