REMINDERS - Most programs are set up to let you know each and every time an email is received. This setting can be turned off so that you are not constantly bombarded with 'You've Got Mail!' – if you don't know how, either do a Google search or ask your company tech support. Then, set up a reminder in your calendar to check your email at specific times of the day – no more than 4 times. It will take some getting used to, but you will discover the world does not end if you don't answer an email within 30 seconds of receiving it!
UNSUBSCRIBE – Remove yourself from all mailing lists, both professional and personal. As much as you think they will be useful, you end up just wasting time deleting them from your inbox. If you must have them, direct them to a personal email address and read at home.
AUTO-SORT – Your email program has the wonderful ability to sort your emails as they come in. Have emails sorted into specific folders rather than intermingle with each other, allowing you to prioritise what you read by what is important to you, not when the email arrived.
Turn It Off – Remember you are at work, do you really need to check the newspaper, twitter, Facebook, your personal email? These are massive time wasters as you lose track of time on them and your company may be monitoring your internet usage. Keep your personal internet searching to your lunch break and at home and you will find you free up much more time in the office. Don't be tempted to check it during breaks – it's much more refreshing to get up from your desk and get a glass of water than to stay seated and fixated on your computer!
Think about whether you have a chat with your colleagues when you go to discuss a work topic with them or do you get to the point? When you walk through the office do you need to stop and speak with people or do you go straight to your desk? Whilst being personable is important, you can waste valuable time by not sticking to the business at hand and allowing distractions. Try and avoid walking through areas where you will be tempted to stop and chat, arrange to have lunch with you colleagues so you can talk then and you will find hours start appearing!
Stop the multi-tasking!
Multi-tasking is the buzz-word of the modern era. But by attempting to complete multiple tasks at once, it can seem that we never complete anything, which can result in procrastination and loss of motivation. By completing tasks one at a time, we can see our achievements and maintain focus.
Give yourself mini-deadlines
By imposing personal deadlines throughout the day, you can give your day more structure. Write a list of tasks that you want to complete that day. Pick a task and set the timer on your phone for 25 minutes. Put your desk phone on DND. Work on the task for 25 minutes and then review how much progress you made. Write on your list how much of the task is completed, or cross it off completely. Take a maximum 5 minute break, then come back and repeat the task. After four sessions, take a longer break, check your emails and phone messages.
Do the worst task first
Remember as kids when mum gave you a plate with sausages, crispy potatoes and broccoli? Most of us ate the broccoli first just to get it over and done with. It's the same with tasks. Review what it is you need to do and rank them in order of what you feel the most resistance doing – and do that task first. The sense of achievement when this is completed will spur your on to getting the rest done, rather than plodding along with a sense of dread! You'll also enjoy your work more, which in itself makes you more motivated to get your tasks done efficiently.
Win the paper war
Paperwork is the bane of many an existence, but it needn't be if you keep on top of it from the beginning.
Sort your In-Tray twice a day
Have a specified In-Tray for all your paperwork. Review it at the beginning of every day, filing what needs to be filed and flagging what needs to be addressed immediately. Review again after lunch, for anything urgent that may have been dropped off. Make sure your colleagues are aware that anything put in the tray after a certain time will not be addressed unless they flag it with you.
Something not urgent? Have a toaster file rack on your desk with 3 manila folders – 'Today' – 'This Week' – 'Next Week' and file tasks appropriately. Review first thing every morning and move items appropriately. Not only does it get the paper off your desk, but it provides a clear sense of what you need to do and when.
If it's not relevant to you – either give it back to the person who gave it to you or bin it.
Keep two lists
We've already discussed making a list of what is required of you each day. It's a great way to show you want needs to be done without constantly checking. But you also need to keep on track with your larger goals. Keep a whiteboard or type it up and tape it close to your desk with five of six topics relating to your long term goals and 'bigger' picture in view. These will allow you to stay on track and get there faster!