Our work lives are fast paced, jam packed, and seem to get longer and longer. 9:00-5:00? Not anymore. Most of us feel like we have an ever-growing pile of work and not enough time in the day to actually sit down and finish it.
How can we save time at work? And more importantly, how can we better utilize the active work time have between meetings? Okay, maybe wearing the same thing everyday to reduce decision fatigue doesn’t appeal to you, so here are some of the best tips we found (although coffee never hurt, too):
Plan Your Day and Have Some Structure
Taking the time to actually plan out your day can help you save time. We already know that staying organized helps reduce stress, but it also helps you with productivity. Yes, it may take a few minutes to make yourself a schedule, and you may want to just jump into your work. But planning out the day will help you to prioritize the most important tasks, and keep your day running smoothly. When your daily schedule has some structure, your coworkers will know which times are best to reach you, you won’t be distracted, and you won’t waste time. Consider your daily, as well as weekly goals, and plan out breaks, too.
“To-do” lists also do a world of good; I personally have daily, weekly, and long-term to do lists. Also, consider checking your emails (or other similar tasks) in blocks of planned-out time throughout the day. Email notifications popping up every so often can really distract us. Why not check it at set times? Doing so is a creative way to be efficient.
Don't Be Afraid To Use Two Computer Screens
Do what’s most important first, each day. Tackle it! And really focus on what you are doing with two computer screens. Using two computer screens to look at two things at once is super valuable. Typing on one screen while looking at a reference on the other, looking at your calendar on one screen and your email on another - it seems simple, but the results are incredible. When I go home and try to use my laptop after using my two screens at work, I am noticeably slower at what I am trying to accomplish. But don’t use those two computer screens to work on two separate projects at once. Why? Check out our next tip.
Wait, we shouldn’t be multitasking? It seems like multitasking is the way to go - it helps us get more done, right? Quite the opposite: experts constantly preach that multitasking does not make you more productive. In our fast-paced work lives, we often see those who can multi-task as greatly skilled; I think I even mentioned my multitasking abilities in my last job interview. However, some researchers say that multitasking can reduce productivity by around 40%. Changing from one activity to the next one can take up to seven-tenths of a second. And that adds up! In that same vein, don’t forget to slow down throughout the work day. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Well, allowing yourself to take breaks and reflect can actually get you to your goals faster.
Of course, some meetings are essential to working together and communicating common goals. But so many meetings that we are required to attend are a waste of time. This may be a more office-wide issue, but try to limit your meetings. Perhaps your office should consider mandated “No Meeting” days? Many companies are trying out this “radical” idea to allow employees to have days when they can really concentrate. Then, when you and your coworkers do need to have a meeting, make it productive as possible. We are all about efficient meetings, and if you follow our tips to make yours more effective, you will save time.
Take Next Steps at a Meeting Before it's Over
By this point, you already know we are all for necessary, productive meetings, but against inefficient ones. Making your meetings more efficient will certainly save time, but here’s another tip: take next steps during the meeting, before it is over. Don’t end your meeting until everyone clearly understands what they are to do next on the project. If during the meeting Evan asked you to send him those important documents, compose the email before the meeting is over. If Caitlin is spearheading a project to compare competitors’ websites to your own, she could pull up a few of them on her browser while still in the meeting, to review later. You get the idea. Take the next steps, even small ones, and it’ll be a real time saver for everyone.
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Turn Off Your Electronics
It seems impossible to do any of our work without the internet and our phones sometimes, but consider unplugging when you really need to get down to business. Close your browser, disconnect from the network, or even unplug the cord! Our electronics can be quite distracting (how many times do YOU check your texts or facebook app throughout the day?), so try to stay away when you can. It’ll save you bundles of time!
Learn to Say No - and to Delegate
It’s hard to say no sometimes, especially to a superior; we all want to be seen as agreeable and willing to help. But you’re not helping if you say yes so much that you can’t get your original tasks done. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s an important skill to learn- how to say no to tasks you, reasonably, cannot take on that day. And don’t be afraid to delegate tasks! If you have a to-do list that is miles long, asking competent coworkers to help out (when they can) is simply teamwork. Learn these two skills, and you’ll have more time to work on what you need to.
Have a Leaving Time (or Window)
If you give yourself a definite leaving time (or window) each day, you’ll feel the internal pressure to get things done. Often, those of us who do not have a definite leaving time are more lax throughout the day, thinking we have 24 hours until the next business day dawns. However, if you give yourself a cut-off, you’ll be more efficient in doing what you need to do. And hey, you overachiever you, if you tackle the day’s work and decide to stay late nonetheless to tackle tomorrow’s to do list, have at it! That’s what saving time at work is all about. And at the end of the day, don’t forget to update that to-do list for tomorrow! It’ll allow you to come in and get going right away.
Try one or two of the above tips, and see how much time it saves you during your work day. You’ll be amazed with the results- and you might even be inspired to define your own genius uniform to wear each day.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.