How many things are on your task list today? How many pages? What about the phone calls you need to make… emails you need to return… paperwork you need to file… meetings you need to attend…
And then, you have kids to pick up… and drop off… and pick up… and drop off… oh, and don’t forget dinner… and pick up… and drop off… a quick load of laundry… and pick up… oh, and those kids need a bath again!
You get the idea – your time is precious and you have countless things to do during that time. In fact, if you could clone yourself a couple of times, you may actually get it all done. Until then, here are some creative suggestions to find time:
- Turn off your email notifications! What?! I have to respond anyway, so how does this save me time? Just a quick search of the internet will show you any number of business and productivity experts who advocate for “batching” tasks such as email. This allows you to focus time on the task you are doing, and limits the distractions of the constant notifications.
- Along these same lines, turn off the ringer on your phone or forward all calls to voice mail. Now I do not suggest doing this all the time, but setting aside undisturbed time for tasks that require focus is essential. This is the reason voice mail was invented and you will be able to get so much more done.
- Eliminate “reply all” texts! While there are some obvious exceptions to this, there is no reason that we need to reply all to all emails. We all have been on the receiving end of about 20 emails that were simply FYI. This wastes time for everyone. If this required 20 emails that included everyone, you may have been better served by a quick 15-minute meeting.
- Speaking of meetings, send out an agenda for every meeting. If you cannot come up with enough items for the agenda, do you really need the meeting? If you do have enough for an agenda, stick to it. If you find that the meeting turns into a social check-in, it may be time for some team lunches to allow people to connect. Everyone is busy and most will appreciate meetings that get in and get it done.
- Set up “do not disturb” time. Even in the world of flexible work spaces and cubicles, it is still possible to be undisturbed. Just think of all the times you have been to a noisy coffee shop and observed someone with a set of earphones who has a laser-like focus on their work (or game.) Just one hour of focused time can cross more off your list than a full 8-hour day of distractions.
- Automate, automate, automate!!!! There are so many options, both big and small, to automate some of your tasks. A quick web search or ask on social media will reveal the tricks others use for this. There are entire tutorials of Outlook automation tips (you can even create a rule that delivers any email you are cc’d on to a file for your reference at a later time.) Maybe you need to automate welcome emails? Or set up systems for adding emails to a contact list? Or create a monthly data report?
The trick to all of them is that YOU have to stick to the system!
If you decide to only answer emails at 9 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm, but don’t turn off your email notification system, this system will not stick.
If you set “do not disturb” time but respond to every person who walks past your desk, you will be very “disturbed.”
If you are the person at the meeting that turns it into a social check-in, it is not going to be that easy to insist that others don’t do that.
The secret is that these things won’t necessarily “save” time, but they will make the time you have more productive. You will accomplish so much more in that time that your co-workers will think you have hired a virtual assistant. (Oh, and there’s another idea!)