If you have a full-time job, you’re spending the majority of your time, effort, and brainpower at your place of employment. A grueling 40-50 hours of your week is spent slouching at your desk, pretending to look interested in meetings, or trying to get that damn printer to work. Yet even after all that time cranking away at the office, there never seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish what you need to get done.
Here are a few ways to help you get the most out of the time you spend at your job.
PAIN POINT: Email
One of the biggest pain points I deal with on a daily basis is email. I find myself getting sucked into it from time to time: back-and-forth correspondence with clients, sending and receiving files to and from my coworkers, and constantly refreshing my inbox to make sure I haven’t missed anything (that last one’s a tough habit to break).
SOLUTION: Google Documents
This free, web-based app is an incredible solution to the frustrations that come with email. Google Docs allow you to create text documents, spreadsheets, and slide show presentations, share them with whomever you’d like, and collaborate with others on the projects in real time. The documents are accessible from wherever you can get online, and any edits that are made happen instantaneously. No more sending drafts to a client via email, only to receive a different email from the client with edits to those drafts, after which you need to send another email with the revised, final version. With Google Docs, you can insert your drafts right into the document, and the client can see it from wherever they are and make the appropriate adjustments at their convenience. This eliminates the back-and-forth, and saves both you and the client a ton of time.
Google Docs are also useful for internal projects. My coworkers and I can collaborate on a task by having each person’s individual workload aggregated in a single document. So instead of each employee sending an email with his/her work to every other employee in an endless chain of CCing and forwarding, everyone’s work is collected in one place as each person is working on it.
Here’s the best part: Google Documents are free for anyone with a Gmail account to use. Give it a try for yourself here.
PAIN POINT: Unproductive meetings
This is a pretty common issue regardless of your industry. Nobody likes to be in a meeting where nothing gets done. Meetings that last for 45 minutes with 10 – 15 people included can seem like waste of time, and that’s because they are. This is where the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” comes to mind.
SOLUTION: 20-minute meetings (or less)
In most cases, meetings lose their productivity after the first 15 or 20 minutes. If you can’t cover everything you need to within that window, you’re probably wasting time. At Silverback Social, we make it a point to keep our meetings short and sweet: establish the topic, discuss that topic’s status, and establish next steps and responsibilities.
BONUS TIP: Don’t bring your computer or your phone to meetings. Your emails aren’t going anywhere; they’ll still still be at your desk waiting for you when your meeting ends. And the relentless barrage of notifications from Twitter and Candy Crush will just distract you from staying productive during the meeting. All you need is your pen, your paper, and your focus.
PAIN POINT: “Zombie Mode”
When you spend the majority of your day in front of your computer screen, it’s easy to get “wired in” and crank. Most of the time, this might make you feel like you’re being super productive: “I just RAGED on (insert task here) for like 3 hours straight, I’m a beast!” Depending on the task, this can be dangerous. While you’re chugging away on a single project for an extended period of time, your mind runs the risk of going into “zombie mode.” The project becomes a rote task, and your brain starts to give preference to speed of completion rather than quality of work. Creativity and innovation suffer as a result, and your finished product, while it might be completed a day or two earlier than expected, is not as high-quality as it should be.
Don’t fall into the habit of taking on more responsibility than you can handle. Look to your coworkers for help. If you’re in a position to delegate certain tasks to other team members, let them share your workload. If you’re not in that position, take a minute to ask for a quick tip from a fellow employee. This is a great way to get a new perspective on the project at hand. That “brick wall” you keep running into (writer’s block, repetitive copy, lack of creative ideas, etc.) is much more easily sidestepped with a colleague’s fresh eyes and brain to help you.
BONUS TIP: Before you ask your boss or manager for feedback on something, rehearse the conversation in your head. Try to predict the advice he/she will give you, and incorporate that advice on your own, proactively. You’ll save yourself time, and you’ll appear much more competent in the eyes of your superiors.
Some of these tips may not apply directly to your particular job, but the three main themes can be helpful in any work environment: Collaborate, stay focused, and don’t hesitate to ask for advice. Keep these concepts in mind, and before long you’ll be looking forward to Mondays as much as you look forward to Fridays.
Thanks for reading! If you found these tips valuable, I’d love to hear your feedback. What did you think?