6 Simple Rules to Simplify Your Workflow

Say goodbye to overtime with this blueprint

Clocking in 12 hours a day at work but still feeling like you’re not really getting anything done? Your workflow might not necessarily be efficient.

Often, stress, deadlines, and your not-so-occasional Facebook binges can throw your work groove off course. Get your flow on the right track by following these 6 simple rules. Next thing you know, you’ll have more time in your hands.

Rule #1: Don’t check your email first thing in the morning.

“If you check your email first thing in the morning, your schedule will be derailed and you will end up responding to all emails,” says Atty. Francesca Lourdes Señga, a professor at San Beda College of Law. Instead of letting others’ concerns dictate your agenda for the day, block off a specific time in your day to respond to emails.

Rule #2: Do a complete mind dump.

It’s not surprising that you remember that big presentation, but completely forget to answer that email from five days ago. After all, your to-do list has all the big things, leaving no mindspace for the urgent little to-dos that eat up most of your workday.

In his book Ready for Anything, productivity consultant David Allen suggests, “Take five minutes, find something you can write fast with, and dump everything that pops into your head. Don’t analyze or organize. Later on, you can figure out what, if anything, it means.” Once you have all things big and small on your list, then you have a better sense of what needs to get done and their respective deadlines.

Rule #3: Identify the time suckers.

Let’s face it — there are just some tasks that eat up all of your time, but aren’t really important to begin with. “Continually review your duties and responsibilities to identify time-consuming tasks and activities that you can abandon with no real loss,” writes Brian Tracy in Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.

Review your workload and see which tasks can be delegated or can be done in bite-sized pieces across a longer period.

Rule #4: Stick to a schedule.

When you leave your calendar wide open, either you end up working on someone schedule, or you find yourself going from one task to another without finishing anything. “Scheduling forces us to confront the natural limits of the day,” writes Gretchen Rubin in Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. “Scheduling one activity makes that time unavailable for anything else.”

Rule #5: Use downtime wisely.

The hours you spend on the daily commute don’t have to be a waste of time. “Instead of playing games on your phone or checking out different social media sites, be productive and come up with your to-do list or answer short emails instead,” Atty. Señga suggests. Be aware of those tiny windows of opportunity — such as waiting for meetings to start — to cross easy items off your to-do list.

Rule #6: Give yourself a treat.

Recognizing the good work you’ve done helps you stay motivated for tomorrow. Allot time in the day to give yourself a treat, which Rubin defines as “a small pleasure or indulgence that we give to ourselves just because we want it.” She says, “When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented.” Now who doesn’t want to face another day of work feeling that way?

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