If you work in a traditional office, you need specific strategies to help you make the most of your time. This post looks at a number of simple things you can do to save time at work. Most people can easily free up another 15 minutes per day, simply by following a few of these strategies. In the ideal world, your boss would let you cut out early with those 15 minutes you saved, but unfortunately, our society seems to be more focused on how much time you put in rather than value.
Even if it doesn’t translate into more time away from work, these tips can help you use your time more effectively so you can get more done and out-perform your peers as you advance your career.
- If you have some leeway in your arrival and departure time, use it to minimize your commute. In a lot of big cities, shifting your workday by 30 or even 15 minutes can cut your commute time in half.
- Know which is faster–stairs or elevator. If you have less than 5 floors to climb, the stairs may be significantly faster than the elevator. You may need to do some experimenting, but saving an extra minute or two each day (on average) can really add up over the course of a year.
- Don’t skip lunch. It might seem counter-intuitive, but skipping lunch is unlikely to save you any time. You need the break to get away from things for a little while. You aren’t designed to simply plow through 8 hours of straight work–at least not in a way that is productive. Even just thirty minutes away from your work can help you refocus and make the rest of the day much more productive.
- Don’t wait on things. If your computer takes four minutes to boot, find something else that regularly needs done and do it every time you boot your computer. For example, four minutes may be just about the amount of time it takes to check your mailbox. You could also use that time to straighten your desk, review your plan, etc. The point is that you shouldn’t just sit there waiting for something. Use that time for something you are going to have to do anyway.
- Prepare for tomorrow. When you leave for the day, spend just a few minutes getting ready for the next day. Basically you want to ask yourself, “What is on my mind right now, that will save me time tomorrow?” It may be a matter of writing yourself a few short notes, leaving a file where you can quickly find it or sending an email requesting information from a colleague.
- Turn off email notifications. If you are like most people, you get emails throughout the day. You don’t want your computer beeping or putting up a sign every time a new email comes in. If your job requires you to check email every 15 minutes, you can do that, but make sure you do it between other tasks instead of being interrupted every time a new message comes in. Getting interrupted takes a lot longer to recover from than you realize. You are far better off spending 15 minutes to complete a task than 30 minutes because your concentration is being broken by email notifications going off. If something can’t wait 15 minutes, the sender should be using the phone–not email.
- Don’t stay sitting down. Simply sitting at your desk all day isn’t the best thing for your productivity. Getting up and walking around–even just a little–will make it much easier for you to get stuff done and think clearly. If you have tasks that require getting up from your desk every day, use them strategically to help give you a break from sitting down. Even just standing up at your desk for a few minutes while you read some email or look over a spreadsheet will help.
- Batch tasks. Put tasks together that require the same resources or level of concentration. For example, if you have 4 tasks that require a great deal of concentration, do them when you are least likely to be interrupted. If forwarding your phone will help, go ahead and do it while you knock them all out together. If you need to ask your boss a question that isn’t urgent, wait until you have several questions to ask.
- Identify and eliminate bottlenecks. Try to remove obstacles that slow you down. For example, if you find that typing is slowing you down, get a copy of Mavis Beacon and practice at home for 10 or 15 minutes per day. You will probably be typing for the rest of your life, so a month of improving your skill is going to be well worth the investment. If you find you are constantly needing to stop and ask your boss how to handle situations, make a chart that shows how he or she has told you to handle them in the past and ask if you can use that chart for the routine issues. If your computer seems to be running very very slowly, you might be able to ask IT to re-image it so it goes back to the settings and speed it had when you first got it.
- Understand your tools. Most of the applications you use on a daily basis have many more features than you’ll ever completely learn. However, it is well worth your time to try to understand what they are capable of so you can learn how to use new features when they are appropriate. Tools like Microsoft Office come with significant collaboration functionality built in, but many people simply don’t know about it. For example, Word will let you send a document to multiple people, allow them to add comments and make changes, then merge everything back into one document and let you select the changes you want to keep. For some people, this can be a huge time saver and it is just one of many similar features that can save significant time.