Has 2016 been a productive year for you? Perhaps you’re looking for ways to be more effective without increasing the number of hours you work. Check out 15 ways you can work smarter in 2017.
As the year 2016 comes to a close, you’re probably thinking “That was fast — where did all the time go?”
That’s a good question: where does all our time go? Are there ways we can learn to manage our time by working smarter and being more productive?
The answer is yes. You can improve how you manage your time. You can also learn to accomplish more with less effort. How? We gathered 15 different time management concepts that will help you become more effective at managing your time — by being more organized and efficient at work.
1. Respect Your Time
Time is a limited resource. There are only so many hours in a day and so many years in a lifetime. But are you really respecting your time and the time of others? Do some research:
- Create a time diary that tracks how you spend your day. Look for time leaks and other trends that you may want to address.
- Create a daily performance checklist and grade yourself each day. Did you meet your work goals? Did you eat right and take your vitamins? Get enough exercise? Get enough sleep? Make time for family?
- Respect the time of others. For example, start your meetings on time; even if some are late (don’t be that late person!)
- Don’t commit to something you know you can’t do. It’s better to say no up front.
2. Categorize and Prioritize
Read the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. Published in 2001, this book (often referred to as GTD) was one of the first to addresses practical ways to use technology to improve your productivity. Some key points to consider:
- Don’t let your email inbox be the ‘to do’ list that rules your day.
- Instead, you need to extract a list of individual bite-sized projects from your email inbox that you can complete in a reasonable amount of time.
- Categorize projects and prioritize them. Track due dates in a calendar; track your deliverables in a ‘to-do’ list.
- Don’t feel guilty about using paper ‘to-do’ lists and calendars. For many people, it’s more productive than using software. Find what works best for you.
- Carefully document and archive completed projects to avoid reinventing the wheel next time.
3. DRIFT: Do it Right the First Time
Have you heard the acronym DRIFT? It stands for Do it Right the First Time. Craig Jarrow has a good list of 10 things you should do right the first time.
Here are some points to consider on this topic:
- Don’t get to 99% completion and stop. Finish and clean up as you go.
- If you touch something (like an incoming email or piece of mail), avoid setting it aside for later. Instead, you should respond to it right now (even if it’s to categorize or prioritize your to-do list and calendar) or give it to the right person who can address the issue (and track it).
4. Use Technology to Help You Become More Productive
Technology can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes it gets so complicated or changes so fast that we can end up spending too much time trying to shoehorn the way we want to work into someone else’s software paradigm. Here are some ways to take control:
- Once again, don’t feel guilty about using paper forms, diaries, or calendars to stay organized.
- If you go the software route, choose robust, well-tested software that will be around a while, such as the calendar from Google or the ‘to-do’ list Reminder application from Apple. For maximum productivity, set up all your computers and devices to synchronize automatically (even if you have to hire a tech consultant to get it working).
- If you use chat software like Skype or Slack in the workplace, you can potentially avoid a lot of meetings yet still stay in touch with your co-workers. This approach might allow you to establish a couple ‘no meeting days’ in work each week, allowing everyone to concentrate on completing their projects.
5. Avoiding Technology Time Sinks
As you learn to categorize and prioritize, you’ll soon determine that lots of incoming email and posts from social media are urgent, but not that important. Keeping up to date with the very latest phone or software version can also lead to unproductive downtime — better to be on the proven, trailing edge of technology than on the bleeding edge.
A special note about social media: Unless your job is in social media marketing, you may discover from your time diary (see item #1 above) that you’re spending too much time texting or checking your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feeds.
Consider turning off all social media (including alert chimes) except for chat software (such as Skype) that you use for communicating with your colleagues during work hours. If you are addicted to social media, save it as an incentive or reward during breaks.