Time to work smarter: three bad habits you need to break
Time to Work Smarter
Time management is the process of planning and dividing your time between specific tasks. Effective time management allows you to get more of the important work done during the day. Without it, stress levels surge and productivity plummets.
While one of the most integral skills in the workplace, it’s easy to fall into bad time management habits. Thankfully, there are easy-to-implement strategies that can add hours to your day. Here are three of the biggest time wasters we see, and the best ways to work smarter.
“Time management… Without it, stress levels surge and productivity plummets.”
Time Waster #1 – Managing Workflow
Stress isn’t linked to the amount of work we have. Stress is linked to the way you manage your workload.
How to manage it: The 5-Minute Rule
The 5-Minute Rule, also known as the ‘One Touch One Decision Rule’, is a method I use on a day-to-day basis both at work and home. It’s easy to implement and can have a significant impact on your productivity and stress levels almost immediately. Sound appealing? Thought so. If you can practice this principle until it becomes second nature it will be extremely valuable.
The logic is simple. You must make a decision as soon as you touch an email or a document or think of an idea. You don’t necessarily have to complete the task at that time, but you need to decide what you’ll do and when.
If the task is less than 5 minutes? Do it immediately. More than 5 minutes? Decide when you’ll do it and estimate the amount of time you’ll need to complete it. Then, go into your calendar, task app or notebook and schedule the tasks for a specific date and time. Simple.
Once you’ve decided whether to do it now or schedule it now, remove the email/piece of paper and advise the person of your intention. A quick response with your timeframe can stop future headaches – and who wouldn’t want to stop headaches?
Make the decision and either delete or file the document. The only items in your inbox or in-tray, should be items you have not yet applied this rule to. When you arrive home do you check the letterbox, open the letter, read it and then put it back to deal with later? I sure hope not. Treat your work inbox the same way, and give yourself the gift of time. You deserve it.
The 5-Minute Rule
- If the task is less than 5 minutes, do it immediatley.
- More than 5 minutes? Decide when you’ll complete it and estimate the amount of time you’ll need.
- Go to your calendar and schedule it for a specific date and time.
Time Waster #2 – Lack of Focus
Focus is productivity’s best friend but interruption and distractions love to interfere. It’s important to know the difference between the two; interruption is caused by someone else, and distraction is caused by you.
How to reduce interruptions
It’s your time, so YOU decide how to spend it. If someone appears at your desk when you’re in the middle of something, ask them to come back or agree on a time to discuss things later. Start a list or set up daily, weekly or monthly calendar items to designate focus to a specific task.
Don’t be a slave to notifications. If you’re working on a key project or doing something that will have a high impact on your business – turn off your phone, close your inbox and focus. You won’t regret it.
How to reduce distractions
1. Capture it or write it down
Picture this: You start to work on something and suddenly remember a phone call you need to make. You make the call and completely break focus or decide to do it later and let the thought keep playing in your mind. Sound familiar? Our lifestyles are busy – and distractions are abundant. But there’s an easy fix.
As soon as you think about something you need to do, simply write it down. Don’t let the thought set up camp in your subconscious. Instead, offload it in a mini notebook you carry everywhere or an app in your phone. On a daily basis, review your list while in your office. Apply the 5-minute rule.
2. Keep it clean
A clean work environment equals a clean mind. Thankfully, Outlook is a much better task manager than your desk. Your desk doesn’t tell you when to do something and how long it will take – so don’t burden it with your to-do list.
Be sure to also apply the 5-minute rule to your incoming work, and don’t let it distract you from what’s really important.
As soon as you think about something you need to do, simply write it down… On a daily basis, review your list while in your office. Apply the 5-minute rule.
Time Waster #3 – Ineffective meetings
This is a big one. Filling up your diary with unnecessary meetings is a surefire way to kill focus and create ample interruption and distractions.
How to make your meetings smarter
- Eliminate unnecessary meetings. You need to be protective of your time and carefully select the meetings you will accept.
- Assess the right amount of time required. We so often book one-hour meetings for items that can be discussed in 15 minutes.
- Have an agenda and stick to it. Focus on one task at a time.
- Keep everyone accountable. After a meeting make sure you take five minutes to plan your next steps, so everyone knows what they are doing. Remember the 5-minute rule.
Be honest with yourself. Identify the 2 or 3 time wasters most applicable to you and write them down. You can do it both for home and for work. Once you’re clear on what you need to work on, write down what you’ll need to do to improve.
Improvement doesn’t need to be complex. Simple strategies often get big results. In 21 days’, time, see how you’re going and if you notice changes to your stress and productivity. If not, then go back and review the strategies to identify what may be stopping you from improving. Make sure you inform those around you of your intentions; colleagues, friends and family. Having support is the key to making any changes to behaviour.
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