You have been hard at work all day. You haven’t left your desk since you stepped into the office in the morning. Now it’s time to head home, but you haven’t accomplished half of what you had planned to do.
The key to being productive during a busy day in the office is time management and organization.
The Beginning Sets The Pace
The more organized you start your day off, the chances are your day will flow smoothly.
• Make a priority list. “Outline the top three things you want to accomplish today,” says time management and efficiency coach Laura Rose of Rose Coaching. “You may have several ‘nice to do’s’ — but select three top things such that, if nothing else got accomplished, you would still feel the day has been very successful.”
• Make a big picture plan. Brad Smith, president of Abound Resources, Inc. says to build off of your top three of your priority list to create a long-term to-do calendar. “Build a one-page document that has your annual plan, quarterly plan and end of day checklist,” he explains. “Review your top 3-5 to-dos for the quarter, reference it each day and write down your top 3 to-dos for the day.”
• Pull out the tools. “Do not read your email the first thing in the morning,” advises Sandra Einstein of emc2 Organizing and Coaching Consultants, Inc. “Take the first 15 to 30 minutes to prepare for the day and get all your ‘tools’ ready.” Get out all the files you will need, numbers you will need, you calendar, etc.
• Don’t over-extend yourself. “Don’t just say you are going to do something, actually schedule a date/time in your calendar (even if it’s a month from now,” says Rose. “[But] if you don’t want to schedule time in your calendar, then don’t sign up for it. Delegate it to someone else or just say ‘I am not the right person for this project’. “
• Have a positive and helpful attitude. ”Enthusiasm will create a much more pleasant day for you and those sharing your workday. Help your coworkers as much as you can; it will make their day better and yours as well. And it will increase productivity for everyone,” Stephen Dodd, CEO of OfficeTIme.net
Turn Off & Tune Out
Rid yourself of distractions so you can focus on your tasks at hand.
• Stop email madness. “Turn off auto email notifications and only check emails or calls three times a day (morning, lunch and end of day),” suggests Smith. “Minimize email clutter by using a second email address for e-newsletters, blog subscriptions, LinkedIn updates, etc. and use Outlook rules to file each of those automatically. Or use an RSS feed for all of those.”
• Closed-door policy. “Let everyone know if your door is closed that means no interruptions unless it’s an emergency,” says Smith.
Give various tasks a set amount of time—and stick to it.
• Work hour by hour. “Instead of focusing on your entire day, focus on segments at a time. Visualize how you want the morning to go, your goals for the next few hours, etc.,” notes Rose. “At the end of each segment, update your calendar with any important items that you need to follow-up on.”
• Wrap up projects. “Exercise the ability to say ‘next’ and move on. Anxieties tap a lot of your energy leaving you both physically and mentally drained,” Stephen Dodd, CEO of OfficeTIme.net
• Make calls short and sweet. “Make calls for 15 to 30 minutes,” says Einstein.
Don’t Let Lunch Meetings Derail Your Day
Sometimes lunch meetings can be a great break in your day but they can also be time wasters.
• Eat, meet and run. “Have a purpose, goal, agenda for all interactions and meetings. Set time limits for all meetings – and schedule follow-up meetings instead of going over-time,” offers Rose.
• Keep an eye on the clock. “Keep track of time, don’t let lunch turn into an all-day affair,” says Monica Friel of Chaos To Order Inc. “Be clear with your lunch date prior to meeting about the time you’ve made available both starting and ending.”
• Have an exit plan. “Scheduling another meeting after lunch will help politely keep things on track,” says Friel.
Review, Preview & Wrap
End your day on time. Review what you have gotten done and prepare your plans for the next day.
• Get ready for tomorrow today. “Review your day and calendar for your activities for tomorrow,” explains Rose. “Set-up and prepare all the items that you need for the morning and afternoon meetings. Put them in your car or next to the door.” Also, select your top three tasks for the priority list for the following day.
• Wipe the space and slate clean. “Clear off your desk–file papers, group project folders, toss non-essential mail, notes, papers and periodicals,” explains Einstein. “Make any calls that were not made.” Also, suggests Friel, scan emails and delete what you can from your inbox.
• Rid yourself of the day’s emotional baggage. “Shake off criticism. If you are like most of us, you probably face criticism coming at you from many directions; it’s likely to be a blow to your self-esteem,” notes Dodd. “Ask yourself, simply, if you have done your best. If yes, then take it objectively as a chance to move your performance to a higher level. Your productivity should not be side-lined by hurt feelings and a wounded ego.”