5 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. 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 shiver at the sight of your unfinished to-do list. Unfortunately, there’s no way to add additional hours into your workday (although, that’d be nice, right?) However, 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’ll see an uptick in your productivity.
1. Set an Automatic Email Reply
This much you already know—clawing out of your inbox can take time. One survey indicates American workers spend a whopping 6.3 hours each day checking messages. Think of how much work you could finish 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 sets an out-of-office message setup daily reading:
I am currently checking email before 9 am and after 5 pm 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. Therefore, he doesn’t need to go through his workday feeling tied to his inbox.
Since implementing an automatic reply, Patterson 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. Social media and online shopping act as some of the most common reasons why.
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 that you don’t have enough usable time.
Some days, all your working hours are tied up with meetings. These meetings may include phone calls, emergencies, interviews, and brainstorming sessions—the list goes on. In fact, employees spend anywhere from 30-50% of their time in these sitdowns. Time you could’ve dedicated to working is used up. Consider scheduling some “untouchable” time for yourself. Block out a few hours here and there on your schedule. Use the blocked-off schedule to focus. Similarly, during this time, close 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. However, 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 time typing the same email 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, 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. Next, auto-fill the body of that message and add in any necessary customizations or details.
They’re incredibly easy to set up (here are instructions for Gmail and for Outlook) and can save you some much-needed time and effort on your repetitive tasks.
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!). Then, 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. However, before we know it, we’re mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. Or, we’re caught up in the latest viral YouTube video. Sometimes, we’re online shopping for a last-minute gift. All of that happens while our to-do lists remain totally unattended.
5. Re-Organize Yourself
Are you ready for another scary statistic? 19.8% of working time is wasted searching for information we need to do our jobs.
Some examples include: searching your inbox for a specific message or sorting through files for a recently used spreadsheet. Or, that one address you need every week remains buried in your folders and files. It might take some time in the beginning, but once you reorganize your workspace, you won’t regret it. Soon, you’ll easily access what you need, when you need it, which can have a huge impact on your workday.
Create yourself a cheat sheet (and keep it on your computer desktop) with information or copy-and-paste phrases you frequently need. Similarly, you can make a folder and label it something like “Important Stuff.” Here, you can keep all those documents and attachments needed. Simply put: keep the items you often need within arm’s reach and you’ll save yourself time each day!
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!