Work less, achieve more


You love what you do and you don’t mind putting in some extra hours. However, when the extra hours become a fixed part of your workweek, it’s time to look at how you work. What could help you get results faster or stop unproductive behaviors? We asked our people for their personal experiences. They’ve made some changes in their way of working which might help you too. Read their testimonials here:

1. Stay in the driver’s seat

I don’t let others make me set a deadline unless I’m 100% sure. I follow my intuition and instinct and will not let others talk me into things I can’t do.
Christel de Neef, Purchase & Logistics Manager

2.  Saying goodbye to your to-do list?

I was a big fan of to-do lists and I added task after task. Sometimes the list was even longer at the end of the day. Now I only have a rough to-do list focusing on the things that are crucial to my job performance and my company’s success. My advice: focus on the tasks that have a long term impact and as much value as possible, instead of trying to get all possible work done.
Susanne Barth, Publications Manager

3. Talk more, email less

Think upfront about the best communication for a certain task; it will help you save time and energy. We’re all familiar with back-and-forth emailing with a bunch of people copied in, which can cause more misunderstanding than clarity. It’s more efficient to have a quick phone call or to set up a conference call instead. A 30-minute virtual meeting with shared screens can get issues resolved quickly. You can use email afterwards as a follow-up tool.
Sheetal Pathki, Online Marketing Manager

4. Planning helps ... but be careful

I had a tendency to plan way too much. I plan less now and what I have planned will actually be done at the end of the day. One thing after the other and it gets completed 100%.
Carl Jacobs, Consultant

I love planning; it gives me a clear overview of my daily activities. I book 60% of all activities in the morning and plan 15% spare time for unexpected activities in the afternoon. Although it’s easy to get distracted, keeping the pace and flow in my activities helps me to achieve my goals and delivers necessary satisfaction at the end of the day.   

Dorinda Dekker, Open Programme Advisor

5. Manage your projects wisely

Sometimes it seems like all projects have a crucial go/no go moment in the same week. To avoid this, I never write stand-alone project plans. When the plans are ready, I compare the planning of each project with the others to see where the peak moments are and check if it’s really feasible to achieve the plan. 70 hour work weeks aren’t for me! When necessary, make changes to your plans. With the overall plan in mind, take some time on Monday mornings to set fixed time slots per week per project. This helps you to focus and to finish tasks on time.
Marieke Dijkshoorn, Content and Knowledge Manager

6. Saying no

I focus on what’s a priority for me, and not on the priorities of others. My first advice is to say no every time it’s not important to you. When I decide to do tasks (even those asked for by others) I never wait for the deadline but I do them when they arrive. This is the best way to avoid stress.
Pierre Lamy, Senior Consultant

7. Don’t re-invent the wheel

Always starting from scratch is a big waste of time. Instead, find and modify templates, proposals, and emails you’ve used in the past or ask people who’ve already done something similar and take tips from them on how to proceed. This way you leverage already available resources in order to reach your goals more easily.
Maarten Poot, Marketing Manager

8. Go home when you’re behind

Before, when I was getting behind with some work I always worked until very late. That’s OK if it’s from time to time. But if you get into the habit of doing this all the time, you end up tired and unhappy. Now, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I stop on time and know that the next morning I’ll restart with fresh energy and find a way to tackle things in a more positive way.
Susanne Barth, Publications Manager

9. Last but not least: don’t be a slave to your inbox

Having an organised inbox helps – after each interaction I classify my email so I know that the only emails in my inbox are the ones I still have to deal with in the upcoming week.
Corina Dumont, Former Consultant

Disable the ‘you’ve got mail’ notification. Personally, I’ve never used it because it distracts me from what I’m doing.
Thomas Lenczner, Former Consultant

When you get a request via email which isn’t fully clear, reply with a question or a call. Don’t jump straight into action.
Marieke Dijkshoorn, Content and Knowledge Manager

When you want to send an e-mail, resist the temptation to read and reply to emails you find in your inbox. Only do that at fixed times during the day!
Marieke Dijkshoorn, Content and Knowledge Manager

Keep in mind that working smart is about finding the shortest way to reach your goals. The more self-aware you are about your work style, the more you can find ways to stay on top of your work.

So which habits will you break or which other techniques will you apply? Share your experiences with us and help others to cope with similar challenges.