Simple ways of getting the most out of the limited time we all seem to have these days.
You’ve got more to do than could possibly get done with your current work style. You’ve prioritised. You’ve planned. You’ve delegated. You’ve tried to focus. The next frontier is increasing your efficiency so that you can spend less time and still do a good job. Exactly which strategies will work best for you will vary person-by-person and situation-by-situation.
Employing even one of these five strategies can save you hours each week.
Clarify Actual Expectations
When you take on a significant task, talk with any key stakeholders about what they expect from you. Perhaps they need a PowerPoint deck, or perhaps they don’t. Perhaps they need an A+ job or maybe a B+ will be fine. Perhaps they need a comprehensive plan or maybe just an initial sketch will work. You can save days of work when you got clear on the fact that in some instances, all that is needed is enough information to come to a go or no-go decision.
Not all situations require a thorough in-depth analysis. By clarifying what’s actually needed and to what level, you can save hours of time deciding what to do and getting tasks done.
Re-Use Previous Material
Your ability to reduce time by reusing and recycling work will vary depending on your particular responsibilities. But where you can, copy, paste, and edit. That could happen with emails, presentations, trainings, proposals, and almost any other type of activity where you’re communicating something very similar.
This strategy has proven most helpful those who give presentations or who train. When you’re pressed for time, fight the urge to entirely update or overhaul materials, and use something you already have to save hours and deliver the best content. Experienced speakers tend to give the same speech again and again because practice makes perfect.
Develop Templates and Checklists
To speed up your process on routine items, come up with a template or checklist or find ones you can use. For example, you can have a template spreadsheet to fill in expenses – there are some available now through online banking portals depending on which bank you use.
You might want templates for activities like putting together weekly reports, presentations, or meeting agendas. Also, you may find checklists valuable for weekly planning, one-on-one meetings, or other repeated activities. Both templates and checklists allow you to do a good job in less time because you don’t need to spend any time remembering what to do or deciding on the next step. You can keep these templates and checklists in a more sophisticated system, but I find that often simply having them recorded in a Word document is sufficient. One great advantage if you use gmail or microsoft online is their suite of products which are free such as Google Drive or One Drive where you can create, store and share all your documents without having to keep track of different versions as they are updated automatically for everyone who has access to them. This is very useful when sharing spreadsheets for example.
Make It a Conversation
Depending on what you need to accomplish, you can potentially save time by sharing what you’ve done verbally. For example, maybe your manager asks you to research a particular topic. Instead of writing up a formal presentation, it may accomplish your purposes in less time to take notes and then talk through your findings during a one-on-one meeting. This strategy can also work well if you need to communicate about more abstract concepts, like design. It might be much faster to communicate with an architect for instance through talking about or drawing up your thoughts instead of trying to write them down.
Time Box Your Work
Finally, a strategy for still doing a good job in less time is deciding in advance how much time you will spend on a particular task or part of a task, and then sticking to it. For example, if you tend to over-invest in the research stage, you may want to tell yourself that you have to stop after one to two hours. Or if you struggle with coming up with an initial draft, then you may pre-decide how much time you would like to invest in getting something typed out. Time boxing doesn’t guarantee that you’ll finish the work in the allotted time. However, it can definitely help with focus. And deciding in advance on the time investment helps Parkinson’s Law, that work expands to fill the time allotted for it, to work to your advantage. We all have our limits and not everything will get done by using the above strategies. But when you do employ these techniques, you can get more done in less time.