Six Common Efficiency Killers and How to Avoid Them
Do you get the feeling that you're not being as efficient as you could be? Do you spend your day dealing with minor tasks rather than getting on with the really important deadlines? If so, you're caught in an efficiency trap. In this article we'll show you how you can save some time just by making small changes in the way you work.
Save Time – Just by Avoiding These Six Efficiency Killers
If you get the feeling that you’re spending your day dealing with minor tasks rather than getting on with the really important deadlines, you’re caught in an efficiency trap. We’ll show you how you can save some time just by making small changes in the way you work.
1. Avoid the Distraction of Pop-up Notifications
Apart from a few special instances, email notifications will always have a tendency to limit your efficiency. Subconsciously, there is always the fear of missing something if you don’t open a new message immediately. So, if you keep getting messages telling you that you have new mail, that’s bound to interrupt your workflow and prevent you from getting into your stride.
The efficiency calculation here is simple: Let’s say you spend only 40 seconds per page reading the content. At 25 messages per day, that’s a total of 15 minutes. The problem: If you are just scanning content, you lose those 15 minutes. Later, when you come to deal with the mail, you will have to scan through it again in most cases – which will require another 15 minutes.
And, by the way, the same goes for mobile messages and other smartphone notifications.
Time-Saving Tip: Disable email notifications which interfere with your workflow, and allocate a convenient time for dealing with your incoming email.
2. Process Your Emails Systematically
You should decide the times when you want to work with your email.
You could allocate 30 minutes three times a day (morning, noon and evening) or perhaps allow a certain time every hour. You know best how often you will need to deal with your messages, but the important point is that you should only focus on email processing at that designated time.
The goal is to open every message as few times as possible –ideally just once. The five most important types of email action are:
- Delete: unwanted mail
- Forward: mail that won’t affect you, or mail that you wish to delegate
- Archive: all mail that you will need to access later
- Process: important emails with quick replies or appointments
- Schedule: anything that will require more than 5 minutes of processing time; this should be added to your to-do list
Once you become familiar with the idea that opening any message requires one of these five types of responses, you’ll notice significant time savings – usually around 30 minutes per day!
3. Make Efficiency Visible
Lack of effective planning can be another reason why tasks take longer to complete. For example, you may need information from a contact who does not get back to you for whatever reason.
Here, it helps if you can set up your own targets instead of waiting for your contact to respond. Rather than simply making a note to “ask Mr. Schmitt for the survey results,” you could create a weekly schedule that sets out a realistic timeframe for progress. Among other things, your related task actions can then include calling Mr. Schmitt at two-day intervals to inquire about the status of his results.
Mail that takes more than five minutes to process is routed to your to-do list
4. Evaluate Your Perfectionist Tendencies
Wasting time is not always associated with idleness; becoming wrapped up in a task can be equally time-consuming. That’s why it helps to keep the Pareto principle in mind: 80 percent of your total tasks can be done with 20 percent of your time allocation, while the remaining 20 percent will require 80 percent of your time.
Time-Saving Tip: Ask yourself whether devoting extra time would actually be useful for your current task, or whether any subsequent improvement would be minimal. This approach will not be easy for perfectionists, but in most cases the considerable time savings will be proof enough.
5. Keep Your Workspace and Equipment Tidy
The endless search for documents, research material or client guidelines is an unnecessary time cost. At the risk of sounding trivial, allocate a space in your study for every type of document and piece of equipment – and document your system if need be.
The simple fact that you have a designated place for everything will keep these search times down to an absolute minimum. This approach works much in the same way as your silverware drawer where you can probably find a knife, fork and spoon in the dark.
6. Don’t Let Anger Get in the Way
It’s not just dealing with clients or colleagues that creates anger – even your commute to work or the first appointment of the day can cause you to develop a tense attitude. When someone gets angry, that person often has no choice but to let their anger subside until they return to normal. That costs you time and also wears on your nerves.
Next time, you should pause as soon as you feel your anger rising, and then count slowly to ten – either mentally or out loud. Just concentrating on the counting causes a kind of reset which allows you to handle an annoying situation with greater calm.
Conclusion: The Aggregate Time Saved Will Make a Difference
The specific small changes you make to your way of working are less important than the aggregated time-saving they produce at the end of your day. But even though the total time recouped is important, you will undoubtedly find it easier to achieve several minor improvements than to effect one major one.
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About the author:
Office efficiency expert (ntv), “Organizer Nr.1” (rtl), and digital-domain specialist: Jürgen Kurz is an entrepreneur, senior consultant and blogger. He is the founder of Kaizen® office, a method which increases office efficiency by at least 20 percent. His focus is on efficient office processing, digital solutions, the office of tomorrow, and mobile working.