One UK-based study in 2015 found that administrative tasks cost small firms 28 hours a week, accounting for a £5bn annual shortfall to the UK economy. As such, here are some time management tips.
(1) Kick the chair habit
We’ve found that just by standing up we can compress a meeting into half the time. If you don’t sit down and get comfortable, no one feels the need to extend the meeting to make it “worth it”. Say your bit, then disperse – no hanging around.
The health benefits of standing are now widely accepted, and “they” say sitting is the new smoking. A BBC and University of Chester study discovered that standing to work for three to four hours a day burns the same amount of calories in one year as running ten marathons. Of course, this also means you don’t need to run any marathons, so consider that a bonus time saver.
(2) Ignore your mobile and inbox
Controversial this time management tip, but one of the biggest ways I’ve boosted my productivity is by ignoring my mobile and inbox for most of the day. For years I dropped everything to answer my phone and practically lived by my inbox. It almost became a game to see how quickly I could get back to people who emailed me and I took pride in my rapid responses.
The problem was I’d get to the end of a day having achieved nothing towards my business goals because all my time had effectively disappeared, eaten up by assisting other people. And because people knew I’d reply straight away, I’d get more and more emails. It was self-perpetuating. So these days I only answer my phone if it’s a pre-arranged call. All others are screened by voicemail and, if I need to call back, I do so when I have otherwise dead time, like when I’m driving.
Other than keeping an eye out for urgent messages, I work through my email inbox once every couple of days. That way I can continue to work with focus and free of distractions.
(3) Down with admin
If you’re booking your own train and plane tickets, ordering stationery, chasing late payments and restocking the office kitchen, then you’re not successfully wielding time management. You have three options: delegate internally, outsource to a virtual assistant or automate these tasks.
Cloud-based accounting software will send clients polite automated reminders to hurry up and pay up, while shopping sites like Amazon and Ocado can be set to automatically re-order office shopping lists periodically.
(4) Don’t read the news
Unless you’re a reporter, or you’re in communications, reading the news is a huge obstacle in a
time efficient and productive working day. Moreover, we then carry around fear and anxiety from reading the latest nuclear threats coming from North Korea or Trump’s latest tweet.
It’s something many of us do because social media platforms, and notifications, are designed to keep you hooked on checking rolling content all day, every day. To disconnect, you have to make the decision to do so. Turn those notifications off and make news harder to access.
(5) Live by your calendar
This is key when it comes to time management. An unstructured day can waste hours of time. By using your calendar as a to do list and scheduling your day you’ll find it much easier to be productive.
This should include time for reading and responding to emails, calls, travel, dealing with unplanned things that crop up and of course the main objective you want to achieve that day. Set just one main task per day because, if your list of jobs is too long, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.
Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder of UK and US virtual assistant platform Time Etc
Every employee, regardless of their position, is guilty of being a time waster at some point or other, but when does this behaviour stop being a harmless quirk and start getting in the way of productivity and positive results?
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