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10 Small Things You Can Do To Save Time In the Office

10 Small Things You Can Do To Save Time In the Office

Are you looking to save time in the office without having to do a complete overhaul of your schedule or calendar?

Here are 10 things you can do to shave minutes from your regular work routine:

Create a document template.

Check your schedule and emails from the last month for hints on what documents you most frequently use, then create a set of templates for these items. Starter ideas include: email queries and confirmations, proposals, contact forms, contracts, agendas, presentation decks, agendas, and financial reports.

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Set up folders and filters in your email inbox.

Automate the email sorting process by setting up different folders and filters in your email program. You could have your emails filtered by people (clients, supervisors, coworkers, and vendors), work projects (administrative tasks, in-house work, client work, and research), or email subscriptions, and then appropriately sent to the correct folder.

Prepare mini agendas for informal meetings.

Make the most of your informal meetings with supervisors or colleagues with a mini agenda. This doesn’t have to be a formal document, simply list out the different items, tasks, questions, and concerns you want to discuss before your meeting. Not only will you have a handy guide for your meetings, but you’ll also have a record of projects, tasks and items discussed.

Give up folder tabs.

Tired of wasting your time fiddling with all those little plastic tabs that come with hanging folders? Give up those teeny tabs and simply label manila folders themselves. Make it easier for you to identify files at a glance by using different color manila folders and/or hanging files. For example, you might use green folders for financial documents, red folders for current projects and so on.

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Save yourself a few clicks.

Are you making the most out of your work devices? Take a moment to set up the speed dial function on your work or cell phone for frequently dialed numbers and set up bookmarks on your internet browser or use a bookmark service for regularly visited sites. Likewise, if you regularly use a computer application or program, learn some keyboard shortcuts to help you save time as you work.

Make a process or task checklist.

Streamline routine processes or tasks by creating a checklist of must-do items. This can be particularly helpful for items you do every other month or so, such as running reports, backing up files or updating items on a website or server. Create detailed notes and instructions on the different tasks you need to complete for your project.

Keep cleaning supplies within reach.

Stop wasting your time climbing over all those office supplies in the back room just to get a dust cloth. Carve out a space in a nearby desk drawer, cabinet or shelf and stock it with office cleaning supplies. Mix and match any of the following and of course feel free to add in your supplies as needed: dust cloth, duster, lint roller, computer screen wipes and cleaner, disinfectant wipes and/or gel, a roll of paper towels, and window cleaner.

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Pre-schedule online lunch orders.

Do you regularly order lunch at work? Some restaurants and cafes have online ordering systems that allow you to place and schedule meal orders anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks in advance. Check your favorite lunch spots to see if they offer this service and save yourself the hassle of placing daily orders.

Set a timer.

Keep work meetings on track by setting and following a timer. You’ll know exactly how much time you’ve spent working and how much time you have left available to you in each of your meetings. You might also want to consider setting a timer for different tasks while you work to better track your own time.

Store emergency materials in a drawer.

Be prepared for emergencies at a moment’s notice. Clear out space in a nearby desk drawer and pull together a little kit of emergency materials including, but not limited to: a flashlight, glow stick, small first aid kit, backup medication, umbrella, small radio, spare batteries, energy or granola bars, and bottles of water.

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What small action will you try out to save yourself a couple of minutes at work? Leave a comment below.

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Rashelle Isip

Blogger, Consultant, and Author

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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