Struggling to keep up with every little task that comes across your desk? Feeling like there just aren’t enough hours in the day?
Most people share these sentiments, because evolving technology perpetually drives corporate demand for multitasking. However, scientists say that multitasking is a physical impossibility. Our brains are more adept at switching between tasks quickly, so the issue really becomes prioritizing which tasks deserve our attention earliest and which ones can be handled later.
Office efficiency guru David Allen has a lot to say on the subject in his book Getting Things Done. Here are three tips he suggests that are easy to implement and provide big results.
1. Get to Inbox Zero.
The most important step in saving time and becoming more productive is getting your email under control. One study find the average white-collar worker sends and receives a total of 125 emails every day. That’s a lot of emails.
With the following practices and a little commitment, however, this number becomes totally manageable. First, create a folder structure that looks something like this:
“Inbox” – unread emails ONLY
“Action items” – where tasks you need to take action on are located
“Awaiting reply” – where tasks that are pending a coworkers response are located
“Review later” – where informational emails that don’t require action are located
Next, begin to process all new emails through this folder structure and any subfolders you might wish to create. If you don’t need it, delete it! Follow this practice, and soon your inbox will become uncluttered.
2. Manage a single to-do list accessible from any device.
While we can now access any information at any time from any device, we often fail to manage our meeting notes and a master to-do list in a centralized place. For instance, if you write your tasks for the week on a notepad, you could lose the notepad or forget where you put it. Why not put this important information in the cloud instead?
Tools like Evernote make it possible to sync your to-do list and meeting notes across all your devices, set reminders for yourself, attach emails to notes and much more. This setup can be very powerful —imagine never forgetting to complete an action item after a meeting again!
3. Schedule meetings with yourself.
Time is our most precious resource, yet most people seem to respect everyone’s time but their own. Send calendar invitations to yourself to schedule time to work on solitary projects, and ignore any outside distractions that aren’t urgent then. Otherwise, you’ll spend more time helping others check off their own agenda items and less time on work that directly benefits you.
If you were in a meeting with a trusted coworker, you wouldn’t be answering emails the whole time, would you? So treat your own time as respectfully as you would theirs!
What other office productivity techniques do you use to keep on top of things? Tweet us @ShareFile or comment below.