10 Ways To Do More in Less Time

At the age of six, I started alphabetizing my books, making detailed chore charts, and organizing my days around a carefully kept (though admittedly sparse) calendar. While this behavior made me a pretty weird kid, it’s paid off in my professional life. Now that I’ve experienced working at a fast-moving PR agency, I’ve realized time management is more of a necessity than an advantage. While you don’t need to be Type A to be productive, making small adjustments to your daily habits can help you do more in less time.

Here are my 10 tips for becoming a master of efficiency:

1. Use your calendar. Schedule your individual work as you would meetings, and consider blocking off time as “do not disturb.” If you’re working on a big, long-term project, dedicate 30 minutes to it every day, and commit that time on your calendar. Bonus: if you track your billing hours, you’ll be able to refer to your calendar when you enter your time.

2. Bundle your tasks by the kind of thinking they require. Spend an hour on rapid-fire activities like scanning Twitter and entering data, then another few hours on more strategic or creative tasks, like planning and writing. You’ll process more efficiently if you don’t toggle back and forth.

3. If something will take you less than two minutes, do it immediately. For anything that requires more effort, prioritize based on importance and urgency.

4. Do unpleasant tasks early. If you’re facing something important that you don’t want to do, tackle it first thing in the morning. You’re more likely to be caffeinated — and less likely to procrastinate.

5. Cut down on email. Use a tool like Slack or Asana to streamline communication with your team. You can also, you know, talk to people — picking up the phone or stopping by someone’s desk generally saves time and results in better conversations. If you’re addicted to email, take breaks by working in 20-minute sprints.

6. Eliminate extra meetings. Create a brief agenda for every meeting. If you can cover everything in a bulleted list, consider sending an email instead. If you don’t have anything clear to discuss, postpone or cancel. If you do need to meet, communicate the objective ahead of time and make sure you only include essential people.

7. Set the mood. Beyond finding the right type of music (I’m a Tropical House kind of girl), make sure your physical environment feels right. In the office, clean your space; it helps clear the mind, and your mess is gross. Consider working outside the office to inspire creative thinking.

8. Track your progress. Write down specific and quantitative objectives — both short and long-term — and check in on them often. If writing in a notebook isn’t your thing, consider setting one goal for the day with Momentum, a Chrome extension that displays motivation every time you open a new tab.

9. Know when it’s due. Ask for deadlines and be honest about whether you can meet them. Break big deadlines into smaller chunks and check in to ensure you’re meeting them. If you’re the one assigning deadlines, communicate them early and often.

10. Nom nom nom. Eat small meals throughout the day to avoid a) getting hangry and b) falling into a food coma. NatureBox is an easy way to keep your snack stash stocked.

How do you get work done? Share your productivity tips in the comments — but only if you’re not procrastinating right now.

Image by Flickr user Nick Castonguay