1. Get in early It may take a while to get used to the early mornings, but I promise you it will be worth it. You will find less congestion on the roads and when you get in you’ll have less interruptions and more peace and quiet. There will be fewer emails pinging in your inbox, the phone will stay silent and you will have more chance to focus and plan your day.
2. Over-schedule meetings If you think your meeting will take an hour, then schedule an hour and a half. Your colleagues will think you are super efficient at chairing meetings and you’ll have created some uninterrupted time in the diary. You’ll also have time to complete the any actions from the meeting instead of leaving them to the last minute. Still holding meetings with no actions? Then why are you having them?
3. Clear your inbox Create a folder system so that at the end of each day, you can clear all your emails and leave your inbox nice and empty for the next. This will save time sifting/searching through hundreds of emails. Delete what you don’t need, deal with it, delegate it, or file for information – but just don’t leave it. A huge inbox will leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed and it will slow you down. And while you are at it, turn off any annoying signals, icons or beeps that let you know new mail has arrived and in the process distract you from whatever you are doing….
4. Keep your inbox for work emails only I once worked with a lady whose inbox was overwhelmed with personal and junk emails, offers for holidays and those voucher code sites that tempt you with daily deals. Every time she returned from annual leave she’d spend a whole morning deleting all the spam she’d signed up for. Not only do these kind of emails distract you from the task in hand, they also look bad when your boss is looking over your shoulder.
5. Leave at the same time everyday It’s amazing how focused you become when you know you must leave on time. Instead of spending the afternoon dithering, or slowing down, leaving on time provides a sense of urgency to get things done. As you are now getting in earlier (see above) no one can complain you are not doing your share by working to your set time. Hopefully, once your colleagues realise you leave at a certain time, they will learn to respect this and avoid setting last minute tasks, or sending you emails at the end of the day. At really busy times, you can always make an exception to your rule and stay a bit later to help out. Then you will have the added bonus of looking like a wonderful team player!
6. Schedule blocks of time for key projects When I have several projects on the go at once, I make sure that each project gets the attention it deserves by scheduling time in my diary. So if I have three major projects with similar deadlines, I add time slots in my diary for two hours for each project. When the two hours are up, I stop working on one project and move onto the next. This stops me neglecting one project in favour of another.
7. Allow time for surprises In addition to scheduling time for projects, I make sure there is still a block of free space left in my diary for unplanned activities. These are the emails that come out of the blue with requests for random information that requires extra time to be dealt with. If the requests fail to appear then I can use the free space for another task, or to catch up on my planning.
8. Start with your hardest task first Save time dithering, procrastinating and just sitting there panicking about picking up the phone by doing your hardest task first. If you can’t face the whole task, then take a small action towards it. Once you get going you may find you complete the whole task without any bother.
9. Take your lunch break away from your desk Now you are working smarter and acting more organised, you can afford to take a lunch break. Not only will you come back refreshed, you will prevent people interrupting your lunch break with awkward questions and requests for even more work. And finally….
10. Be nice to your colleagues Watch carefully the tone of your emails, don’t blame your colleagues for mistakes or take credit for their work. No one is saying you have to be best mates, but by avoiding unnecessary confrontation and taking a moment to be friendly means your colleagues will be more likely to work with you, than against you. This will cut down time spend on disagreements and help your projects to run smoothly.