Do you ever have workdays when you come into the office, determined to knock out a list of tasks — then, before you know it, the end of the day has rolled around and not only have you barely touched your to-do list, it’s actually gotten longer.
Often, the culprit is too much time spent checking emails, chatting with officemates, or just trying to get organized in the first place. Although every person’s organizational structure is different, a few basic steps will help you get your daily schedule into shape so you can achieve more tasks in less time.
Try these eight steps to maximizing your workday, and see for yourself if your productivity improves.
Set an email checking schedule
In a study by McKinsey Global Institute, findings showed that office workers spend an average of 2.6 hours each day wading through emails. Given a nine-hour workday, that means we spend about 28% of our day in our inboxes. With the advent of smartphones in the workplace and instantaneous notifications, email can feel like a constant, crushing distraction.
Give yourself a firm email-checking schedule; for example, once when you get into the office, once before lunch, and once mid-afternoon. Scan subject lines and sender, and prioritize which emails to reply to. Is it urgent? Can you solve the problem? How long will a reply take? The itch to check your email may feel overwhelming, but if you allocate your time to tasks on hand, you can take control of your inbox again.
Get an agenda for meetings
One of the most frustrating aspects of team meetings are when the first fifteen minutes are wasted going back and forth about the meeting’s goals and structure. This is an easily solvable problem — just have an agenda planned out ahead of the meeting. If you are the meeting organizer, put together a quick agenda and send it out to participants.
Remember, the agenda doesn’t have to be concrete. It is simply an organizational tool so everyone knows what to expect and what to prepare for the meeting. Putting together an agenda will only take about five minutes, and it can save a huge headache for everyone in the conference room. Set a strict ending time so everyone can get out on schedule. This will also keep the meeting on topic.
Segment time for big projects
When you are juggling multiple projects, you might devote half a day to one project and then leave the office feeling wholly unproductive. You were unable to get to your other projects, you’re overwhelmed, and now you have to spend all of tomorrow on another project so you can get it done in time. If this sounds all too familiar to you, try segmenting your time among big projects.
Allocate one to two hours to each project per day and set a strict timer for yourself. Once the two hours for Project A are up, move onto your next task. This method will let you come up for air, and you can get through multiple projects. If Project A is urgent, designate more time towards it, but refrain from devoting an entire day. This can just cause burnout, and you’ll fall into a cycle of rushing through whatever project is due soonest.
You might have heard that multitasking is a myth, but when you have spent so many years in the habit of jumping from task to task, how can you stop multitasking? Put aside other distractions and give your laser focus to the work at hand. Even if you have a second task on your mind, put it aside until you finish what you’re doing.
If your workplace has an interactive culture, you might want to consider bringing headphones to work, or simply ask your coworkers for an hour or two of undisturbed peace. By putting your full, undivided attention on one task, you’ll find that you can knock it out in half the time!
For Part 2, click here.
Barry Eisenman of Nutis Press contributed content to this article. Nutis’ expertise is rooted in designing innovative point-of-purchase displays and retail merchandising solutions. We help brand manufacturers get their products noticed and engage consumers.