You sit at your desk at 9 a.m. The day whirls by and it’s already 5 p.m., but you haven’t done even half your day’s work. It’s time to start working smarter–not harder.
First, observe your day and figure out what is causing you to not get your work done–is it the environment, socializing with coworkers or other distractions? “One of the biggest time wasters in the office is email,” says productivity expert Blake Connoy, co-founder and managing director of Helpling. “People can spend over a quarter of their working day reading and answering emails. So one of the easiest ways to work smarter rather than longer is to get your emails organized and under control.” There are several techniques to getting your unwieldy email box under control.
“When it comes to boosting email productivity, prioritizing is key. Skim read an email and give yourself five seconds to find a reason to spend any more time reading it. Once you’ve decided whether it’s worth your time, you can then use Gmail’s ‘starring’ functionality to prioritize and organize. You can use a variety of different colored icons within the settings. Create your own legend for what a yellow, red or blue star means (emails that must be addressed that day, that week or within the month). Also, use labels to sort emails to keep your inbox from getting too cluttered. Outlook also allows you to set rules to color code emails based on the source or content,” explains Connoy.
And don’t check email constantly. “Set fixed times to check email – only two or three times a day,” says Marc Reklau, author of “30 Days – Change your habits, Change Your life: A Couple of Simple Steps Every Day to Create the Life You Want.” With your email out of the way, concentrate on the work at hand. “Work two hours without interruption (closed doors, phone calls to voicemail, mobile phone turned off),” advises Reklau. When it comes to projects, pad in extra time in your deadlines. “Under-promise and over-deliver,” says Reklau. “On deadlines, if you need three days for a project, say you need five. That takes a lot of stress off.”
But even before starting to work, organize your day. Make a “To Do” list and a “To Don’t” list. On the To Do list, prioritize what you need to be done and in what order. On the To Don’t list, list the things that you can delegate to others.
Once you get into your day, don’t stay chained to your desk. This will actually decrease your productivity. Instead, take mini-breaks. Take a quick walk; grab some coffee. Just take a short break and go back refreshed and energized.
Do your work in blocks. Don’t try to do everything at once; block off time for certain projects. And when you first get in to work in the morning, try and make most of your decisions leaving the rest of the day to work. Also, most people have a clear head for decisions in the morning.