Being more efficient in the workplace really comes down to being more efficient with your time. When you break down and analyze what you’re doing (and not doing) it’s easy to see where you can make improvements. Here are five easy things you can do that will help you work smarter, not harder.
1. Plan Your Day Ahead of Time
Create a plan for your day not the morning of, but the night before. Every night before you head home, create a list of everything you left unfinished and what you need to do tomorrow. Prioritize the items on your list and allocate a specific amount of time you should spend on each task. Consider blocking out the time you need on your calendar so no one else can schedule meetings.
Keep in mind that most people tend to be sharper in the morning, so schedule your day to reflect that. Designate the morning for thought-intensive projects and the afternoon for labor-intensive projects such as meetings and conference calls.
2. Centralize Your Work in Email
We spend a lot of time in email – it’s on you to make the most of it. Centralizing your workday in your inbox saves you time and focus by not bouncing around from app to app. Twist allows you manage your professional life from your inbox. It enables you to set reminders that trigger in the form of an unavoidable email, and create and manage projects that are too important for a basic to-do list.
With Twist you can also schedule events from your email instead of bouncing to your calendar and create a meeting when all the information is right there. The event will automatically sync with your calendar and you can invite everyone in the thread or add and subtract additional contacts.
Tip: Setting specific times to check your emails will help keep you on schedule and will also ensure that you are checking the emails at a time when you can respond.
3. Avoid Distractions
According to a study done by the University of California Irvine, it takes about 23 minutes for you to get back in the groove of what you were working on before you were distracted. And considering the average person spends nearly two hours a day on social media, there’s a lot of room for distractions.
Applications like RescueTime can track what websites you’re spending time on and can even block distracting ones like Facebook or Youtube. If it’s part of your job to search the web try using the Flipboard app where you get all of the latest and trending news from whatever specific topic you choose. Or even Pocket, where you can bookmark articles you want to read later and the app strips the articles of all ads and sidebars (aka distractions).
Tip: You should also consider silencing your phone and if your office uses Slack, Skype, or another messaging system put up a do not disturb message.
4. Take Breaks
It’s tempting to sit at your desk all day, but as the day goes on your energy fades and it takes longer to complete projects. Taking even a short 5-minute walk will help clear your head and refresh your thinking. “When demand in our lives intensifies, we tend to hunker down and push harder,” says Tony Schwartz, head of New York City-based productivity consulting firm The Energy Project. “The trouble is that, without any downtime to refresh and recharge, we’re less efficient, make more mistakes, and get less engaged with what we’re doing.”
There are different strategies to taking breaks but I find working in 60-minute intervals to be the most successful for me. I set the alarm on my phone for 55 minutes and turn off anything that might distract me. Once the 55 minutes is over, I get up, walk around for five minutes, fill up my water bottle and then do it again. I find that I am much more productive when I work in small sprints like this, especially when it comes to being creative.
5. Get (And Stay) Organized
Keeping a tidy workspace where everything has a place will keep you from feeling cluttered but there are other areas that can stand a bit of organizing.
· Contacts:Twist gives you enhanced contact insights so you not only have the email and name of your contact but also where they work, a picture of them, what they like and dislike, and a space where you can easily add notes about conversations you’ve shared. Literally keeping everything you know about that person in one place.
· Documents:Dropbox allows you to save and share documents and you get 2GB of free space. Evernote is a great app for not only taking notes and keeping them in one place but also for annotating PDFs, storing audio notes and creating presentations. Both of these apps can be accessed from all devices. Genius Scan is great if you need to turn a printed (or handwritten) copy of something into a digital copy.
· Networking: Add all of those business cards you have on your desk into your contacts using SamCard. Simply take a picture of the business card and the app with automatically create a new contact in your phone with all of the information. If you find yourself at a function without a business card, create a contact in your phone with all of your information and simply text it to the person.
So now that you’ve heard my tips, let me know yours. What do you do to increase your productivity without adding more hours at the office?