Part of Avery Blank's series of Forbes articles.
Many people feel they never have enough hours in the day to successfully complete what they hope to accomplish, whether it is because they have too much on their plate or feel they are always responding to others. Take control over your schedule, and give yourself the time you need to be effective. Here are six ways successful people carve out more time at work:
1. Simplify a few tasks to make room for more time for important things.
Making multiple decisions takes time. Where possible, simplify your work. Successful people identify work that can be automated or trimmed to make more time for others things. Are you able to first create a template letter to use for multiple, similar letters? If you are using a spreadsheet, see where you can use formulas to avoid redundant computations.
2. Block time on their schedule.
Your schedule shouldn’t be full of just meetings with other people. Your schedule is your schedule. Successful people own their schedule. Take advantage of it, and block time for “me time.” Block a couple of hours on an afternoon to give you the flexibility and freedom to do what you need or want to accomplish that day.
3. Avoid attending unnecessary meetings.
Most professionals believe meetings are unproductive, believing that 67% of meetings don’t live up to expectations. Middle managers spend 35% of their time in meetings. Upper management spends 50% of their time in meetings, and people spend around four hours each week preparing for status update meetings.
Either don’t schedule meetings, go to fewer meetings or make it your job to make meetings more efficient and shorter. Ask yourself, “Is it necessary that I attend?” If you do not know, ask the meeting organizer what your role is for the meeting. If you feel like you don’t need to be at the meeting, respectfully let your colleague know of a competing priority or another way you can support them.
If you feel you must attend a meeting, think about what you can do to make sure the meeting is focused. Can you develop or help with writing an agenda, gathering materials in advance, being the timekeeper or identifying action items to complete afterwards?
Successful people schedule or attend meetings to get things done, not to make an appearance.
4. Communicate in-person, rather than via e-mail, with colleagues.
A study by Adobe Systems revealed that the average worker spends over six hours a day (30 hours a week) checking email. The act of checking whether you have email takes time, as well as the back and forth that happens when you focus on one thing at a time or are trying to clarify something.
Where possible, be efficient and speak with people in the flesh. Ask all your questions, and hammer out the details in one sitting. Successful people avoid time-wasters and know when to cut out the middleman (the Internet) and go straight to the source.
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If you are a manager, consider handing off some work to a direct report. Successful people are not micro-managers and allow others to take responsibility. They know they don’t have to do everything.
If you do not have people reporting to you, you still might be able to share the workload and free up some of your time to focus on other things. In thinking about who you might ask for support, consider whether you would be willing to help them if they come to you in the future.
6. Prioritize work projects.
Successful people know that not everything is due immediately. They are able to recognize what is urgent and what is not. List all the projects you are working on, as well as due dates. If you are unsure about when a task is to be completed, ask your manager. Avoid stressing over completing a project in one day when it isn’t due until the end of the month. Knowledge is power. The more you know about your projects, the better you will be able to manage your time.
You ultimately have control over your time. Take advantage of opportunities to be more efficient and increase your productivity. Simplify some tasks, block time on your schedule, avoid unnecessary meetings, have face-to-face contact, delegate some work and prioritize your projects.