5 Actionable Strategies to Get
More Hours in Your Workday
There are never enough hours in the day. It’s a common complaint amongst professionals who are eager to make their workday as productive as possible.
Yes, it can often feel like time is working against you. You glance at the clock, realize you only have an hour left in the office, and then almost burst into tears and a cold sweat at the sight of your to-do list that still remains nearly untouched.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to add additional hours into your workday (although, that’d be nice, right?). But, there are a few things you can do to better maximize the time you do have.
Use these five strategies to make the most of your working hours, and you’re sure to notice an uptick in your productivity.
1. Set an Automatic Email Reply
This much you already know: You waste tons of your working time on email. One survey indicates that American workers spend a whopping 6.3 hours each day checking in on messages. Think of how much real, productive work you could get done in that amount of time!
So, how can you combat this compulsion to constantly pop into your inbox? Set an automatic reply indicating when you’ll check your messages next.
Tom Patterson, the founder of Tommy John—a men’s clothing company—uses this very tactic. He has an out-of-office message setup daily that says this:
I am currently checking email before 9am and after 5pm EST so there will be a delayed response. If this is urgent please call or text.
This tactic not only sets specific times when he allows himself to read and respond to emails (which helps him resist having email consume his day), but it also sets an expectation with his colleagues and contacts—meaning he doesn’t need to go through his workday feeling tied to his inbox.
Patterson has experienced great results. So, it might be worth trying for yourself—even if you just do it one day each week!
Rest assured, you aren’t the only one to fall prey to distractions. One third of employees report being distracted for up to three hours each and every day—with social media and online shopping being some of the most commonly cited culprits.
Installing a browser blocker (try StayFocusd if you’re eager to test this out!) can help you counteract your addiction to numerous useless browser tabs. Using the extension, you can set certain limits for the amount of time you’re allowed to access your frequently-visited time-wasting sites.
When you’ve used up whatever time you’ve allowed yourself? StayFocusd will restrict you from visiting them—providing a brutal reminder that it’s time to turn your attention to your real work.
2. Schedule Some “Untouchable” Time
Often, the problem isn’t that you don’t have enough time in your workday—it’s just that you don’t have enough usable time.
All of your working hours are tied up with meetings (employees spend anywhere from 30-50% of their time in these sitdowns!), phone calls, emergencies, interviews, brainstorming sessions—the list goes on and on. Any time you could’ve dedicated to your actual work is all used up.
While this sort of tactic isn’t necessarily realistic on a daily basis, consider scheduling some “untouchable” time for yourself. Block out a few hours here and there on your schedule where you can close out your inbox, silence your phone, stay out of meetings, and zone in on the projects you need to make progress on.
You might not think a few solid hours scattered throughout your week would make much of a difference. But, you’ll likely be amazed at just how large of an impact that uninterrupted time can have on your productivity.
3. Use Canned Responses
Do you feel like you spend a lot of your time typing the same email over and over again? Perhaps it’s a standard response to a client or an invitation for a candidate to interview.
Rather than wasting precious moments re-creating that email time and time again, use canned responses for your commonly-used messages. That way, when you need to send that email, you can select the response from your list, auto-fill the body of that message, and then add in any necessary customizations or details.
While you’re at it, if you find yourself consistently creating the same report or document, save your formatting and the bare bones as a “Quick Style” in Microsoft Word (here are the instructions!). That way, when it’s time for you to create that material, you can have the foundation and formatting all in place already!
4. Install a Browser Blocker
We all start our workday with the best intentions. We’re going to crank through our to-do lists at record speed—and maybe even get a jump start on tomorrow’s work. But, before we know it, we’re mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. We’re caught up in the latest viral YouTube video. We’re online shopping for that baby shower gift we need to purchase. All of that happens while our to-do lists remain totally unattended to.
5. Re-Organize Yourself
Are you ready for another scary statistic? 19.8% of working time—that’s the equivalent of one working day each week—is wasted by employees searching for the information that they need to do their jobs.
You spend five minutes trying to find that email in your overcrowded inbox. You sort through all of your computer files to find that same spreadsheet over and over again. For one reason or another, that address you need each and every week continuously remains buried in your folders and files.
While it’ll take a little bit of time upfront, reorganizing yourself to make the things you need easily accessible can have a huge impact on your workday.
Create yourself a cheat sheet (and keep it on your computer desktop!) with the information and copy-and-paste phrases you frequently find yourself needing. Or, make a folder—label it “Important Stuff” if you have to—where you can keep all of those documents and attachments you find yourself searching all over for.
Put simply, keeping the things you often need within arm’s reach will save you more time than you’d originally think!
Over to You
Feeling short on time is a common frustration. But, fortunately, there are some things you can do—including the five shared here—that will help you best leverage whatever time you do have. Put them to work, and prepare to tackle that daunting to-do list!