Logging into and navigating voice mail.
Of course, you have to check your voice mail; but there are some things you can do to keep it from interrupting your day. Personally, I find that navigating voicemail menus is a huge waste of time. I have set my voice mail system to send me an email with the message attached as a .wav file whenever someone leaves me a message. This centralizes all my messages to the same place (my email box) and doesn’t require that I navigate using the phone keypad.
Here are several tips for streamlining your email reading:
- Make all your emails come to one place. If you have to log into several different accounts to read email you are wasting time. Most mail programs can check multiple accounts and show them all in the same or adjacent mailboxes.
- Don’t check your email every few minutes. It is easy to let email be a form of procrastination. (Whenever you don’t feel like doing something you immediately check your email looking for an excuse to do something else.) How often you check it will depend on your particular job, but if you are checking it more than once every 30 minutes you’re probably not being as effective as you could be.
- Turn off email notifications. Unless you get very few emails, having your computer beep, play music, talk like Homer Simpson or whatever, isn’t going to help make you more productive. If your email interrupts you just like the phone, you are going to have a much harder time concentrating on other work.
For regular bills, it just doesn’t make sense to sit down and write a check each month. Regardless of how fast you write, this is time that you can spend doing something else. Most banks offer some form of online bill payment where you can make both one-time and recurring payments. Once your payees are setup, it is a simple matter of typing in the amount and when you want the bill to be paid. Online bill payments also reduce the amount of paperwork involved in record keeping and balancing your checkbook each month.
I’m not going to try to talk you out of watching TV, but with normal broadcast channels, one-third of your time will be spent watching commercials. DVR’s like Tivo allow you to fast forward through commercials and give you the ability to watch the programs you want on your own time table instead of being forced to fit your schedule around the television. If you don’t have a DVR, consider investing 15 minutes in learning how to program your VCR to record shows that you want to watch.
Personally, I’ve found that I prefer watching movies to watching television. Blockbuster and NetFlix offer subscription-based services where they mail you DVDs. Their selection is much more than what you’d find at a typical video rental and you keep the videos until you are through watching them.
Browsing the internet.
It is easy to waste a great deal of time aimlessly browsing the internet. Here are a few ways to make your browsing more productive:
- Use a feed reader. This is a tool that subscribes to any site you find interesting as long as it has an RSS feed. This means you can go to one place and see anything new that has been posted on any of the sites you subscribe to. You don’t have to visit each site individually and you are less likely to miss something important.
- Use bookmarks for frequently visited sites. Even if you type fast, a single click to bring up a site is faster.
- Use tabbed browsing to load sites. Most browsers (other than IE) will allow you to open several sites all at once in tabs. If have a list of sites you need to use each day consider opening them in this way. Since they come up all at once, you don’t have to wait for each site to load individually.
- Use tabbed browsing to view related pages. When using the web, it is easy to follow a link and lose track of what you were reading on the original page. If you come across a link that you want to follow, but you also want to finish reading the current text, just open the link in a tab. That way, it will be there when you finish what you are currently reading without requiring you to hunt down the link.
This post was originally published October 5th, 2005.