Wasted seconds

Want to get out of the office earlier? Here's how you can stop wasting time and start being more efficient...

You could blame your longer working hours on your job, but you’re with friends here so let’s be honest, you probably waste a lot of time too. Think about all those minutes during the day, when you waste time switching between tasks, checking emails or just generally faffing about. Time wasted, right? If you have an eight-hour day and you spend a total of 30 minutes responding to unnecessary emails, that’s actually a huge chunk of time in the grand scheme of things. Over a week, you waste two-and-half hours. Imagine what you could have crossed off your ever-growing to-do list?

If you want to stop wasting your precious seconds, here is how you can start saving time:

Stop multi-tasking. Yes most people pride themselves on their multi-tasking skills, but if you keep interrupting tasks to answer emails or finish up others small errands you’re not going to get anywhere. Sit down and do one task at a time, put a deadline on it and only start on a new task when the time is up.

Don’t “wing” it. If you don’t have a clear structure of what you need to get done that day, you’re going to end up thinking about what else you need to do, not actually doing it. Write a daily to-do list for yourself. It’s better to write this up before you leave work each day, so it’s fresh in your mind and it’s ready and waiting for when you roll in the next morning.

Stop procrastinating with non-essential tasks. Checking Facebook might be an obvious sign you’re not working to your full potential, but so is starting on easy non-essential tasks. This is <really> the ultimate time-waster. You know those little ones that make you feel like you’re working but aren’t helping you get through your massive task list? Throw those to the side until you have everything under control. Then you can set aside an hour or two a week for working on non-essentials. Use the phone. It’s faster than to-ing and fro-ing on email.

Divide your time up in to 60 or 90-minute blocks. Organise your tasks into these times and force yourself to work to the schedule. You will feel a lot better and go through your work faster. Do you have tasks you hate? Reward yourself by scheduling something you enjoy after. If you fill up Wednesdays with jobs you hate to do, you’ll not only loathe the day but you’ll have trouble sticking to the program too. Be kind to yourself.

Only check your email a few times a day. It can be tempting to jump on every email that comes through your inbox. Instead block away time a few times a day to respond and follow up on emails. It’ll stop you splitting your concentration. Stop email alerts from coming up, if it’s an emergency, they can call you.

Work backwards from goals to milestones to tasks. It can be pretty daunting to have a huge goal like “launch new website” on your list, which means you’ll probably want to avoid getting started on it. Instead, work in reverse, schedule the intended deadline then break it down to milestones and tasks. Write the dates of when these need to be started and completed. Be real about what’s possible and include buffers for each task to ensure that if you fall behind on one task it doesn’t affect your other deadlines.

Don’t be an interruption magnet. If people often stop to talk to you, don’t be scared to send an email around letting them know that you’re busy for the next hour and anything can wait afterwards. Better yet, if you have a door, close it.

Shaving off wasted time will help you be more productive and have more time to yourself. If you want more work/life balance, the first step is to get home at a decent hour without slacking on the job. Efficiency means having more time for your friends and family, and who doesn’t want that, right?