Mike and Raymond worked as copywriters at the same Chicago-based media company, teaming up on the same projects, and reporting to the same supervisor. Mike worked 40 to 45 hours per week. Raymond worked about 55 hours a week.
One day a senior executive complained that Mike always seemed to be leaving work early. Mike’s supervisor came to his defense, saying he got as much work done in 40 hours as any of the other copywriters, including Raymond.
How did Mike do it?
Here are some tips on how you can use your time more wisely, so you can work faster, smarter, and better—and impress everyone around you:
Put in your eight hours a day. Are you working hard or hardly working? Too many employees today are hardly working. The average worker privately admits to working only five hours a day, wasting time on the Internet, socializing with co-workers, and “spacing out.”
Why aren’t they giving their employers eight hours a day? About one out of four feel underpaid. One out of three say they don’t have enough work to do. About one out of five blame co-workers for distracting them. Imagine how much more efficient we would be if we actually worked eight hours a day.
Take breaks. Work the eight hours you’re getting paid to work, but make sure you take a short break in the morning, and another in the afternoon. These breaks—even if you’re just stretching your legs or grabbing some coffee in the lunch room—help relieve stress and sluggishness, and make you more productive by giving you an energy boost.
Don’t try to multitask. It’s a waste of time because virtually no one can do it well (even though lots of us think we can). When you’re trying to do more than one thing at a time, one task is always distracting you from the other one, so you end up doing a bad job of both. Once you realize this, you have to start all over—one task at a time.
Set priorities. Before you leave work for the day, make a list of all the things you must get done the next day, and make a second list of the things you’d like to get done. When you come to work in the morning, start on the first list. After you’ve checked off everything on your first list, start on your second list if you have enough time.
Twenty-four hours of sunlight while working in the far North? On a planet with two suns? You can still be wasting time. Flickr/Andreas Schreyer
Figure out the best way to communicate. Email can be a very time-efficient way to communicate, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the best way. Do you need an answer right away? Make a phone call or knock on an office door. Waiting around for someone to reply to an email can be a huge time waster, not to mention that it can really stress you out. Plus, if you’re talking with someone in person, you don’t have to worry about having your tone misconstrued.
Organize. Know where you can find everything you need to get your work done—whether it’s on your desk, in a filing cabinet, or in your computer. That doesn’t mean you have to be a neat freak. You can be a slob, but you need to know where everything is if you want to use your time wisely.
Don’t procrastinate. The workplace isn’t high school or college. You probably can’t get away with waiting until the last minute to do a project. More likely, your boss will review your work and know that you procrastinated, and you very well may have to redo it. Talk about a time waster. One of the worst things about procrastination is that it not only hurts you, but it also might hurt your entire work team.
Use technology to your advantage. Can you use videoconferencing or Skype to meet with colleagues or clients in another city? Do you have a smart phone or laptop that will let you work when you’re not at your desk? Can you attend a webinar rather than travel to an out-of-town conference? Take advantage of all the wonderful ways that technology can save you time.
These tips are all so simple that you might be thinking, “these are nothing but common sense.” You’re right. They are common sense. So why don’t you follow them?