If time is evaporating, do it now––right now!
When you waste a moment, you have killed it in a sense, squandering an irreplaceable opportunity. But when you use the moment properly, filling it with purpose and productivity, it lives on forever. ~Menachem Mendel Schneerson
American workers are in a time crunch––and yet we’re wasting time. We spend at least ten hours per week just sifting through paperwork. We waste hours looking for lost and misplaced items. The cost in terms of lost productivity? Nearly $150 million per day.
We’re spending more time working––at the office, at home, at night, and on weekends. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, that means we’re putting in about forty-nine hours a week on the job––three hundred fifty hours a year more than most Europeans, seventy hours more than the Japanese. Since the 1970s, leisure time has declined by 37 percent. Our workweek has increased a full day.
What’s going on here? Seems like we’re running twice as fast, just to stay in place. If working longer isn’t the answer, what is?
Let’s get organized with these tips to work smarter so that the time you spend on the job counts for more. Work smarter so that you can check out of the office on time and go home to the life you deserve.
Check in with yourself each morning
Print out your daily schedule each day first thing in the morning.
Quickly respond to any emails that came in overnight, schedule time for those that will take more than just a couple of minutes,
Review your to do list.
Do the most important task(s) before 11:00 a.m.
Complete your most important task of the day. Get it off your mind and off your desk.
Immediately do tasks that take two minutes or less
Create the habit of completing a task or thought when it occurs to you. Otherwise, you have to remember to come back and when you do come back to it, it’ll take you another minute or so to reorient yourself, wasting time. Plus, how often do you forget to return to it or recall your thought process.
Follow the 10 percent rule
An adequate job takes 10 percent of the time it takes to do something perfectly. Keep moving forward. Do not try to be perfect at everything. Striving for perfection only when a task or a product is crucial to your goal.
As you are going through your mail, voice mail, or email and you get an invitation with a specific date, or if you have a deadline for a conference you wish to attend and you must RSVP––Do it now. Right now. Get it out of your head and off your plate. Get it into your Outlook, scheduler, or tickler file—now.
If you cannot make the decision to RSVP, put it in your tickler file on a date when you can make the decision.
Keep up with voice mail and messaging services
Check phone messages at least once every two hours. While this may compromise productivity, it will ensure you do not lose business because calls are not returned.
Make notes while listening to the messages so you do not have to listen to them again.
As you hear each call, delete it immediately to save going through it later (unless it is critical information to be saved for future action).
Prepare your responses so when you return the call you know what to say. The average time for an unprepared return call is twelve minutes, but a planned call is seven minutes.
Schedule time to return all phone calls at one time: during normal business hours and within twenty-four hours.
Schedule time on your calendar for any messages that cannot be returned immediately.
Keep your voice mail messages for incoming calls short and concise with a promise to return the call as soon as possible or a specific message indicating when you will return calls.
If you are a frequent traveler, forward landline phone calls to your cell phone so you will retrieve and respond to messages only once.
Use a daily appointment book
Keep track of all projects and work goals––everything! It is easier to work with a full page for every day. Highlight the special tasks for the day, either on paper or computer.
Use a planner
A paper or computer planner—does not matter. Just plan.(Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange seamlessly synchronize with a Blackberry.)
Plan 60 percent of your time
Plan only 60 percent. Leave the other 40 percent for the unexpected. It will show up…and it could be a good thing. You would not want to miss out because you did not leave flex time in your schedule.
Calendar everything. When you put all your projects and tasks on your calendar, you take away the stress of having to decide what to do next. Use your calendar to schedule appointments, deadlines, work time, and personal commitments. This practice will let you see, at a glance, when you’re headed for trouble. And allow you time to make a midcourse adjustment if anything changes.
Set aside specific times during the day when you focus just on email. Do the same with telephone messages. Rather than answering email each time the computer dings, set aside specific times during the day when you reply.
If you are too bogged down to do a particular task (or do not want to), hire a specialist.
Virtual assistants rock! In this global communications world, there are entrepreneurs out there who do virtuallyanything—administrative, creative, and technical support.
Spend your time making money!
Rely on the written word
Writing down your business goals crystallizes them in your memory, so you do not have to try to remember every detail. You can always refer back to your notes if you need to.
Also, the written evidence of your expectations helps you to stay focused on your plan.
Analyze time sheets
Track activities for yourself and each worker. Identify what each person actually does.
Look for patterns in what is done and how much time is spent per activity so you can identify time-wasting activities.
Use a meeting agenda
Write an agenda in advance to identify what you want to accomplish in a meeting and to track any possible follow-up actions.
The average time consumed by meetings is 70 percent longer when unprepared than when planned.
Back up computer files
Computer files can disappear in an instant. Losing data is costly in both time and money. Computer techs are expensive, both online and at the repair shop. Repairs are not fast, either; they can take days.
Many online backup services are available today, and they are more cost-effective than repair shops. Check with your spyware or high-speed service for your backup options.
Once set up, your backup system works continuously in the background. All you have to do is select the files (all or part) and the days and hours you want your default system to save everything.
Backing up on flash drives or CD-Rs, or both, is also a good idea for documents you need on the go.
Deluged by Commitments? Eliminate that overwhelming feeling with a few different keys.
Work step by step
Big projects get done one step at a time…one phase at a time. Baby steps are okay. It still gets done—and without all the stress.
Take a personal skills assessment
Identifying your weaknesses and strengths helps you to know where you need outside help so you can focus your creativity and attention. (DiSC profiles four personality styles: Disciplined, Influencer, Steady, and Conscientious.
By knowing your personality type and those of your coworkers, you can be clearer about each other’s responsibilities and make the best use of everyone’s talents.
Check your feelings
If someone doesn’t make you feel great, that’s not a person you want to work with.
Check out of each work day
Take a few minutes to write tomorrow’s work goals to keep you on track. Institute a closed-door policy so that you can work, free from interruptions, for ten to fifteen minutes at the end of each day.
Once a week, set weekly goals. Once a month, set monthly goals.
Keep in mind that you may not complete your goals for each day, week, and month. That is okay. Cross them off as you do. Carry them forward to your new list if they are still relevant.
Reserve time to plan as a routine habit. Use this time to review your progress, prioritize projects, and set your schedule for the next day. Give yourself time to clear your desk––and your mind. That way you will be ready to check out and go home.
Spending time at the end of the day to get organized offers another important benefit. It allows you to start your day focused and ready to get to work. In fact, studies show that investing just ten to fifteen minutes to map out your schedule each day can save you as much as six hours per week of unproductive time.
Get organized. Think about how you work each day. When you understand why you feel like you’re always running but never getting ahead, you can change how you use your time. When you do, you’ll be able to check out of the office, feeling like you’re in control and on top of your job.
Credit and Source: This blog post is an excerpt from Anne McGurty’s book, Lost In Your Own Office, available on amazon.com.