One of the biggest things people in our incredibly busy and fast paced lifestyles today yearn for is free time. Whether it’s to spend time with family, friends, or by ourselves, we all need more hours in the day. Wouldn’t it be great if you could leave work early every day and have more time for yourself without having to sacrifice your pay or productivity? Ah, to have more time to enjoy your life!
If you’d like to know how you can optimize your work life, put in fewer hours a week and still be productive at work, we’ve got a few tips for you. Here are quick and easy techniques that together can cut your working hours in half, affording you more time to do the things you love.
Remember, being productive and efficient is really more about working smarter, rather than working harder.
1. Plan your day the night before.
Every night before you go to sleep, create a to-do list for the next day. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated. A list of three to five core objectives that you intend to accomplish the next day will do. Focus on what’s necessary and what will push you to meet your objectives. This way you won’t have to spend hours trying to figure out what’s important and what you need to do next. As Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week advocates, spend 20 percent of your time plotting the things that will bring in 80 percent of the results.
2. Keep your workstation neat and organized.
This should go without saying. You need to keep your workstation neat and organized to ensure you operate more smoothly. Organization creates more time in your day and plays an important role in how much you accomplish. Spend time arranging your desk in a way that you can easily access what you need fast. Get rid of stuff you don’t use and keep only those items that you need and use often. Even if you have to invest a few hours in getting organized, do it. It will pay off in a big way.
3. Come a little early to work.
The early morning hours when it’s nice and quiet is a good time for productivity. Many people say they can leave two hours early if they add an hour at the beginning of the day. Arrive at work early and you will reap similar benefits. Besides, do you really need eight hours of sleep per night? Train your body to only sleep six hours a night so you can wake early before 6 a.m daily and prepare for work. You’ll create more time in your day.
4. Work your best hours.
Just because early morning is a great time for productivity doesn’t mean it’s the only time. Figure out your most productive time of day and milk it. If you’re most productive 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., work then. If you hit your peak in the afternoon when most people are shrugging off, work then. Don’t feel constrained to work the traditional early bird schedule. Work your best hours to safeguard your productivity. It doesn’t make sense to work when you’re the least productive just because others work best then.
5. Stick to your day’s to-do list.
Many people create wonderful daily to-do lists, but don’t actually follow through and stick to them. Don’t be one of those people. Create your daily to-do list and follow it. Efficiency says to start with the most important or most challenging project of the day first so you can tackle it when you’re the most productive. Make it urgent and get it out of the way then move on to the smaller, less challenging and more pleasant tasks.
6. Focus intently on tasks.
A study examining the practice habits of musicians discovered that a violinist who practices intensely for four focused hours gets more done than those who practice for seven hours but less intently. This finding typifies most other endeavors in life, including work habits. Focus more intently on the hours you put in at work and you’ll be likely to need to put in fewer of those hours. Value your “focus time” at work and be frugal with that resource.
7. Stop multitasking.
Focusing on tasks intently means no multitasking. When you multitask and try to do 10 things at once, you destroy your productivity and end up doing none of them well. The human brain is not designed for multitasking. Multitasking hinders the brain from processing and retaining information as it should. Often you’ll have to go back and reread or redo something just to complete it well. This wastes time and slows you down. Do one task at a time and stay present. You’ll do it better and much faster this way.
8. Limit interruptions.
Every interruption, however brief, means you have to spend time regaining focus. That is lost time that you won’t recover. Limit your accessibility when working and stop checking your phone every five minutes and your email every 10 minutes. Let people know you are not to be disturbed during your “focus time” at work. You can give them a schedule of “open-door office hours” when you are available to engage with others and respond to issues. This way you’ll protect your focus and avoid distractions.
9. Respond to e-mails in batches instead of immediately as they came in.
E-mail is a big time suck in the office. It can take you hours to compose and answer all the messages in your inbox. Cut the hours you spend a day on e-mails and also prevent e-mail distractions by lumping the messages and answering them in batches instead of immediately as they come. For instance, read and compose e-mails on three set times in the day, such as 11 a.m, 3 p.m and 10 p.m. You’ll notice it will take you significantly less time to clear out you inbox and send all necessary e-mail.
10. Track your time and repeat what works.
Productivity and efficiency is a matter of experimentation. What will work for you might not work for another person. Therefore, it is necessary that you track your time and know not only how you are spending your time, but also which techniques are helping you save time. When you find something that works, repeat and strive to improve it. In the same breath, review and change what doesn’t work. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”