Feel like you’re spending way too many hours in the office? Trapped in a never-ending work cycle? You may be surprised to learn you can actually achieve a lot more by spending less time in the office. Yes – that’s right: reducing your work hours can turn you into a far better and more productive employee.
But how do you get there? Here are nine easy tips to help you work more efficiently and spend more time with your friends and family.
1. Use your calendar
If you aren’t managing your work day with a calendar, then it’s time to start! Calendars can do far more than remind you what meetings you have each day. By scheduling each hour of your day, you are more likely to stay on task. We recommend scheduling out your entire work day, blocking off sections to complete each task that you want to get done. Make an appointment with yourself to work on that project that you never seem to get around to. Block off sections each week to catch up on old emails or to finish annoying paperwork. By associating tasks with a specific time and date in your week, you are far more likely to get them done.
2. Create smaller time slots
Once you’ve started using your calendar, make the time slots shorter. If you give yourself an hour for a meeting, you will probably use it. Try scheduling 30 or 45 minute meetings. By giving yourself smaller time slots to complete tasks, you will keep yourself motivated and your work day moving along.
3. Keep it simple
Need to create a last-minute presentation or online portfolio to impress clients? Avoid the temptation of reinventing the wheel and easily make the deadline by using one of the many free business tools available online. You can edit photos with PicMonkey, Record audio files with Audacity and create your own free beautiful online portfolio with Wix.
4. Read email 2-3 times a day
Email is probably the single biggest time trap in today’s work world. Each time you stop what you are doing to check that Inbox, you are taking time away from the task at hand. And the average worker checks their Inbox obsessively – spending 28% of their work time in their Inbox. While it’s true that people expect to receive responses to emails within 24 hours, that doesn’t mean you have to respond within 24 seconds. Schedule two or three times each day to manage your email, perhaps first thing in the morning, 30 minutes before lunch and another 30 minutes at the end of the day. Then keep your Inbox securely closed the rest of the day. It may take awhile to get used to, but resist the urge to keep checking. And that includes your Smartphone!
5. Sign out of chat
It’s not just your email you need to close. Those texts and chats, whether on Facebook, Google or FaceTime are taking you away from your work. Each time you get distracted and spend a few seconds sending someone your favorite icon or even just “BRB,” you are losing valuable work time. Transitioning back into the task you are working on takes longer than you think. Do yourself a favor and close or sign out of all those chats. You can catch up with your friends and family after your work, especially now that you will have so much more time after work each day.
6. Create a To Do list
By keeping a clear list of the tasks you need to accomplish each day, you will be able to stay more focused at work. Keep yourself on track by prioritizing the list and doing the most important tasks first. We all tend to get sidetracked with tasks that seem urgent or easy to complete, but if they aren’t top priorities, they aren’t worth your time. Stick to the important stuff first and then add those other tasks to the bottom of your list.
A hint for that To Do List: Start with the things you least enjoy. If you get the grunt work over with in the morning when your energy is high, you will accomplish these tasks more efficiently. Then, you’ll be free to spend the rest of the day doing work you enjoy more.
7. Drop the perfection
We all like to do our best work, but part of being efficient is knowing when we have done work that is good enough. If you tend to obsess over details, you can get bogged down in the small stuff and miss out on the bigger picture. In many work environments, it’s often more important to move things forward than to make sure that every single period is in place. If you can figure out which projects need to be perfect, but be willing to settle for good enough on the rest of them, you’ll free up countless hours in your schedule.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. While some people can do complex math computations in their heads, others can bang out 500 word documents in under an hour. If you’re faced with a job that you know is not your strength, see if you can delegate it to someone who can do it better – and faster. By spending time on what you do well and delegating to others what they do well, you will save yourself precious time – and frustration.
9. Change your hours
While this may seem unrealistic, thinking outside the box about your work hours can save you tons of time. If you arrive early at the office before others show up, you can start crossing tasks off the To Do list in those quiet hours before your co workers have even sipped their first cup of coffee. Undistracted by office chit chat and long snack breaks, you may find that those early morning hours are the most productive of your day. Another bonus of working off-hours? Avoiding traffic jams on the way to and from the office adds even more free time to your day.
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