You know that lean operations can increase your businesses revenue and profit potential, but do take the same approach to your work habits? With these five time-saving tips, you’ll see what the saying “work smarter, not harder” is really all about.
Minimize your wardrobe. It may not take you minutes to pick out a matching tie, but mundane morning tasks zap your mental energy and cause unnecessary delays. Take a cue from President Obama, who once told Vanity Fair that he only wears navy and gray suits in an effort to “pare down decisions.” Streamline your wardrobe only to items that coordinate, and are “ready to wear.” That may mean replacing your button down shirts with the no-iron variety, or spending a bit more at the dry cleaner. But your time is valuable. Budget it appropriately.
Clear workspace clutter. Visual clutter makes people feel overwhelmed. When you visually lack a sense of where to focus, you’re likely to do a little bit of everything—and you’ll accomplish very little. Downsize your workspace to only the necessary: Items you don’t use multiple times a day should be moved out of your office. Likewise, the things you use often—pens, post-it notes, staplers, and charging cords should be kept within arms reach. Organizers, inboxes and cabinets that aren’t easy to reach, open, close and find information in waste time, too. Reorganize, move, or repair them for usability–or store them offsite.
Limit your attention to one task. Mary Czerwinski is an authority in the field of “interruption science” who studies workplace productivity for companies like Microsoft. She has found that it takes the average person about 15 minutes to reclaim optimal focus once they’re interrupted–whether by a call, a person, or simply by shifting their eyes from one window on a computer screen to another. Close your email inbox, put your phone out of sight, and work on one task at a time–for a specific block of time. Set a timer when you start and determine when you’ll end. When “time’s up”, put it aside and move on to the next task.
Tune into the rhythm of your workplace. In the study “Bored Mondays and Focused Afternoons: The Rhythm of Attention and Online Activity in the Workplace,” researchers found that every workplace has a rhythm of peaks and valleys when people are productive, bored, stressed and not engaged. Despite the stigma that surrounds Monday mornings, researchers found workplace focus is highest on that day. Focus also tends to peak in the mid-afternoon and is replaced by boredom in the later part of the day. By noting these rhythms in your own company, you can schedule the time you spend with your team accordingly, to maximize outcomes.
Make it a point to do the task you dread. If you make a “to do list” consistently enough, you’ll probably notice that a common theme emerges: There always seems to be one task that remains. It happens for one of two reasons: A) It’s not really a priority B) It is important—but you don’t like doing it. Either way, to do lists are for getting things done. Either outsource the task, or if it’s a valuable business function you’re just not excited about doing (this could be anything from making cold calls, or organizing your business-related receipts), face your dread head on. Dr. Albert Ellis, creator of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), took this approach to conquering his social fears by going out on 100 dates. The more he did it, the more routine the task became. Eventually, it wasn’t such a big deal. Not only will you stop procrastinating the necessary evils, you’ll waste less time doing them.