Help Us Help You
Welcome to the third part of our new monthly theme – this March, we’re asking you to Help Us Help You! We’re feeling grateful to all our lovely customers for helping us get 2018 off to a flying start, and that’s why we want to theme our next posts around all the things we like to do in order to make your work day a bit brighter.
In this third entry in our Help Us Help You series, we’re looking at time management – something that’s all the more important with daylight saving time about to take an hour from the day! Stay with us for a roundup of some of the efficiency tips and tricks that we find most useful around the office…
1 – Get Enough Sleep
The best preparation for the day ahead actually comes from the night before – getting a good night’s sleep! A tired mind is nowhere near as focussed as a well-rested and alert one, and getting into work with half of your brain still asleep is a sure-fire way to lose the first hour (or hours!) of productivity at work.
Commuting can be a helpful delay while your mind wakes up, and the caffeine in a good cup of coffee or tea can do wonders to help kickstart the process. If you take a bus or train to work, reading the news or something similarly ‘highbrow’ on the way is a nice low-effort way of engaging your brain without overtaxing it before its fully warmed up.
2 – Analyse Your Current Routine
An important starting point is to take an objective and critical look at your current workflow. Almost nobody is 100% productive at all times in the day – and that’s absolutely okay! – so it’s good to be aware of when and how exactly we lose time throughout each working day.
Time-traps like social media are very common features on most people’s ‘lost time’ itineraries, but you might be surprised by some of the other, more insidious ways that productivity is lost. Whether it’s simple procrastination at your desk, or getting caught up in a conversation with the guys from upstairs – time can often slip away alarmingly easily without us even knowing.
There are many various activity trackers available online that make plotting your use of time a simple and unobtrusive task, and can be a great help in identifying when you’re fully committed to the task in hand, and what kind of distractions tend to be responsible when you’re not.
3 – To Do List
Being organised is one of the most valuable tools in the workplace – and almost any other setting, too. Knowing what exactly you need to do over the course of the day, the week, or the month is the first step in turning an idea into a reality.
Setting yourself a weekly plan on Sunday night, or first thing in the morning on Monday, will help keep daily tasks on track, and can make it much easier to re-budget time if things don’t go quite to plan as the week progresses.
Once you complete a task, mark it as done on your list rather than deleting it – while a long list of uncompleted entries can look daunting on Monday, seeing the completed section growing all the way through to Friday is a real boost!
For a much more detailed look at how to most effectively manage a long list of tasks, check out our post about the 1-3-5 Rule, a simple but effective way of making multiple tasks more manageable!
4 – Prioritise Tasks
This tip is so important that we wrote a whole blog post about our favourite system for doing so!
It’s incredibly important to be realistic with your time expectations when plotting a course of action for the day. This is where the previous tips all come together; analysing your routine and your current workflow should provide you with a good foundation to base your estimates on.
Always err on the side of caution, allowing slightly more time than you truly think a task will take – in any worst case scenarios it’ll give you a little bit of wiggle-room if a deadline is getting tight, but ideally it’ll mean you have at least a small breather between tasks if you can stay on track and on schedule all the way through to the finish.
Lots of tasks will have overlapping skills or mindsets. Where possible, try to group like tasks – it’ll help keep you in the zone once you get into a good flow, whilst still giving enough variety to hopefully avoid getting burned out on one long monotonous effort.
5 – Kill Your Darlings
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever had for any kind of creative endeavour comes from the great Stephen King (whilst indirectly quoting William Faulkner) – to kill your darlings.
It might sound a little macabre, but the idea is that no idea or piece of work will ever be completely perfect, and so getting caught up in trying to make it so is a distraction that leads nowhere. If you can honestly say that’s good enough, and fits all of the brief, then you’ve reached a natural finish line in that project – while endless tinkering and adjusting can feel valuable, it’s important to be objective about your projects and recognise when you’re free to move on. There’s no need to unnecessarily add to your workload when that time can be better spent on another project, rather than sinking more and more time into a personal ‘darling’.
Never be afraid to step back, or to cut your losses, or even to simply discard a project and start again if there’s a better or more expedient way of doing it that will save you time in the long run.
There is no such thing as true perfection – so don’t be afraid to kill your darlings if they’re holding you back.
6 – Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
In our increasingly fast-paced world, there are often times when the goalposts will be moved midway through a project, or the dreaded “one other little thing” gets dropped – and inevitably turns out to actually be a rather large thing…
The main point of analysing your workflow is to know your limits – so if more work is being piled on and you know that there’s no realistic way you’ll be able to get through it all in time, be honest about it – both to yourself, and to your boss!
It might sound hard to believe for some of us, but even the management are human too – 100% effort is a reasonable expectation of your workforce, but it’s literally impossible to give any more (despite what motivational posters might tell you!), and it’s unreasonable to expect as much.
As long as you can hand-on-heart say that you’re working as hard as you can, never feel like you have to suffer unreasonable expectations in silence. Ultimately it’s only going to slow you down – either through spreading yourself too thin, or simply adding huge amounts of stress that causes quality of work to suffer.
7 – Take Breaks
Last, but by no means least, is another topic we’ve touched on in previous blog posts – the importance of taking breaks!
It might sound strange after reading about how important it is to avoid unnecessary distractions, but the human brain generally stays focussed for around 90 minutes at a time, and performance past that point will usually see diminishing returns.
Breaks don’t have to be long – the most useful breaks are often only a few minutes – just time enough to take you away from a project long enough to let your mind move on a little, so that when you return you’ll be returning with a refreshed perspective on what you’re doing.
We wrote a blog post on some simple ways to Stay Happier in the Workplace, and taking breaks is just as important for your wellbeing as your productivity! Hit the button for more details, and some other helpful tips besides!
That’s all from me this week, but hopefully reading this blog hasn’t taken any more time out of your day than you can get back with some of the listed tips! We’ll be back next week with our final part of the Help Us Help You series – have a great and healthy week in the meantime
And don’t forget – the clocks go forward at 1am on Sunday the 25th of March!
Join us next week for the Final Part of ‘Help Us Help You’!
Want to be more productive throughout 2018?
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