Tips for Work
Most of us spend the most of our time at work, so its just sensible to start there. If you have a to-do list that’s a mile long — or worse yet, no to-do list at all — here’s what you can do:
Do less. Simplify your schedule by doing fewer things but focusing on the important things is a great way to get more done. This will greatly increase the impact of the time you do work, decreasing the time you need to work. What about the tasks you don’t do? See the tips below for more on dealing with them.
Delegate. If you need a job done but is not one of your most important tasks, and it can be done at least 75% as good as what you could do by someone else, delegate it. You can often get rid of almost half your to-do list by finding others who can do the task just as well or even better than you can.
Put a limit your workday (or adjust your hours). If you work more than 8 hours a day, by setting a limit of 8 hours you’ll force yourself to focus on getting the must-do tasks done within that limit. If you work 8 hours a day, try limiting yourself to 6 hours. You’ll find that you’ll prioritize, work more efficiently, and waste less time, so that you can get the work done within that time frame.
Get the important stuff done early. Pick the top 2-3 things you need or want to accomplish today, and get those done first. While on other days you might push these important things back (and possibly not get them done at all), if you do them first the rest of your day will be gravy. In fact, if you have the freedom, you can sometimes even call it a day after you get the important stuff done — the rest can wait until tomorrow.
Ask your boss to re-prioritize for you. If you don’t have control over your schedule or to-do list, talk to your boss. Tell them you are trying to be more effective with your time, and you only have time for X number of things today (say, 3-4 things). Tell them if you try to do everything today you’ll be less effective and may not get as many things done or do as good a job. This prioritizing is essentially what you’d do yourself (see the first tip) if you had the freedom.
Batch tasks. Instead of interspersing your work day with small tasks all mixed together, try to group similar tasks and do them at once. For example, instead of responding to emails throughout the day, batch them and do all your emails once (or twice) a day. I check my emails often but batch responses so I can continue doing more important tasks now, and reply to emails later.
Focus on one project and get it done. Instead of juggling a large number of projects, set aside a block of time to do one project until completion. This can mean setting aside half a day or a day to work on a project, and I try to complete it if at all possible. Often this means getting all the resources and information you need beforehand, so you don’t have to look for it or wait on it when you’re ready to actually work on the project.
Avoid long conversations at work. We’ve all had long conversations with co-workers that were very unproductive — often not related to work or anything important. While I like conversing with other human beings as much as the next girl — it’s important to maintain good relationships and friendships — at the same time you could be spending that time doing other, more important, things. Try to stay focused on work rather than having lots of long conversations.
Learn to say no. This is crucial if you want to have a simplified schedule. We all receive numerous requests each day, and all of them are demands on our time. If we say “yes” to those requests, we are giving up our time and committing to doing something for someone else. But if those requests aren’t in line with our priorities, then we are usually biting off more than we want to chew. So learn to say “no” instead. Often this is uncomfortable, because we fear it means disappointing others. But learn to tell people that you just don’t have the time to commit to this right now, and often they’ll understand.
Tips for Home
Keep things clutter-free. I’m a big fan of clutter-free homes and workspaces, not only because they look nicer but because 1) it helps you to focus on what you’re doing instead of being distracted by visual clutter; 2) it’s more relaxing; and 3) it saves time – lots of time. How does it save time? It makes things easier to find, easier to clean, easier to navigate, and reduces wasted time reshuffling, sorting, looking through, and clearing away piles of clutter.
Keep things in their place. Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place. You can have an uncluttered home but not know where anything belongs. Make this a key habit in your life — when you’re done with something, put it back where it belongs. It takes a few seconds to do that, and saves time cleaning up later, looking for things (how many times have you lost something and searched long and hard for it?), and generally keeps things neater and uncluttered.
Teach kids to clean up after themselves. If you’re a parent, you know that keeping an uncluttered household isn’t easy when you have little rugrats running around making a mess every minute of the live-long day. A good way to help this is to start your kids, from an early age, with the habit of cleaning up after themselves when they’re done playing.
Prep the night before. Whether you’re single or have a household full of kids, mornings might be a rush for you. Instead, create an evening routine where you get everything ready the night before, so you can start your day off right. Get your clothes for the morning ready, any lunches packed that need to be packed, get your gym bag ready, clean the kitchen so its ready for breakfast etc. Anything you can do to make your morning more organised and run smoother, do it.
Don’t watch too much TV. TV can be a big time-hole. Instead, limit your TV viewing time to one of your favourite shows a day, or a specific time limit. You will be amazed at how much time you can save by just turning off that TV.
Plan your weekly menu. If you plan out what you’re going to have for dinner (and even lunch) each day of the week, you can save a lot of time. First, you can go grocery shopping and get everything you need all at once (or have it delivered – thanks coles online). Second, you can prepare food ahead of time, and pack your lunch easily for work. Third, you don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner each evening, it’s right there on the menu you posted on the fridge.
Do all your errands at once. This is the same as the “batching” tip from the work section above. Write your errands on an errands list throughout the week, I like to group them by location or store so I’m not having to go back to the same place because I forgot something on the bottom of the list. Plan your route so you do the least amount of driving possible, all in one day, and get it all done quickly. Compared to running multiple errand trips, this method saves a lot of time.
Do your banking online, all at once. I like to do this once every week or so. I have all my bills ready to pay, I pay the bills, check my automatic savings transfers all online. No more worrying if the bank is open.
Get a babysitter or swap babysitting. If you are a parent and don’t have time to do things, hire a babysitter so you can find the time, or swap babysitting with another parent. Swap baby sitting is a cheap way to have more time to do things, and your kids get to play together.
Consider hiring someone. Sometimes it makes more sense to hire someone to do something, especially if your time is worth more money than you’re paying that person. For example, if I had a large yard that would take me five hours to maintain, it makes more sense for me to pay someone as I can earn more during those 5 hours by working. Other things you might pay someone for: other home maintenance projects, washing your car, doing errands or laundry, doing your taxes … just about anything where doing it yourself isn’t cost-effective. Teenagers are good for this too – if they want some money to go out they can help out around the house for it.