Using Your Time Effectively – Clearing the Clutter in Your Business
Does your desk look like an annex of the city dump?
Let’s confront the clutter created by working with inefficient systems or no systems at all. You may like the idea of doing what you want to do when you want to do it and the way you want to do it, but your productivity, your sanity, and your bottom line may be suffering.
Some simple changes may radically improve all those aspects of your life.
Prioritize your tasks
Some people say that it is best to get your hardest task out of the way at the beginning of the workday when you’re feeling fresh. That’s the time when you have the most energy to complete the task, and you feel like you’ve accomplished something big so you will be less stressed as the day goes on. Other people like to finish a lot of small jobs first and build momentum as the day goes on. The more they cross off their to do list, the more productive and confident they feel. You should try out both ways to see which one motivates you. The one that works for you is the one you should stick with.
Use calendars or daily planners
You’ve probably seen a wide variety of calendars and planners available in any office supply store or department store. It would be a good idea to spend a little time looking at them to find out which one will work best for you.
First decide what type of system you’re going to use and then find a calendar or planner that matches that system. You can use traditional paper and pen, or you could use an electronic PDA, or web-based application (Plan Plus Online by Franklin Covey is a very good application). Remember, though, calendars and planners only work if you use them; take them seriously and remember to schedule everything. Then check your planner before you make new appointments because your memory could be faulty.
It won’t take long at all until using a planner becomes second nature. After a while you’ll be happy you have it. It gives you fewer things to remember.
Limit your distractions
You are probably painfully aware of all the distractions we are constantly bombarded with. We all are aware of Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, email, and even computer solitaire or other computer games.
This is where you have to rely on your own self-discipline to limit those things so that you can get your important tasks completed. Some people work well with music; if you’re one of them, there is no reason to turn the music off. Most people don’t work well with constant distractions whether they come in the form of people, email, or a ringing phone. You need to find a system to deal with these.
One thing you could try if you really enjoy these distractions is rewarding yourself with them after you’ve completed important tasks. A test you could perform would be to see how much work you accomplish when you turn off all the distractions, compared to how much you accomplish when distractions are going on. The results might surprise you.
Set a specific time to work on less important tasks
Just because less important tasks can be distractions, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to be taken care of. How you handle them depends on your nature. If you have a lot of discipline, you can intersperse things like e-mail or phone calls throughout your day for brief periods of time. But if you tend to stay on the phone for long periods of time because you enjoy it and not for productive reasons, then you may need to appropriate phone calls to certain times of the day after important jobs are finished and to time yourself while you’re on the phone.
If you find it almost impossible to hit the delete key when you’re going through your email, then you probably don’t want to start your day with that. Email can act like a bright shiny object and make you afraid that you’re missing something if you don’t open every one. It’s not exaggerating to say that email can eat up your entire day every day if you let it. If that’s a weak area for you, only allow yourself to take care of it for certain amount of time every day. You could even set a timer and force yourself to complete your email within a certain number of minutes. This might be difficult at first, but it’s something you’ll probably catch onto pretty quickly.
If you work at home, another boundary you might need to set is letting your clients know when they can and can’t call, such as during family time or evening meals.
Automate your tasks
Your time is valuable, and one of the easiest ways to gain more time is to automate routine tasks. Technology is great when it frees up our time for more important things, so there’s no reason not to make the most of it. If you’re a writer, you might really like dictating your articles into voice recognition software (Dragon Naturally Speaking is a great piece of software.) Another great timesaver is to automate emails that you send again and again through the use of templates. Think about tasks that you do frequently and investigate the software that might help you with them. There’s a list of the software later in this e-book. It’s free or inexpensive and can save you hours each day.
Organize your desk files and your computer files
Both of these tasks might seem daunting depending on the condition of your files, but they are well worth the investment in time. You will save countless frustrating hours once your files are properly labeled. This is probably even more true for the files in your computer than it is for the files on your desk. If it seems like a huge task to tackle, work on one part at a time or work for 15 minutes at a time each day until all your files are in order.
Use headphones to block out noise
This might seem trivial, but if you’re working around a lot of noise your concentration can suffer. Noise canceling headphones or even earplugs can make a big difference.
Get a comfortable chair and some good lighting
Take a minute to ask yourself if you really comfortable with your office chair and your lighting. Again, something that might seem trivial like these two things can have a huge impact on your productivity. It makes a difference in how you think, feel, and perform. You might have been uncomfortable for so long that you don’t even realize it. You owe it to yourself to be as comfortable as possible.
Clean up your workspace
Again, we’re talking about the obvious. But the truth is it’s much easier to stay focused when your workspace is clean and organized. Just looking at piles of junk can make you tense, and wading through stacks of paper to find what you need is frustrating. Set up a method to store things with similar things together and put things in their proper places each time you put them away. That way, you only have to go through the organizational process once.
Throw things out!
For some of us, throwing things out is almost impossible, but look at how much it costs you to hang on to those outdated, worn-out, useless things. If you can see them as getting in the way of your productivity, it will be easier to let them go. If they have any usefulness left, you could sell them on eBay or Craigslist or you could donate them.
About the Author
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