It’s a pattern with which most full-time professionals are familiar–you’re spending increasing amounts of time at your desk, but it feels like you’re getting less done. The hours stretch on, the to-do list grows, and you find yourself facing a future where you might let go of your apartment and just start keeping a toothbrush and slippers in your desk. Otherwise you’ll never get it all done—right?
It’s an understandable assumption. Most people feel they have too much to do at work, and the time-space continuum did not change when people started using organizational buzzwords like “multi-tasking.”
Does this mean that starting Monday morning you’ll be a fully-optimized task wizard who never sees another 6:30 p.m. in your cubicle? Probably not. But whatever your title, industry, or rank within an organization, a few conscious decisions about how you spend your time can mean not just shorter hours at the office, but better ones.
Why not start by figuring out what you’re actually doing with all of your time? It will probably surprise you.
The additional challenge of figuring out what you do all day? Morgenstern warns that time spent on modes of communication–responding to email, listening to voicemails, marathon meetings–doesn’t count. You’re only really productive when you’re engaged in the true content of your job description.
See what tasks make the short list–and eliminate the rest.
One of the biggest mistakes people make at work is putting absolutely everything–big and small, essential and inconsequential–on the to-do list. Approach that potential client! Order wraps for the reception! Label those hanging folders!
Alarm clocks aren’t just for waking up in the morning.
Don’t underestimate the power of one of the simplest tools on your smartphone–the alarm. Morgenstern says being time conscious can help you target and overcome all manner of personal foibles, from being easily distracted to not knowing when to call a task complete.
Which brings us to…
Isn’t it time you broke up with email?
When was the last time you thought, “I just wish I had more email in my life?” (Probably back when you had a handle that included the name of your favorite athlete from childhood.)
It’s not you. It’s email. Shut it down.
Plan your workdays three days in advance–including when you’ll go home.
Banking on having the time to plan your day as it’s starting is a bad idea–at that point you’re already in the trenches with the tasks flying fast.
Instead, save some time towards the end of the day to plan for tomorrow and the two following days. It will not only keep you on track during the day, you’ll have a better understanding of your workload and whether you’re in a position to step up to an additional challenge, or focus on what’s already on the docket.
When all else fails?
If you’re committed to leaving work at a certain time, and a late-afternoon task arises that requires your attention but isn’t a matter of corporate life or death, you need to assess and attack within the time you have remaining–not simply commit to an evening spent in the office.
Everyone wants to be known for going that extra mile–but learning to identify when that’s truly necessary is critical. Especially because…
The best thing you can do for your life at the office is to build a dynamic life outside of it.
Whatever your work/life preferences, it’s a point on which almost everyone is in agreement: The people who are the most creative and efficient in their careers prioritize time away from the office.
“Work expands to fill the available space,” says Vanderkam, “so treat the end of the workday as something that matters.
Edited from an article in Forbes by Kathryn Dill. Full Article: