Too many of us get caught up in putting out fires, wasting time on tasks that don’t really matter, and using our time ineffectively and haphazardly. But when you start to think about yourself as a steward of the 8 precious work hours you have during the day, your work habits can’t help but become more streamlined and purposeful.
Following are 7 hacks that can save you an hour or more each and every day, when applied consistently. Keep in mind that not all of these hacks will work for every business or industry. For instance, if you’re a paramedic contracting with the local health authority, I wouldn’t recommend letting all phone calls go to voicemail!
Note: Any savvy mathematicians in the crowd will notice that, upon implementing each of the 7 hacks below, you’ll save up to 13.5 hours per day. But before you get excited thinking these hacks will allow you to not show up at the office at all, keep in mind that the amount of time y
ou’ll save per hack will vary depending on how much time you currently spend on each task. Sorry./>
One of the biggest time-sucks known to modern man is checking and responding to email. If you don’t believe me, try monitoring your email usage for an entire day and you’ll see exactly how much time is spent in this regard.
Resist the nearly overwhelming urge to answer every ‘ping’ that comes from your smartphone or computer, and instead limit yourself to checking and responding to emails at set times during the day. The number of times you’ll check will depend on the type of business you run, however Tim Ferris of the 4 Hour Work Week suggests checking it twice per day:
He writes on his blog, “the fastest method I’ve found for controlling the e-mail impulse is to set up an autoresponder that indicates you will be checking e-mail twice per day or less.” By letting your customers, clients and colleagues know exactly when you’ll be on email, you are essentially training them how to communicate with you – on your terms.
I’ve found that Inbox Pause for Gmail has been enormously helpful in reducing my mental overhead when it comes to email.
Estimated Time Saved: 2.24 hours per day, assuming 28% of an 8-hour work day.
2. Let your calls go to voicemail
Unless you’re expecting a life or death call, don’t feel obligated to pick up every time the phone rings. If you’re a sole proprietor, this can be a little more difficult; you probably don’t want to let important sales calls go to voicemail.
But if possible, take a quick peek at the caller ID, and only take calls that must be answered immediately. In time you may find you can let up to 90% of your calls safely go to voicemail, returning them at the end of the day (just be sure you actually do return them!). For an excellent overview of why phone calls are often a waste of time and cause lost productivity, see “Sorry, No Calls.”
Not only will ‘batching’ your phone calls save you time, but it will mean you’re more focused and intentional when you do talk to clients or colleagues. They’ll appreciate the fact that you’ve purposefully set aside time to connect with them, and that the time you do spend on the phone with them is uninterrupted and productive.
Estimated Time Saved: 1-2 hours per day./>/>
3. Have a daily plan in place
If you’ve ever come home at the end of the day with that sinking feeling of ‘I didn’t get anything done today’, this hack is for you.
It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of responding to situations, people, and crises. But rather than letting others dictate the course of your day, have a plan in place for proactively tackling projects and tasks.
By setting a specific amount of time for each task – for instance, 1 hour to get that budget report done – you’re more likely to be hyper-focused and to not allow yourself to get distracted.
Estimated Time Saved: 1-2 hours per day.
4. Monitor your social media usage
We know that social media, while an absolute necessity for business owners, can really eat into the workday. Most of us would probably be embarrassed to admit how much time we spend checking Facebook and Twitter!
As part of your daily plan, build in time to check, monitor and respond to social media. Be sure to build in time for writing blog posts, checking blog comments, as well as monitoring and responding to comments and queries on social networking sites.
Online time-tracking tools like Rescue Time and Toggl can give you an accurate picture of how much time you’re spending on various tasks, and can help you keep your time spent on social media under control.
Estimated Time Saved: 1-2 hours per day.
5. Keep meetings to a minimum
If a meeting is unavoidable, as far as it’s in your control, make sure they’re highly organized, that members are kept on-task, and that an agenda is kept to. Give a set starting and ending time, and be sure everyone involved knows what time the meeting is to be officially over.
Estimated Time Saved: Up to 3 hours per day. Assuming half of an 8-hour work day is spent in meetings, up to 3 hours can be saved by replacing in-person meetings with group emails or phone calls./>/>
6. Say no to ‘busy work’
There’s a growing acknowledgement among business professionals that ‘busy’ doesn’t equal ‘productive’. Don’t let yourself get caught up tending to small, insignificant tasks that don’t contribute to the bottom line.
While tasks like organizing your desk, color-coding your files, or fiddling with fonts may seem important in the moment, they can be huge time-wasters. While there is a time and place for most tasks (even seemingly insignificant ones), be sure you’re not just doing them to stay busy.
Having a daily plan in place should help you stay on task, but asking yourself periodically throughout the day, “Is this helping grow my business?” can give you a bit of extra motivation and clarity.
Software tools are a great way to speed up common tasks that otherwise take up bandwidth. Roboform, Boomerang for Gmail, and Dropbox are just three of my most-recommended productivity tools. For the entire list, see my article, “10 Tools to Make You More Efficient.”
Estimated Time Saved: Up to 1 hour per day.
Hopefully you’ve used your allotted ‘reading favorite blogs’ time to read this article; otherwise, it’s time to stop reading and build it into your plan for tomorrow! For more business & entrepreneur insights, see these resources.
What productivity hacks from this list are you already using with success? What other hacks are missing from this list that you find particularly helpful? Share in the comments below!