Are you wasting time at work, and looking for ways to optimize your time? Here are our top tips for avoiding lost productivity.
It’s a bad feeling ending your workday and feeling like you didn’t get much done. Or worse yet, burning yourself out working long hours because you are wasting time working on the wrong things or getting distracted throughout the day.
As productivity nerds here at Taskable, we think a lot about optimizing our time at work. After years of research, here are our top tips for optimizing your time and avoiding wasted hours.
One of the biggest causes of wasting time is being reactive to your inbox or Slack messages rather than planning how you want to spend each day. By letting your inbox dictate what you work on, you are inevitably not working on top priorities, just the most recent thing to land in your lap.
In addition, not having a plan for each day leads to decision fatigue and becoming overwhelmed. You constantly have to go into your long backlog of tasks, choose what to work on next, and feel overwhelmed by the volume of work you have on your plate.
Instead, start each day with a plan for the top tasks you want to accomplish. Inevitably you won’t get to all of them, or an emergency will come up sometimes. But, starting with a plan and moving your way through a list help you avoid burnout and decision fatigue.
Time blocking/time boxing is planning out each day with what you want to accomplish and when. Often this means time blocking a chunk of time for an activity or task by adding it to your calendar.
Time blocking has all kinds of benefits. First, it helps with self-accountability. By adding a task to your calendar, you commit yourself to work on it.
Second, it helps you avoid working too long on a particular task. By budgeting the amount of time you should need for a task before starting it, you can prevent Parkinson’s Law which states that work fills the time available for its completion. If you leave four hours for a task that should take two, it will likely end up taking the entire four hours. However, if you only budget two, you remain more focused on completing the task in the allotted time.
Finally, it also blocks time in your calendar from other people booking calls or meetings with you.
Perhaps counterintuitive, but taking more breaks can help you get more done. Studies have shown that the most productive people work in 52-minute blocks with 17-minute breaks in between.
Taking breaks allows you to return to a task or problem refreshed and more ready to focus. One great way to ensure you take breaks is time block them, or use a Pomodoro timer tool like Flow or Pomodone. Try setting the work intervals for 52 minutes and breaks for 17 minutes and see how it goes for you!
Our final top tip is to be prepared for what tomorrow brings. Check your calendar and think about tasks you’ll tackle tomorrow. Knowing what’s on your plate the next day gives you time to mentally prepare and think through how your day might go. You also avoid surprise deadlines or meetings that require prep work and the sense of dread that comes with forgetting a big project is coming due.
If you feel like you are wasting too much time at work, try out our top 4 tips! Start by planning what you want to work on each day, and avoid letting your inbox or Slack messages decide for you. Then try and time box your day, by blocking tasks in your calendar. As you go throughout the day, make sure to take plenty of breaks to give yourself time to refresh. And finally, before you log off each day, do a bit of prep for the next day so there are no surprises.