Time Well Spent: 4 Tips for Optimizing your Work Day
By Robert Ward, Technical Lead
It’s a Monday morning. You get to work, and after grabbing a cup of coffee and having a quick catch-up with coworkers around the water cooler, you start settling in at your desk. You open up your email and see you’ve got 50 new messages, mostly work related, but a few junk messages interspersed, and you must sort through them all. Then you look over at your desk phone and notice a red flashing light—4 new voicemails. After spending a few minutes or so listening to those, another call comes through from a vendor and you take it. Before you know it, you’re already running late for your 9:30 AM meeting, and you haven’t even had the chance to start tackling all the duties of your defined job.
It’s my guess that the above scenario is something that many people encounter everyday. According to AtTask, enterprise workers only spend about 44.5% of their time in the office performing the primary duties of their job. The rest of their time is spent in meetings, some considered “wasteful”; sending, responding to, and sorting email; administrative tasks; and interruptions or non-essential tasks (like when your work buddy sends you the latest funny cat video).
In order to make the most out of your time spent at the office, you need to set aside moments throughout the day for yourself to implement a few habits so that you can increase productivity and eliminate wasted time. Consider the following four steps to help keep yourself organized. Optimizing your time starts with you.
1. Make a to do list
Creating a to do list may seem like an overly simple solution to the complex problem of time management. However, taking the time to write out what needs to be done can eliminate that time wondering, “What was I about to do?” It ensures that you don’t forget any tasks. A gentle reminder is good, and most workers need that little bit of additional aid.
Plus, with a list of all the tasks on your plate, you can prioritize the work and estimate the time needed for each job. Having a “plan of attack” eliminates waste because there’s now strategy in your work and schedule for the day.
However, a to do list can get quite lengthy, so workers should list out everything that needs to be done rather than what they think they can get done in one day. An aggregate list is a more accurate description of your responsibilities. With a full list, you can better assess your bandwidth for certain projects.
The best part of creating a to do list, is crossing off completed tasks. Sometimes it’s the little wins that are most rewarding and will motivate you to do more, and at the end of the day you can see what you’ve achieved. A to do list can directly reflect your productivity for the day.
2. Set goals for yourself
Like a to do list, it is good to set goals for yourself in a workday. For instance, challenge yourself to complete a certain number of tasks within an hour. It can make the work more rewarding.
Setting goals is also a good habit when it comes to meetings. Pushing yourself to over prepare for a meeting will ultimately create a more efficient meeting and again reduce wasted time.
Goals also help you organize long-term projects, so by establishing objectives at the beginning of a preoject, you can keep your project organized and on track. Challenging yourself or setting new standards can reduce time spent on tasks and increase efficacy. With more streamlined projects, deadlines can be met earlier and resources allocated towards projects can be reduced. Achieving a goal is satisfying and provides workers with an achievement. Proud workers are more productive.
3. Approach one task at a time
It’s easy to get sidetracked or distracted by coworkers, emails, and other projects. In fact, the average manager is interrupted every three minutes. However, it is crucial to try and focus on the task at hand, because once distracted, it can almost take double the time to complete.
Multitasking might seem like the answer when you have a busy schedule, but it is not the most productive solution. While you may think you’re accomplishing more by multi-tasking, shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time. It takes time to refocus on a topic or subject once you’ve switched to another, costing you more of your valuable time in the end.
Don’t trick yourself into thinking you need to multitask or context change in order to complete your work. Take each task on it’s own and see it through to completion. It is a more efficient method and will optimize your time.
4. Document processes
We all have those duties that are part of our jobs, but don’t come up often, so when they do, we have to look back and figure out how we completed it the previous time. Workers waste time backtracking on previous methods and take more time than is necessary to complete the job. So, avoid this time loss by taking 15 minutes every week to document a process. Taking the time to outline how a task should be completed will help you to streamline all future jobs and avoid wasted time.
Not only will the documentation help you, but it can also give your coworkers guidelines on how to complete that particular task in case you are not around to complete it yourself. Better yet, creating documentation can start a discussion, allowing coworkers to suggest improvements to the process. This strategy is also extremely effective in training new employees and provides a how-to reference.
These four steps for optimizing your time may seem simple, but by implementing a few small changes into your time management strategy, you can take substantial steps towards increasing productivity and reducing stress at work.
Robert Ward is a Technical Lead on the LYONSCG Implementation team, and has been building Demandware sites since 2011. Robert is a certified Demandware Developer, and he is an avid fan of all things basketball-related.