Even the most talented employee can fall victim to time wasting. It can be as simple as a few stray clicks on the internet that send the day’s schedule into a free fall. Or it can be so-called legitimate responsibilities that give you face time with the boss but only harm your productivity. To evolve into a new era that combats time wasting, take the time to gather some data about what uses up those precious minutes.
Forbes contributor Bruce Kasanoff recommends the repeat test. Start by writing a list of the hours in your day. Hour by hour, stop and note what you did in the previous 60 minutes and how you felt about it. Then note whether it was something you’d like to repeat. A half-hour-long staff meeting where nothing relevant was discussed might end up in the “time waster” column. A review of next quarter’s sales projections a few hours before a presentation could be a valuable use of time.
When your day is done, review the list. If you see patterns in the time wasters, look to reducing them so you have more minutes to focus on what you see as valuable. Life coach Steve Chandler says those “people-pleasing” tasks, like attending unnecessary meetings or taking on additional tasks, won’t help with your efficiency goals. They probably won’t do a lot to get you ahead either, so learn to say no.
Chandler recommends sticking to the habits that work. If a scan of Facebook is part of your morning routine, and it is part of what you need to settle into your job, keep doing it. If it’s a mere distraction that leads you so far astray the hours sneak by, consider site-blocking tools or shutting down the internet altogether. Time recommends the StayFocused (Chrome), SelfControl (Mac), or SelfRestraint (Windows) apps that limit your access.
In order to stop going down the path of distraction, know what it is you have to do. Break a large task down into smaller pieces and ask for clarification if a project is vague or confusing. Not knowing the next step leaves you open to the temptation of simply taking a break that turns into a large stretch of time with nothing accomplished.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, you can increase your productivity by going slower. Acting deliberately when you communicate with colleagues can mean less follow up and delays. Instead of rushing off a quick email that requires significant back-and-forth, write a longer, complete note with actionable steps or requests.
Another tip on productivity is to prioritize. Pretend you have less time than you actually do, and what needs to be done urgently can come into greater focus.