Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are all over. Thanksgiving already feels like a faint memory, especially with December on the horizon. That means it’s time to get back to work — and to figure out the best way to work smarter and faster. Giving your day-to-day schedule a shot of productivity and a boost of efficiency is easier than you think. And the last week of November provides the perfect opportunity to put such a plan into action.
Of course, it’s always difficult to get back into the swing of work after a long weekend. Luckily, CMIT Solutions has put together the following 10 tips that will make office time more productive and remote work easier, enhancing what you can accomplish today, tomorrow, and for the rest of 2018.
1. Control your calendars.
Most of us came back to work this week with a plethora of new meeting requests and holiday events to plan for. No matter which kind of calendar you use — Outlook, Google, or good old-fashioned pen and paper — syncing them together into one calendar easily accessible across devices and platforms is key to gaining control of your schedule. Whether you’re starting fresh with the help of a trusted IT provider or just devoting time to updating your calendars before tackling emails, calendar control is critical.
2. Put in a few hours on difficult projects first.
Now that Cyber Monday is in the rearview, don’t let yourself get distracted from what matters most: the big projects that many of us have to complete before the end of the month and the end of the year. Making progress in the morning on your to-do list’s most difficult item can provide the confidence you need to move forward into the rest of the afternoon.
3. Fly through a few quick tasks next.
Once you’ve clocked a few hours of hard work, reward yourself by tackling a few fast and easy jobs next. Whether you’re cleaning up your email inbox, organizing your desk, or planning out the rest of the week’s meetings, ticking off several items on your to-do list in quick succession is rewarding in its own right.
4. Give yourself an hour to think freely.
Whether you like to take a reinvigorating walk around your office building or spend time brainstorming a solution for a big problem, free time enhances the brain’s functions. Mindfulness and wellness efforts can have a positive impact on productivity, while an unstructured hour can give us the space to think creatively about that next meeting, sales pitch, or tough assignment. Don’t think of this hour as wasted time; instead, think of it as an opportunity to refresh your batteries and return to your work with more clarity and ambition.
5. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Templates exist for a reason: to help us perform everyday functions faster. Whether you’re using email templates to send quick responses or relying on a tried-and-trued structure for that dreaded PowerPoint slideshow, starting with template for your next project can help you go above and beyond just getting the job done.
6. The same goes for keyboard shortcuts.
The trick here is to start small — don’t try to master 10 new commands in one sitting. Instead, start with common functions — Ctrl + C (copy), Ctrl + V (paste), and Ctrl + Z (cut) are a great jumping off point — to make quick work of efficient data entry. Then, pay attention to which tasks you complete on a regular basis and make a note to learn 1-2 new shortcuts each week.
7. Turn off as many distractions as possible.
Our lives revolve around smartphones and all the push notifications they send us. But when you’re trying to get work done, more distractions equal more stops and starts as we strive to get things done. Don’t turn off your text messages or phone calls, of course. But try reducing the endless stream of information you get from social media, news, and sports apps — especially when you’re dealing with detail-heavy tasks or big jobs. Frequent pop-ups (yes, that includes email notifications for those of us who don’t have a handle on our inboxes) are almost guaranteed to distract you from the work you’re doing right now. At the end of the day, increased focus equals increased productivity.
8. Hit the Save button — often.
Yes, you should learn the aforementioned keyboard shortcut for this task (Ctrl + S) so that you don’t risk losing the progress you’ve made on your hard work. Auto recovery has changed the amount of importance we place on this, but it’s still a worthwhile habit: every few minutes, hit the Save button to avoid the possibility of having to rewrite or recreate reams of information (especially if you’re working on a labor-intensive document or report). Performing this task only takes a second — and could, in a worst-case scenario, spare you hours of time spent doing work over again.
9. Get a handle on your email inbox.
Depending on your position and your industry, email can either serve as a lifeline for communication or an endless well of distractions. Even glancing for a few seconds at each mass email you receive can add up to a full hour lost from your workday. Consider creating automatic rules to move messages not sent directly to you, or from contacts outside of your company, to a special folder that you can review at your leisure. In addition, creating a system to touch each email once and only once can reap immediate rewards. Whether you respond to it, forward it, delete it, or move it to a follow-up folder, don’t let it linger.
10. Give your physical and virtual desktop a makeover.
Forget the aesthetic value of actually seeing your home screen wallpaper or the actual surface of your desk — a clean desktop can also improve computer performance, too. An organized physical workspace can inspire a heightened sense of focus, as well. On your computer, organize files into easily identifiable folders, move program shortcuts to the task bar or home button, change the destination of downloaded files, and get your unruly Internet bookmarks under control. On your desk, throw away what you don’t need, file away what you do, and place important keepsakes out of the line of day-to-day duty. Physically and virtually, getting your disorderly desktop under control can provide an instant boost of productivity and efficiency.
Looking for more ways to work faster and smarter after the long weekend? Interested in learning more about the tips outlined above but need help implementing them? Contact CMIT Solutions today — we worry about IT so you don’t have to.