By Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC
Now, more than ever, it’s important to be productive at work. We’ve had more than a million layoffs in America and the people still employed are left to do the jobs of their former coworkers. Now they’re often doing the work of 1.5 – 2 people. This means they’re working longer hours, when they’d rather be at home with their families.
“If I only had just one more hour a day…”
How would you spend it? More than half of those polled say if they were only more productive at work, they would spend more time with their families (per MarketFacts Survey, sponsored by Microsoft® Corp., 1/02). Apply some of these time-tested methods to your everyday routine. You’ll optimize your time at work, so you can enjoy life outside the office:
Silence Your Visual Noise
Work on silencing your Visual Noise—the clutter in your workspace. More than a quarter of those surveyed say they can’t concentrate with a messy desk (per MarketFacts Survey, sponsored by Microsoft® Corp., 1/02). Eliminate unneeded items—paper piles, empty cups, even unnecessary cables. For example, I use a wireless optical mouse, which not only eliminates wires, but it doesn’t need a mouse pad.
Fine-Tune Your Focus
One of the most common mistakes in the workplace is allowing focus to wander and our minds to be distracted. How much time do you spend ping-ponging between projects? Concentrate on your most important project, even if it means putting up a “Do Not Disturb” for 30 minutes, or letting your phone go to voice mail until you finish.
Look for Allies to Accomplishment
Use tools that are designed with productivity in mind. This could be a personal digital assistant, software or hardware. Get to better know the most powerful tool at your fingertips—your computer. Recent advancements in technology can boost your productivity—in fact, new keyboards feature scrolling wheels and launches to common applications at just one touch.
Tame the Email Ogre
Email can either be your friend or foe. Do you check your inbox each time you are alerted to new mail? Is Instant Messenger stopping the delivery of your work? Set several times a day to read and respond to your email, rather than whenever it comes in. Create signature files for common responses to questions. Use filters to automatically organize your incoming mail. Instead of firing off a long email, call or meet with the person.
Take a Productivity Pause
Even a 5-minute walk around the building will help clear your mind, and give you new perspective. You’ll return to your workspace ready to attack your work with new energy.
Ask yourself “Is there a way I could improve how I do this? Could I accomplish it in fewer steps?” There are lots of ways to shortcut your tasks if you invest a few minutes to learn. Macros, programmable keys on your keyboard and mouse, all help you save time and accomplish more.
Redeploy the Troops (Your Past Work)
Don’t start from scratch if you’ve already created work you can reuse, even if it’s just a part. If you need to write a memo, start with the email you wrote to your boss on this topic. You’ve already invested time to compose and craft your message, and spell check. Tweak that work so can save your time.
Play the End Game (Set an End Time on Work)
Some people wear their long hours like a hard-won medal, which they think shows their dedication to the job. All it really means is you work long hours. Make a commitment to leave the office at a set time. You’ll soon see you can accomplish just as much – maybe more – when you work limited hours. And you’ll enjoy your non-work life much more, and bring that creativity, relaxation and fulfillment with you back to the job.
Tickle Your Tasks
“Tickle” refers to objectively deciding something isn’t important enough to give your time to today. When you subjectively put something off, that’s procrastination! How do you track those tickled tasks so they don’t get lost? You can do it electronically, by rescheduling the task for a later date. If there is paper related to the task, use a tickler file, which has folders for 1-31 and Jan. – Dec. When you have paper related to that meeting, phone call, training, or task, just drop it in the 1-31 folder corresponding to the event’s date. But make sure you check your tickler daily, so you don’t miss something important!
By applying just a few of these ideas, you’ll see a tremendous impact on your productivity. I know this because for 5 years we tracked groups that completed my productivity training. Eight weeks after the session, we followed up. Before the session, participants reported an average of 2.5 hours a day were wasted per person. Two months after the session, they’d turned an average of 1.5 of those hours into highly productive time, focusing on high-payoff activities. Based on their salary figures we calculated this equaled nearly $10,000 of increased productivity per person per year. A seminar of 25 attendees was worth $250,000 in higher productivity. Based on all direct costs for the training, companies saw a 2000% ROI.
About Rebecca Morgan
Rebecca L. Morgan, CSP, CMC, focuses on creating innovative solutions for people productivity challenges. She’s appeared on 60 Minutes, Oprah, National Public Radio and USA Today. She’s authored four books and co-authored three more. For more info contact Rebecca at 800/247-9662, Rebecca@RebeccaMorgan.com, or online at www.RebeccaMorgan.com.
Photo and article used with permission by Rebecca Morgan.