Most people have a collection of routine tasks they perform at work each day, and some may be done only out of habit. If you’d like to become more productive, consider eliminating some of these time-consuming activities. Start by documenting what your typical workday looks like. Then review the results and eliminate anything that isn’t actually necessary.
For the things that remain, here are five ways to minimize the impact they have on your day.
Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to collaborate with co-workers. If your company has an instant messaging system, for example, try using that instead of walking across the office to ask someone a question. Using the group chat feature, you can stay in touch with your team and even replace some of your face-to-face meetings that may take more time than necessary. Document sharing allows you to update information in real-time, rather than in a two-step process involving double entry or data import.
If there are repetitive tasks that you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, templates can really speed up the process. Rather than starting from scratch each time, create a spreadsheet or document that contains the information that doesn’t change. Once it’s set up, you can copy the template and fill in the rest of the data. For example, general ledger journal entries are typically made each month to record depreciation or amortization expenses. Most accounting software packages allow you to create templates for these, so you don’t have to recreate the entries each time; just change the transaction date.
You may be performing some manual processes that could be automated. Are you manually entering data that could easily be imported from another source instead? There may be recurring emails you can automate, such as timesheet reminders that are sent out every week. Setting incoming email rules can even filter messages into separate folders so you can tell which ones you need to address immediately, such as emails from your boss, and the ones you can read later. Things like these can impact your productivity over time.
If you are in a management position, look at the items on your to-do list, and consider whether doing them yourself is the best use of your time. By delegating some of these things to others, you will not only save time, but you might save your company some money in the process and help someone else develop a new skill.
If you have routine tasks that you can’t ditch or delegate, try to consolidate them into blocks of time so they don’t break up your workflow. If, for example, you are the person in your company who signs things like invoices or checks, ask to have them brought to you in batches rather than interrupting you to sign them several times a day. There may be other tasks that can be consolidated as well. For example, a morning staff briefing may eliminate a lot of interruptions throughout the day.
For managers, an open-door policy suggests that you are available to staff at all times. The problem with this is that you are constantly being interrupted with matters that may not be urgent, and as a result, your productivity is reduced. When facing multiple deadlines or working on something that requires your undivided attention, consider blocking out some quiet time. Close your office door if you have one, and let your staff know that unless it is an emergency, you’d like some time to focus without interruption.
If you document and analyze your daily routine, you may find that some of your activities could be eliminated. Identify any time-consuming manual tasks that could be automated to get them done more quickly. Take advantage of the available technology to collaborate with co-workers and create templates to speed up repetitive processes. Delegate routine tasks when possible, and give someone else a chance to learn a new skill. And finally, make sure that your open-door policy isn’t reducing your productivity by blocking out some uninterrupted time when you need it.