One of the biggest work related issues today is time in the workplace. Everyone, it seems, is doing the work of two or three people and there just isn’t enough time. I blame computers.
Far from saving time at work as they were promised to do, there are more reports to run, emails to send and answer, and memo’s—lots and lots of memo’s. Computers make them all easier to generate and to send in large numbers.
Then there’s the matter of computers replacing people in the workplace—the disappearance of those people only means more work for those who are still around, and that’s you.
How are you finding the time to get all of your work done without having to bring it home or put in extra hours in the office? If it isn’t going too well right now, here are some suggestions to save you some time–and here are even more.
1. Prepare a daily “to do” list.
The most basic way to save time at work is to have a daily agenda. Each day when you come into work, you should have a list that tells you exactly what to do. Armed with such a list, you’re more likely to stick to doing the job you were hired for and less likely to become distracted.
In order for this to work you’ll have to do two things:
- Put serious effort into preparing the list, and
- Be fully committed to follow the list, even if you do get distracted.
On the preparation side, make up the list during quiet times. First thing in the morning is a good time to do this, but the night before, in the quiet of your home, is even better. List everything you need to do in checklist fashion, then check each task off as you complete it. Not only will that help organize your day, but it will also give you a written record of your daily progress.
2. Do the most important job first.
I had a teacher in fourth grade who always told us to do the easiest jobs first. With each task we completed, the list would be shorter and everything still left to do would seem easier. Sound good?
She was wrong.
That strategy is a recipe for creative avoidance, which is the process of busying ourselves with everything except what is most important.
We all have really important tasks we need to accomplish each day. It’s really easy to back away from doing those tasks because they’re usually unpleasant, time consuming or both. But that’s where your day should start. Do the most important job first every day, even if it’s the most difficult.
Not only will that keep your boss happy, but you’ll also find out that you’ll get more done once the big, ugly job is complete and your mind is free to concentrate on smaller stuff.
3. Delegate when, where and what you can.
This can be hard to do if you don’t have subordinates, and that may mean applying some creativity. To get you started, I can think of two ways to handle this:
- Do you have coworkers who seem to have some extra time on their hands? Or are better at doing certain jobs than you are? Try to work it out with either the coworker or your supervisor to get a better distribution of the work flow.
- Stress to your boss the importance of your core job responsibilities and make the case that you’ll be better able to complete those responsibilities if some of your other work is taken from you.
Sometimes just eliminating one or two responsibilities frees up enough time for you to complete your work in a timely fashion.
4. Regiment your day.
Allocate as much time as possible to complete your most important tasks. In order to make that happen, block out time to both receive and respond to emails, as well as to accept and return phone calls. You won’t be able to finish your most important tasks if you’re constantly being distracted by phone calls and emails, so you’ll need to clear the decks as much as you can.
Set up quiet time blocks for your most important jobs. These should correspond with the times of the day when your energy level and alertness are at their peak.
Discuss this approach with your supervisors. Not only do you want their approval, but you’ll probably need their support in the event that coworkers or other departments prefer not to recognize the new limits.
5. Avoid gossip sessions.
It’s often hard to avoid participating in these, especially when tensions are high over a recent development. But avoid them we must. Not only are gossip sessions disruptive to the office in general, but they’re a time waster for us individually in at least two ways:
- The time spent during the actual gossiping, and
- The mental distraction it causes.
By mental distraction, what I mean is that we become more involved in the issue at hand than we need to. In any group of people, be it a family, a church or an office, there’s always some “high drama” taking place. The drama gets even higher as more people participate in it, which is what we’re doing when we join gossip-type discussions.
That kind of activity can easily take your mind right off doing your job.
6. Become a proponent of shorter and less frequent meetings.
Some employers are meeting-obsessed; they call a meeting for the most inconsequential reasons. Ironically, one of the most frequent meeting topics is lack of productivity–which is the direct result of too many meetings. After all, you aren’t getting anything done when you’re sitting in a meeting. And if you have to go to several every week, the outcome is totally predictable.
Management is often oblivious to this correlation. If you’re in a company or department like this, my suggestion is to gently find ways to advocate for shorter and less frequent meetings. The less time you spend in meetings, the more time you’ll have to get your job done. And maybe that could be what you pitch to management.
Will any of these strategies save you time at work? Do you know of other ways that can work?