As companies try to save money by running leaner operations with fewer workers, they’re asking more from those still employed. Greater demands can mean higher productivity, but it can also mean longer hours – and that may leave workers feeling drained and burned out. Whether you’re an employee, manager or small business owner, everybody’s feeling the pinch – but the good news is, implementing effective time management strategies can reduce stress and the amount of time you spend in the office. Here are our top ten tips to help you get more done in less time.
1. Get organized. The time you spend hunting for the right file or client contact information could be used for crossing off items on your to-do list. So invest a few hours up front to get organized, and make it a point to stay that way – it will reduce hassle and time wasted.
2. Delegate and share work wisely. Both managers and employees should focus on tasks that use their strengths. If you’re not an Excel® whiz, ask a more spreadsheet-savvy colleague to take on the task in exchange for one you’re more suited to. Utilizing the right skills appropriately saves everyone time.
3. Give yourself strict deadlines. Set a timer for 60 or 90 minutes, and set about finishing a small project without interruptions. During this time you’ll only be focusing on the task at hand, not multi-tasking (answering the phone or responding to e-mail, etc.) You may be surprised at how much you can get done in a short period of time.
4. Manage your energy as well as your time. Don’t spread projects out over a few days – if possible, finish them in one sitting rather than in bits and pieces. This keeps your energy focused and saves time, and can improve the consistency of the finished product, too.
5. Come in early. Coming in to the office an hour before everyone else means you can get a jump- start on your day and work without distractions until the rest of your colleagues arrive and business begins as usual. A bonus: you might even miss the morning rush hour traffic!
6. Target your productivity “window.” Observe your working patterns for a day, and figure out when you seem to be most productive. Then, use that as your “optimal working time” and tackle the most difficult or challenging tasks during that time period each day.
7. Automate and outsource. If you own or manage a small business, remember that doing everything yourself isn’t always the most time- or cost-efficient option. Almost any task can be either automated or outsourced – from mailing to marketing to payroll processing – so investigate your options.
8. Know when to say no. Don’t overreach yourself; while many of us try to make everyone happy all the time, it's just not always possible. Don’t get into the habit of accepting last-minute requests if you can help it, and respect your own limitations.
9. Obey the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule states that 80 percent of your results come from just 20 percent of your efforts. If you can identify and focus on the 20 percent that matters most, you can be more productive without increasing your workload.
10. Beware of perfectionism. Does that weekly internal report that’s only read by two people really need to have detailed color graphics and perfectly spaced margins? Most routine work doesn't need to be done perfectly, so just ask yourself if your effort is proportionate to the value of the task. Once you start putting these strategies into practice, hopefully you’ll be leaving the office earlier today and every day.
Looking for more productivity tips? Start working smarter, not harder – and check out the HP Learning Center for skill building and training.
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