If your job is like most other jobs, you probably work with daily targets, which must be met for your day to be considered productive and also you save time for more work deliverables. In such a scenario, every second of your day counts. Procrastination, open-ended deadlines, unnecessary meetings, water-cooler chats, too many coffee breaks, etcetera, are all culprits that could keep you from reaching your targets.
Considering that time is your most important resource, it only makes sense to find ways to save those precious minutes so that each day is more productive than the next. Here’s how you can earn extra minutes back from your day.
1. Confirm meeting agenda beforehand
Tools like Aira were created specifically to address the challenges surrounding meeting management, such as attendance and agenda planning. However, due to human nature, it’s common for a meeting agenda to balloon when attendants raise issues they feel warrant a discussion. A lot of times though, you will find that some matters can be addressed informally between colleagues.
As such, when you schedule a meeting and you suspect that it might drag on unnecessarily, touch base with attendants beforehand and attempt to address any major issues that they’d like to have on the agenda. By so doing, you will not only keep your meeting running on schedule, but you will also gather important information which you can use to reach decisions faster during meetings.
2. Create processes to avoid repetition
Have you ever found yourself handling the same query multiple times, but each time you need to start from scratch?
When you have systems and processes, you can avoid such repetition and save more time at work. For example, say you are a manager at a guest house and it’s your job to orient new guests. Orientation means dedicating time to each guest, which is not sustainable if you receive several guests a day. A better approach would be to prepare a welcome package so that each guest goes through some sort of DIY orientation.
This applies to practically every job. When you have processes that are documented and formalized, not only will things move smoothly, but in case you are away from work, other colleagues can easily relieve you.
3. Use Templates
You also need templates just as much as you need systems and processes. Templates are a huge time saver in project management, web design, reports, content writing, etcetera. A project proposal for instance always retains most of its elements. Therefore, you don’t need to write your proposals from scratch. The same goes for websites; if you can find a template that fits your website’s purpose, go with it instead of starting a fresh build.
4. Batch similar tasks
How do you plan your weekly/monthly tasks?
If you find multiple similar jobs on your task list, allocate them in the same block of time. You might not expect this, but when you switch from one task to another, you take a lot of time to wind down the current task and then plan and get into the next task.
You can save time by batching together tasks that need you to use the same resources (skills, tools, systems).
For example, if you need to schedule several meetings, instead of spreading such tasks throughout the day, block out some time, log into Aira and schedule all meetings in one sitting.
5. Message or call people instead of emails
Do you have an urgent issue to be solved? Call; don’t email. Better yet, get up from your desk, walk to the person you want to email and have a conversation.
If you have other means of accessing people, opt for those before you use email. It’s generally faster to call than email a person. Not to mention, you get immediate feedback when you call, and can therefore strike off that task from your list.
6. Unsubscribe from unnecessary notifications
Have you subscribed to receive newsletters, product notifications, latest blogs, reports, case studies and more? You probably subscribe to all these services due to the fear of missing out…and you could be right. If missing an update or report will negatively impact your work, then by all means keep the subscription. However, if all you do is archive your subscription emails, it’s time to hit “unsubscribe”.
In addition, if you have multiple emails or gadgets, manage all your notifications from one email. This way, you don’t have to switch between emails and gadgets just to read notifications.
7. Turn off Popups
Popups can be quite distracting. Every time you see a popup, you have to divert attention either to dismiss it or read it.
We aren’t just talking about online popups that come up when you are on the web; desktop popups are just as distracting, and you should also turn them off.
8. Use mailing Lists
You probably write to the same list of people every day, a few times a week or month. Some people get a certain report, others get updates for a certain project, etcetera.
It’s difficult to hold all these people’s names in your head and even if you could, you would need to type out their email addresses every time you email them. This will consume a lot of time, even with the autofill option turned on. Not to mention, mistakes happen, and you could leave out a recipient when typing from memory.
You can solve this problem by creating a mailing list for your different groups.
9. Use Checklists
Checklists save time by systemizing tasks and hence minimizing the amount of mental energy you spend navigating through a task.
Every task has many parts. Traveling overseas for instance involves booking a ticket (and visa where applicable), packing, booking a hotel room, etcetera.
Each of these tasks also has other smaller tasks. For instance, to pack, you might need to:
- Pick your black suit from the dry cleaners
- Check your toilet bag for essentials
- Go shop for extra toiletries
- Buy a few t-shirts on Amazon
When you have such a checklist, you can work through the steps of getting your tasks done more easily.
10. Take breaks
Yes. You need to take a break. Whether it’s your tea break or lunch break, take that break.
Research shows that human beings are only productive for roughly 3 hours. As such, working endlessly will not get you to achieve more, but less. Taking a break is a great way to:
- Clear your head by being outdoors
- Reenergize with some nutrition
- Get to know your colleagues better through conversation
- Increase blood flow through movement
Busy work, meetings and repetitive processes are some of the ways people waste time at work. You also probably waste time in a similar manner without realizing it. This list is a great place to start auditing your day to find activities that waste your time and then improving on those to increase productivity.