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April 13, 2015

Time management: Get more done

Productivity isn’t only about the quantity of work you get done. It’s about the efficiency and quality of your work. That requires effective time management skills. Here are some areas that have the potential to use up your time, along with some skills to keep you humming along.

  • Social media: Facebook and other media platforms can be time-addictive. They draw you in innocently, and by the time you look at the clock you’ve lost half an hour looking at your spouse’s aunt Martha’s cousin’s wedding pictures. To keep this from happening, do a little planning in your mind before visiting any social media website. Know exactly what you want to accomplish before you log in (“I’m just going to check and see if my last post generated any responses I need to know about”), and make sure your goals are specifically business-related. Surf idly in your downtime, but not during a busy workday.
  • Routine chores: The more you do, the longer your to-list can get. And eventually, you become so busy doing busy work that you never get to the really important tasks. To keep routine maintenance tasks from monopolizing your day, prioritize the chores that only you can do and delegate the others. Focus on the value of the time you do spend on maintenance issues. Keep track of your hours as if you were billing them separately.
  • Travel: It’s expensive, inconvenient and a huge investment of time spent sitting somewhere waiting for something to happen (like for the plane to land or the taxi to arrive at your destination). Yet most professionals consider occasional business travel indispensable, if only for the face time it creates. To maximize the efficiency of travel, pack lots of meetings into the same trip. Visit as many clients and prospects as possible, within a reasonable radius and timeframe. As a traveler, you’re always dependent on your Internet connection, which has a way of going down. When yours does, use the time to answer emails in offline mode, or do some writing on a project. Or some reading for research.
  • Working remotely: It’s easier to get distracted by interruptions when you’re away from your office. So whether you’re working from Starbucks or your kitchen, some extra mindfulness helps keep you focused.
    • Make sure you have a reliable, secure Internet connection so you won’t waste time reconnecting.
    • Do your work in a separate dedicated workspace, if possible, preferably with a door you can close when you need to concentrate.
    • Use headphones when you’re in a public space.
    • Instead of keeping a simple list of tasks, block off time on your calendar for the major accomplishments you need to achieve every day. And start with the most difficult. Once that’s finished, reward yourself.
  • Meetings: Everyone says they hate meetings, but they’re still as accepted and commonplace as ever. Since meetings remain a fact of life, consider a few ways to keep them productive. First, ask the organizer (or yourself, if you’re calling the meeting) if it’s really necessary. Would it be more efficient to review everyone’s status via email instead? If the meeting really is necessary, create and distribute an agenda in advance, and stick to it closely. And open the meeting by setting clear expectations—including time limits—so everyone can stay focused on the tasks at hand.

Try these strategies and you’ll be amazed at how much more work you can do—and how little time it takes.

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