How we spend our time determines the quality of our life. Over the course of each workweek, over 80% of us waste 10-15 hours on unnecessary interruptions, procrastination, and clutter. Consider how much more money you could make if you were productive during those 10-15 hours. Or consider how much more fun you could have if you had an extra 10-15 hours off each week. If you are ready to maximize your workweek, start with these simple eight strategies.
1. Create a time management system that suits your lifestyle, preferences, and values.
Find an effective time management system that works for you. We all have preferences about how, when, and where to complete certain tasks and activities. By honoring those preferences, it will be much easier to accomplish more in less time.
2. Establish visiting hours.
By establishing and announcing visiting hours, you can reduce unnecessary interruptions while offering people the opportunity to communicate with you in a relaxed setting. I recommend keeping your office door open during visiting hours and closed at all other times.
3. Create a brain dump.
Creative people need space and a place for recording sudden inspirations, ideas, and thoughts that are often distracting during task mode. Keep a notebook, tape recorder, or file on hand to record both complex and simple ideas. Many smart phones, such as the iPhone, offer a voice recorder application, which makes it easy to record a thought or idea and then get back to the task at hand.
4. Assign a dollar value to the total time wasted in one day.
How much time do you spend per day: Locating papers? Looking for misplaced items? Duplicating efforts? Being annoyed because you can’t find things? Dealing with interruptions that are unnecessary? Total this time. Next, determine what your time is worth. If you earn $50,000 per year and work an average of 40 hours per week, your time is worth $24 per hour. If you’re wasting 10 hours every week, that is worth $240 to you. Type up a sign to post above your desk that says: “Is what I am doing right now worth $24?” You could also word it like this: “Would I be willing to pay someone $24 to do what I am doing right now?” Just looking at that sign throughout the day will shift what you spend your time doing. You will automatically start spending your more time on productive revenue generating tasks and less time on minutia.
5. Adopt a worst in, first out policy. Or delegate undesirable tasks.
Procrastination is one of the biggest enemies of a well-managed day. Often, we procrastinate because we do not like the task, do not have the right equipment, or we do not have enough information to make a decision. Handle the worst problems first. Get them done, and then move on to the fun stuff. If you continue to procrastinate, delegate the task or hire someone to complete the task for you.
6. Batch your work.
Set up specific time slots each day to return voice mails and emails, work on projects, and so on. By simply batching your work, you will get more done in less time. Start by making a list of all of the tasks that need to get done and separate them by daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. Schedule them on your calendar in batches. For example, schedule two appointments each day to check and return emails and voice mails. Schedule an appointment each week to send out client invoices, and so on.
7. Reduce distractions.
When working on important projects, close the door, turn off the phone, and place a sign on your door that reads: “Man or woman at work. Please return at
.” Use this uninterrupted time to complete important projects. On your calendar, mark out an appointment with yourself every day to work on your important projects. Treat the appointment like it is an important appointment with your doctor. If something gets in the way of your appointment, reschedule the appointment with yourself, just like you would reschedule your doctor’s appointment.
8. Practice saying “No” ten times each day.
More often than not, the act of saving time involves saying “no” to other people. If it is hard for you to say “no,” practice a variety of responses ten times a day. Examples of appropriate responses include: “I would love to attend, but unfortunately, I cannot make it,” or “I am flattered that you asked me, and I am unfortunately too busy to do justice to the project at this time,” or “No, thank-you,” or “No.” By saying “no” you are honoring your own life and goals.