8 Ways To Save 10 Minutes (or more)
What follows are a handful of the best tips I could find about how to take better control of your time.
Not all of these will be applicable to your particular situation or appealing to you. But, any one of these tips has the potential to free up at least 10 minutes of your day, and in some cases much more!
1. Remove distractions.
According to USA Today, an average of 180 distractions come at you every day. I mean, how many times a day do you hear, “Hey, do you have a minute?”
Even though we are all guilty of it, multi-tasking is really not the best way to go about things. Multi-tasking generally causes us to slow down and increases the chances of making mistakes (that then take additional time to correct). Our brains simply can’t focus completely on more than one thing at a time.
A few common distractors to consider getting rid of, or limiting your use of:
- The new e-mail ding or alert: turn it off for 5 days and see if it helps
- Checking email throughout the day
- Internet and mobile phone
- Task and Calendar pop-up alarms
Time defense tactics that can help you control distractions:
- Get lost. From time to time, when you want to make sure you accomplish something important, become inaccessible. The sky will not fall.
- Don’t answer the phone. You are not obligated to answer every call from every person all the time.
- Set an end time for your conversations. “I have a conference call in 15 minutes… “
- Be clear in communicating to others when you are busy with something.
2. Block your time.
If you look around carefully, you’ll see that most people just sort of show up. They arrive at the office and react. They may have some things on a “loose” to-do list, but if you press them for their day’s plan, you’ll find they may have only one or two scheduled activities. All the unscheduled time somehow gets used up, but if you again press them at the end of the day, or better yet, at the end of the week, they cannot tell you where it went. Do you feel that way as well sometimes? I know I do! It’s so easy to confuse activity with accomplishment!
The solution is to know what your goals are and make sure you have blocks of time built into your schedule that are strictly devoted to the accomplishment of those goals. Getting our time under control is dependent on the degree to which we discontinue lower-value activities. The only way to do this is to prioritize our to-do list and tackle the most important things first.
Also, the more you can block your appointments together, block administrative tasks together, time to answer email and return calls, etc.., the better.
3. Consolidate messages.
If you have more than one phone number or email address, forward your calls to one central voice mail box and your email to one central in-box.
4. Use voice transcript services.
Did you know that there are services that will transcribe voicemail into email? This is so useful for those times when you think of something you want to remember, but can’t write it down just then. Leave yourself a voice mail, then when you get to your desk and have the transcribed email, move it into your task list.
5. Find and maximize lost time.
Have you ever had to wait for someone who is running late? Have you ever had meetings that don’t start on time? Have you ever been sitting in traffic?
As they say in Washington, a billion here and a billion there, pretty soon you’re spending real money! J Well, 5 minutes here and ten minutes there and pretty soon you’re wasting hours.
Ways to fill lost time:
- Make phone calls to confirm appointments or return voice mail messages.
- Write thank you cards (carry them with you, already stamped).
- Catch up on your reading. Keep a book with you or create a “to read” file and tear out magazine articles you want to read and put them in it. Throw away all the articles at the end of the month that you haven’t read. If you do a lot of reading on your phone or computer, use a “read later” app.
- Listen to audio recordings/ books.
- Keep handy a notepad and pen (or use your phone) and use the time to brainstorm an idea, make a list, or organize your thoughts on a particular issue.
- Keep mental puzzles and exercises with you.
6. Take the time to really learn how to use your technology.
The up-front investment of time it takes to learn the ins and outs of the technology we use every day can really pay off in the long term. Most of us have time-saving technology right under our noses, we just don’t know how to use it. Most of us also spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to do something (on our phone, within a software program) because we haven’t taken the time up front to master the tool.
7. Process and organize your email.
You can do this in a number of ways. The main point is to make it faster and easier to deal with all those messages. Think of your email in-box as an information processing station. The goal is not to get to zero in your in-box, it’s to stop re-reading the email you’ve already read and stop searching for emails after you’ve read them.
- When you read an email – do something with it.
- Separate “action items” from “reference items” in your email box.
- When you read an email, you can change the subject line to something that will clue you in about what to do with the information.
- Move the information in the email to a place where it will be more accessible to you when you need it – your calendar, address book, notes, etc.
- If an email is actionable, either take care of it right away or add it to your task list.
8. Debrief it all.
Creating a brief, weekly review process for yourself can be immensely helpful and save you from spending time on non-essential tasks. Create a working list of everything you’re trying to accomplish that week. Then ask yourself these 3 questions about each item.
- Where am I?
- Where did I say I would be by now?
- What do I need to do in the next week to continue my momentum?
I recommend conducting this little inventory on Thursday morning so that if you realize there is something that must be completed by the end of the week, you still have time to get it done.
Did you get at least one thing that might save you 15 minutes a day? What else would you add to this list? Leave us a comment with your answer!