Every one of us is given the same allotment each day. The big variable is how efficient you can be with your time – and focusing on accomplishing the important stuff, not just spinning around in a tornado of busy. There are thousands of books on time management, but most people are too busy to read them (oh, the irony!). Most professionals have the same time-sucks – so we wanted to share with you 10 ways to get more (productive) time back in your day.
Plan your day the day before. I’m sure you have heard the adage about “failing to plan is planning to fail.” It’s true. Walking into your office without a plan will guarantee a less productive day. Take 20-30 minutes before you leave the office the day before to review your calendar, prioritize what must get done and when you are going to do it. Block out time on your calendar for specific tasks and try to stick to it. Bonus: you may find it easier to turn your work brain off if you know you have your day covered.
Do not check email first thing in the morning. Anything waiting for you in there is a priority of someone else or a source of distraction. Work for an hour or two on your biggest priority and check email when you are ready for that next cup of coffee.
DIY your coffee and lunch. Speaking of coffee, stopping on the way in at Starbucks every day or heading out to lunch is not only expensive, but it adds up in time. Making coffee at home and bringing a lunch can save you money, and help you control what you eat.
Change your email send-receive settings. Go into your email program and change your email send-receive settings to as long an interval as you think you can get away with. This will allow you to focus on task at hand without constantly responding to emails. It takes an average of 10 minutes to return to your task from responding to an email. If you get hundreds of emails a day, you will never get anything done.
Turn off notifications. From the popups on your computer to your phone, turn off all but the most critical of notifications to stay focused.
Use your out-of-office email to your advantage. It's not only for when you are out of the office. You can set it up to notify people to call you if they need an immediate response: “I’m working on a project with a tight deadline until noon today. I will respond to emails then. If you need an urgent reply, please call my office line at…”
Train your friends and colleagues to respect your productivity time. While office socialization is important for collaboration and team cohesiveness, just because your office-mate wants to take a break and talk about the game last night does not mean you do too. Use the phases like, “I’m on a deadline, can we talk about this later?”
Go on an information diet. Trying to stay on top of everything takes an enormous investment in time. Whether its social media, news, politics, sports, or pop culture, very little of that information is meaningful to you in the long run. Social media sites are all designed to keep you engaged for as long as possible. The more you stay, the more they can charge advertisers. One quick peek at Facebook can lead you quickly down a rabbit hole of zooming around the internet not getting anything done.
Make your dead-time dual use. Dead time like commuting or the few minutes you have waiting for a meeting to start can eat up a ton of time during the week. Using your commute to listen to podcasts or audio books can dramatically increase your intake of useful information. Download ebooks to your phone or carry a small book with you so when you get to a meeting ten minutes early, you can make use of your time vs. checking your Twitter feed.
Ask about the agenda for any meetings or conference calls ahead of time. Any meeting you are invited to you have the right to ask why you are invited and what is the agenda. Getting sucked into a calls and meetings where you have limited input or need to be there will kill your work week. Defer and get the summary if you don’t feel you need to be involved.
Time management is something we all need to work on from time to time. Sacrificing your personal time because you cannot get things done in a timely manner is not an optimal good solution (like in this blog post). Sacrificing sleep or exercise time will result in significant negative outcomes. Losing time with family or personal pursuits will also create imbalances in your life with negative outcomes. If you’d like to learn more, I recommend Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen and Death By Meeting: A Leadership Fable…About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business by Patrick Lencioni.
Do you have any hacks to manage your time better? Let us know in the comments or email to email@example.com .
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