I’ve worked long enough to know that the “pile system” doesn’t work, procrastination leads to disaster, and being reactive increases stress. Through trial and error, I found five ways to save time and increase productivity.
1. Evaluate Your Work Space: Is your work space a traditional desk and computer set up? An “L” shaped cubicle? A “U” shaped cubicle? How much workable space do you have, (i.e. desk area, filing cabinets, drawers, shelves). Is there room for bins and organizers for easy access to every day items?
2. Your Natural Work Flow: Once you have evaluated your work space the next step is to discover your natural work flow. A work flow is how you work, how you function. Are you left hand dominate? Right hand dominate? Or ambidextrous? When sitting at your work station do you naturally work from right to left or left to right? The answers to these questions will set the foundational method to organize your desk.
For example, I have a “U” shaped work station and naturally work from right to left. Which means that all new/in process assignments are kept to the right side of my computer, prioritized by client and deadline. Once an assignment is complete it goes to the left side of my desk to be placed in the proper file. Simply stated, the right side is for “incoming” assignments. The left side is for “outgoing” assignments.
3. Organize: As I mentioned, my assignments are prioritized by client and deadlines. If you work for more than one person, you many organize your work by boss, client and/or deadline. If you don’t know how to organize your work for optimal efficiency, break it down as I have suggested and keep tweaking your system until it works for you.
4. Use the Technology: Technology is a great time saver. It’s designed to make our jobs easier and make us more efficient. Some of my favorite tools that I use almost daily are:
- Auto Correct; I use auto correct for words I frequently misspell/type and short cuts for words that I frequently use. For example, I frequently use the “work”, I set my auto correct to automatically type “work” when I key in “wk” (without the quotation marks.) I also have it set for other tenses, i.e. “wk = work” “wkd = worked” and “wkg = working”. By using this function, I reduce the amount of key strokes normally used, save time when spell checking, and ultimately increase productivity.
- Building Blocks/Forms: Forms are a great time saver. The only problem I have with forms is trying to remember where I saved them! Recently I began using a function called Building Blocks. This function makes finding my forms faster. Instead of clicking through multiple subfiles, Building Blocks is located on my toolbar. All my forms in one location and easy to find. What a time saver!
- Mail Merge: I use mail merge when I have identical letters to send to different companies. By using this function, I prepare the letter once, choose the recipients once, print once, and save once. This reduces the preparation time significantly.
- Calendar: We all have electronic calendars at work that we either use for ourselves or for the person we work for. Using a calendar is straight forward, choose the date and time, make an entry and save. But I take it one step further. Because I work for more than one person and I keep their deadlines/meetings on my calendar as well as my deadlines, I use a specific color for each person which makes it easier to find a specific assignment. This helps me to stay organized and know what I am responsible for throughout the week and ultimately the year. Also, when I receive an email with a new assignment, I immediately move the email to a calendar item and code it. This ensures the assignment is visible and will not be missed.
5. Time Management: Managing time is a discipline. We can be organized and use all the technology available to us, but if our time is not properly managed a task will take longer than it should. Some companies have standard guidelines in place regarding its expectations for completing assignments, i.e. 24 hours. However, it is the responsibility of the individual to manage her time to ensure the it is completed within the that time frame. This requires the ability to manage our time. As much as possible we should avoid the “water cooler talk”, playing on the Internet, texting, and personal calls. These can all be big time wasters, which rob us of the time we have to complete an assignment and can cause unnecessary stress, something none of us need.
God created time. He separated the day from the night and the hours into days, giving everyone the same amount to accomplish our tasks. It is our choice to work wisely or to waste time.