Surveys conducted throughout the United States have found that the average employee admits to wasting approximately two hours out of every eight-hour work day. This does not include lunch and other scheduled breaks.
If you find that you don’t have enough time to get your work done, it may be because you’re wasting more time than you realize.
Reclaim Some Scheduled Time
Look over your calendar for the past year to find meetings, conferences, committees and other work obligations that took a large chunk of your working hours. In the future, ask your boss whether it’s really important for you to attend each one. See if someone else can attend in your place. If your job requires you to attend, think of ways you can multitask while you are there.
Limit the Amount of Time You Spend on Email
This can be tough, since so much of our work-related communication now comes through email. But some workers report spending over an hour each morning just dealing with the contents in the inbox. Each time an employee is distracted by an email, reads it and returns to the task at hand, approximately five minutes is wasted. Here are seven tips:
- Unsubscribe from newsletters and other communications that are irrelevant to your job or that you no longer read.
- Raise the screening level of your email spam filter to keep more email out.
- Send less and reply less to receive less email.
- Turn off audible and visual new mail alerts unless your primary job is monitoring email.
- Check your email at regularly scheduled times during the day to handle new messages, instead of dealing with each message as soon as it trickles in.
- Or, change the interval at which new emails appear in your inbox. Increasing it from every five minutes to every thirty minutes could save you up to eighty work interruptions each day.
- Deal with, delegate or delete each email as it comes in. Keep stored emails filed and organized so you don’t waste time later trying to retrieve them.
Schedule Meetings With a Start and Stop Time
Create a timeframe that is realistic for the amount of material you need to cover. Stick to the agenda to ensure that the material is covered during the allotted time, and adjust your schedule if actual time needed varies from your original time estimate.
Limit Your Chat Time With Co-workers
Sure, you want to be friendly with your colleagues, but sometimes they can keep you from your duties for too long. When approached by chatty co-workers, say that you have “X” amount of minutes, then must get back to work. You can always suggest getting together at lunch, on a break or after work to finish the conversation. And refrain from getting involved in office gossip or rumors that focus your attention on an issue that has nothing to do with work.
Make an Honest List of Personal Activities
Most of us do spend work hours on personal activities, and may not even realize it because they are now habit. Eliminate these, and you may be surprised at the amount of free time you find:
- Surfing the Internet for personal use.
- Playing computer games.
- Making personal phone calls.
- Conducting personal business.
- Running personal errands off work premises.
Give Yourself Time for Transitions
Many people routinely waste 15 to 30 minutes at both ends of the work day mentally and physically preparing for the work/home transition. If you get to work even 10 minutes early, you can begin your actual work on time. Continue working until the end of the work day, and then give yourself time to get ready to go home. And if you can, use your commute time for mental preparation. On the way to work, visualize yourself starting your day, go over your calendar and get yourself ready. On your way home, focus on letting your work day go and think about your home time and evening plans.
Strengthen Your Time Management Skills
- Keep your work schedule organized using a calendar, appointment book, smartphone app or whatever helps you work most efficiently.
- Prioritize your jobs to make sure the most important work gets done every day.
- Eliminate those jobs or tasks that you find yourself repeatedly moving to the bottom of the list because they are trivial, meaningless or unnecessary. Decide if they no longer need to be done or delegate them to someone else.
- Avoid being a perfectionist. Perfectionism and extreme attention to detail can waste a lot of unnecessary time on simple tasks.
- Tackle procrastination by breaking large jobs into smaller, manageable steps. Schedule time each day to accomplish a step or two until you complete the job.