There are a lot of little things you can do to save yourself time in your office. Each of these ideas can make a modest improvement in the amount of time you save. If you do several of them together, it can start to add up to a serious amount of time savings by streamlining your work.
1. Keep cleaning supplies within easy reach
It is a simple thing, but having some Windex and paper towels nearby to wipe down your desk can save you time and help keep your workplace more organized and tidy.
2. Remove your guest chair
People are less likely to stay for a long time chatting if there isn’t a place to sit. You can keep a fold out chair nearby or borrow a chair from the conference room when necessary. If you stand when someone enters the room, you can easily signal for them to leave by sitting back down. It doesn’t always work, but often it will.
3. Open your mail over the trash can
Even better, don’t bring it into your office–open it in the mailroom and toss anything you don’t need. The idea is to touch everything as few times as possible. If you open everything onto your desk, then you have to deal with picking up the parts that need to be discarded and handling them again. Anything you can do to keep clutter from getting into your office in the first place will save you time.
4. Keep some emergency items in a drawer
It isn’t a bad idea to keep an extra stick of deodorant, mouthwash, five or ten dollars in cash and other emergency items in your desk. You probably won’t use them often, but if you happen to forget your deodorant or eat something for lunch that gives you bad breath, you won’t have to deal with running out to the store. If you are on the road a lot, you might consider keeping some deodorant and a toothbrush in your computer bag.
5. Speed-dial, bookmarks and shortcuts
If you go to a particular list of websites everyday, they should be in a shortcut folder. If there is an application you use every day, it should have a shortcut on your desktop. Numbers that are called repeatedly should be on your speed dial.
6. Keep a journal of your notes
When someone gives you a telephone number, address or other piece of information over the phone, where do you put it? Many people write it on scraps of paper or post it notes. A much better solution is to have some type of “notes” journal where you put this type of stuff in chronological order. Most of it should probably be transferred to an address book, calendar or somewhere else, but having a single place to go back to where you can look up that number that you thought you’d only need once is very valuable and can save a significant amount of time.
7. Strategic hours
If your employer gives you some flexibility in your start and end time, consider arranging your working hours strategically. You can plan your day to avoid heavy traffic, to give you an hour to work before people and distractions come to work or even just to get a parking space closer to the office. For many people, a small shift in their arrival and departure time could easily save 10 to 15 minutes in travel time each way. This amounts to a very significant amount of time over a typical work year.
8. Work from home one day each week
If your employer will let you, working from home one day each week can be a big timesaver. Not only does it cut out your travel time, but it can also give you uninterrupted time to concentrate for periods longer than what you can do in the office. If you need tips for approaching your employer about such an arrangement, checkout our guide on How to Convince Your Boss to let you Work from Home.
9. Scan old records
If your office has a high speed copier/printer, it probably has the ability to scan directly to a PDF file. Many can even do OCR. By scanning in your older records, you not only save space, but you make it a lot easier to search for the part of the document you are looking for. A program like DevonTHINK or Google’s desktop search can make it easy to locate your documents when you need them.
10. Forward your phone
Some tasks will take only 30 minutes to complete if they have your undivided attention, but 3 or 4 hours if you get interrupted a few times. When faced with one of those tasks, forward your phone, turn off your mobile, and close your email program. Give the task the attention it requires and complete it. If you need to, you can even add a message saying that it is 9:30 and you are wrapping up an important project, but you will return all calls by 10:45. Just remember to unforward your phone when you are done.