8 Tricks for Sneaking One More Hour Into Your Day

Don’t work faster. Work smarter.

There’s nothing worse than wasting time at work. Productivity is usually pretty key to job performance, especially when annual reviews roll around—and we’d all love a raise.

However, people often overlook an important principle when it comes to effectiveness and efficiency—which is, you can’t be efficient until you learn how to be effective. In other words, working faster doesn’t often mean success in the workplace. Instead, work smarter. By doing so, you’ll add an extra hour (or two!) to your day to focus on your top priorities, whether it’s work or family. Here’s how:

1. Beat everyone else out of bed.

Getting up at 5 a.m. and working uninterrupted until 7 a.m. can be so effective you end up doing the amount of work that might be done in a typical eight-hour day. With electronic devices off and no one up to interrupt workflow, tasks can be completed quickly and easily. If you are not a “morning person,” stay up later than everyone else for the same benefit.

2. Plan your next work day in advance.

Another easy way to get a bonus hour every day is to plan your work sequence the night before. By moving from confusion to clarity on your next-day priorities, you waste little time in getting the workday started. Every minute spent planning saves three minutes of execution time. Planning takes no longer than 30 minutes, but it saves a minimum of 90 minutes.

3. Break every project into bite-size chunks.

One of the major causes of procrastination is that projects are too big to do quickly. Turn each project into a series of steps. For example, if you have a presentation on Friday, you may want to prepare the presentation in one sitting. A better approach is to do the presentation in several sittings of 15 minutes each. In the first sitting, write an outline of the presentation. In the second sitting, decide on the main message of the presentation. In the third sitting, decide on an opening of the presentation that gets the audience’s attention immediately. Each of these sittings can be scheduled throughout day one, and you are well on your way to completing the presentation. Schedule the next days similarly. Conversely, doing all three of those things in one sitting can be paralyzing.

4. Walk uninvited visitors to your office door.

If you work in an office setting, people who walk into your office or up to your cubicle to chat are time robbers. When they come into your workspace, give them 30 seconds, then get up to walk somewhere, perhaps to the restroom. Say goodbye to them and go back to work.

5. If you’re doing it schedule it. If you don’t schedule it, don’t do it.

People underestimate the power of a schedule. For example, if you want to work out every day, schedule it. Then follow the schedule. Ninety percent of working out is just getting to the gym! When your schedule is full, it leaves little room for time wasters. However, it’s a good idea not to schedule more than half your time so you leave room for unexpected eventualities.

6. Set up a work environment free from interruptions.

By some odd coincidence, my family and friends always seem to send a text message or an e-mail when I am busiest. I have learned to schedule my responses to these interruptions. Taking 30 minutes twice a day to do a block of responses to texts, voicemails and emails saves at least two hours a day. Few things are vital (life-sustaining), but many things are urgent (calling for immediate attention). Know the difference. Do the vital and protect yourself against the urgent.

7. Don’t bother “getting organized.”

One of the big lies we tell ourselves is, “Before I get to work, I have to get organized.” My desk is usually in some state of disarray. I pay no attention to it. If I want to be a janitor, then I’ll get a job doing it. As an executive, I have to remember what tasks I am really being paid for, and “getting organized” typically isn’t one of these tasks. If it isn’t impacting your work quality, why bother?

8. Ditch the completion complex.

Many of us feel the need to respond to everything and we feel incomplete if we don’t. A quick assessment can dictate our response. Ask yourself, “Is what I am about to do contributing to the completion of my most vital priority?” If the answer is no, consider leaving it alone.

Written by Rory J. Clark for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

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