Do you struggle with balancing your work productivity on a daily basis? Have too much to do and not enough hours in the day to get everything done? Well I put together a short list of ways we stay focused and on track throughout the day. A philosophy that I live by and recommend is to prioritize your monthly, weekly and daily tasks by the “ROI” they will bring to the company. Keep a Google Spreadsheet (or Excel for you late adapters) that has your monthly (if applicable), weekly and certainly daily “to dos” organized by due date and priority level. Complete the tasks that will create the most value first and move down the list, of course paying attention to deadlines. Here are some of my basic productivity tips to help free up extra time to focus on the important tasks!
E-Mail Productivity Tips
Depending on your company policies this productivity tip may or may not work for you. But I recommend having your web mail opened in a separate browser (Safari for me). The only tab I have open on this browser is my Gmail account. I keep the browser minimized throughout the day and allow myself to maximize Safari every two hours to check if I have emails. Then if I do have emails (I utilize a wide array of filters and labels to prioritize email automatically, but that is a separate discussion), I make a quick mental evaluation of their importance based on subject line and sender. If the email can be answered in 120 seconds or less I answer it. If not, I add a flag and set it aside. Then at the end of the day I set aside 10 minutes of my day to go back and answer any emails that require a greater amount of my attention (unless they are time sensitive of course). This process alone will save a great deal of time in your day. If you use a desktop based email client the concept is the same, you can have it open (but minimized) throughout the day.
Computer Productivity Tips
Computers are a great for improving productivity but if misused or rather not fully understood they can be quite a nuisance. I was fortunate enough to learn a large amount of shortcuts growing up, but I know that not everyone had that luxury so first things first is to learn the shortcuts that can save you time. When you aren’t at work one day fire up the laptop and master the following keyboard shortcuts; shortcuts for your work computer’s OS, shortcuts to the top 5 or 7 software programs you use at work, shortcuts on your preferred web browser and email client (work-related of course). This sounds like a lot to learn and while unfortunately there isn’t a common “keyboard shortcut” language per say there is certainly commonality across the board. I won’t go into the keyboard commands themselves as I’m sure there are thousands of keyboard shortcut guides out there for nearly every software program. Now after you are comfortable with keyboard shortcuts, test your new skills; boot up your computer and then unplug you mouse. See if you can navigate through your OS, operate your favorite software programs and browse the internet without a mouse. You will catch on before you know it!
Lets take a quick look at the time you can save by using keyboard shortcuts.
On average it takes about 3 seconds (my own testing) to maneuver the mouse to a menu pull down and select your action. I typically call upon a menu action on average 15 times per hour. Using the mouse would take me 6 minutes (3 sec x 15 reps x 8 hours) a day or 30 minutes (360 sec x 5 ) every week. In terms of the work year that is 25 hours (30 minutes x 50 weeks) of my life that I would have spent using the mouse to perform a routine task. Now if you learn your keyboard shortcuts, I guarantee you could perform the same functions in half the time, which has saved me 12.5 hours in this occurrence!
Time Management Productivity Tips
Managing time, isn’t that what being productive is all about? Well isn’t it difficult to manage your time if you are unsure how long it takes you to complete certain tasks on average? There are two web apps (both of which have free versions) that help you monitor and manage the time you allocate and spend on daily tasks. The first is called RescueTime. ResuceTime is a web app that monitors and records your computer activity and then presents you with daily and weekly grades on the use of your time. It is a very useful web app for learning precisely where your day goes on a holistic level. The pro accounts offer other tracking non-computer related activities and a “focus setting” which blocks certain websites or programs from being opened until a certain task has been completed. The other web app for tracking a more specific task level basis, called Toggl. Although Toggl was created with freelancers in mind it is a great time management tool. Say your boss wants to know how much of your day is spent working on certain reports, well now you can tell them with certainty. Before you open your report simply create a quick task in Toggl and hit the red button to start the timer and it will start tracking (0nly catch is you need to remember to stop the timer)! So those are two free and easy web applications to help you improve productivity by better understanding where your time is spent.
Telephone Productivity Tips
I tend to get a mixed reaction when I share my telephone productivity tips as some say my suggestions don’t follow proper phone etiquette. However I disagree with my naysayers and argue that when used in a work-environment there is nothing wrong with my minimalistic approach at telephone usage. When someone calls my work line, I typically answer with one of two greetings; “Hello, This is Jeff” or “Hello, This is Jeff, how can I help you.” The goal of these two greetings is to eliminate un-productive conversation that typically occurs.
Call Recipient: “Hello”
Dialer: “Hi is Jeff there”
Call Recipient: “This is Jeff”
Dialer: “Hi Jeff, this is Bob, how are you doing”?
Call Recipient: “Hi Bob, I’m doing fine thanks for asking, how are you”?
Dialer: “Great, the reason for my call today is…”
What is even worse is if the dialer would have actually elaborated on how they are doing. Then you have entered into an entirely different situation that expands outside the reach of this post! You may be scrutinized as being cold or un-social but politely inform them that you are just efficient.
Internet Productivity Tips
Similar to the computer productivity tips, I won’t go into great detail here but I will highlight a couple of key points. Now that you know not to check your e-mail every 15 minutes the same holds true for visiting your favorite websites or social networking sites. You aren’t missing anything and it will still be there for you to check over lunch or after work (same goes for links shared through email). If you are in fact “addicted” to checking certain sites, consider adding them to the restriction list in RescueTime. The other productivity tip is to make good use of your keyboard shortcuts when working on the web. Make good use of bookmarks and your browser toolbar plug-ins and other ways to save you a trip to the search engine. If you don’t have your passwords automatically saved, that needs to change. Either use your browser or if you are concerned about safety use a third party like KeyPass to manage your passwords.
Okay, now STOP reading this, order your printer supplies and get back to being more productive