Do you start each year with a resolution to do things better this year – eat smarter, take better care of your health, be kinder, volunteer more? Many of us do. We start the New Year with a plan to transform ourselves into, well, into what? Regardless of our goals, we certain have good intentions. But instead of trying to change ourselves, what not try to find something that we all want more of – time. That’s right. This year, resolve to find more time.
Jim Croce wanted to capture time in a bottle. And, while you can’t actually store time or increase the minutes of the day, it can seem like you have more by increasing your personal productivity with time management tips.
- Do it once. The best time management tip I ever heard was to only touch a piece of paper (or electronic message) once. If you can answer it and be done with it within 2 minutes, do it then. No reason to let this one pile up in your to-do box. Revisiting it later wastes time because it means re-reading it and re-thinking about it. Do it while it’s fresh in your mind. Check.
- Schedule your inbox time and emails. This is an interesting concept and I have heard of companies actually requiring this of their staff. Consider how often emails interrupt your work day. You are feverishly working on a report or compiling data. Your inbox is hot with activity and you see the incoming messages pop up as you work (Click here to learn how to disable incoming message alerts in Outlook). Even if you do not open the email, it is distracting and your mind can turn away from the attention it should be giving the task at hand into the incoming emails. You might give in to temptation and open your inbox and start replying. At this moment, you have cut your personal productivity because when you return to your project, you are going to have to spend time refreshing yourself as to wear you left off, and switching gears isn’t that easy.Try accessing your email only at specific times of day (9 – 10 am, 4 – 5 pm), five minutes to the hour each hour. Try different approaches and stick to the one that works best for you. If nothing else, block out several times during the day for uninterrupted work.
- Be Social… Sometimes. Unless you use social media for business, check it on your own time – breaks or lunch. Even if managing social media for your company is part of your work, remember, that it isn’t ALL of your work. Schedule your tweets and posts in advance and monitor the accounts like you schedule time for your emails. Do not keep your browser open to these sites, they can take incredible amounts of time. And remember, watch your privacy policies and don’t post anything to your social sites that you don’t want your boss to know about.
- Use Technology to your Advantage. Almost 90 percent of companies use Outlook for their employees’ inbox. Outlook comes with tools for managing your messages and inbox to help you sort, prioritize and schedule your workload as your emails come in. Get familiar with the tools already available to you. Set up rules so internal emails go to a particular folder. By pre-sorting your emails, you can save yourself some hassle and also better segment your work in replying to them. Another tool is with Conversation Clean Up which will put all of your messages in a series into a single email and delete the ones you no longer need. No longer will you have to sort through messages to make sure you have all the info—this tool does the work for you.
- Ask for an Agenda. When you get a meeting request, no matter who it is from, ask for an agenda. If the meeting organizer doesn’t have one, don’t go (unless of course your boss called the meeting). Meetings without a purpose can be a major time waster. Getting an agenda helps you to prepare and follow-up on deliverables, helping to maximize your time.
These are just a few of the many ways you can increase your productivity in the workplace and discover newfound minutes. Maybe you will use this newfound time to focus on work projects or maybe you will focus on yourself and those health-related goals you didn’t jump on the bandwagon with at New Year’s. Whatever you decide to do with it, you still can’t store it in a bottle, so spend it wisely and enjoy.
Excerpted from an article by Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media.
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