My jaw drops open as I watch a senior manager type and send an email that we are constructing together. It takes her a full 30 seconds to open a new email dialogue box and search for the recipient’s name, and another 30 seconds at the end to spell-check and send. In this day and age, when you are reading and writing north of 200 emails per day easily, this translates into several minutes of lost time.
This is one of many skills that I consider basic to a productive day. If you haven’t mastered the most basic of skills, how can your brain perform at a senior level? So here, I share with you, eleven things that you should have mastered by now… and if you haven’t, please commit to dedicating a little time daily to doing so:
1) Master shortcuts for windows, outlook and excel. There are millions of sites dedicated to teaching you these shortcuts; utilize them!! At the VERY least, Ctrl N/C/V/Z/Y/O/W should be in your daily repertoire (for PC’s, Apple is similar with the apple replacing Ctrl)
2) Organize your folders and email files. I use a category system for all incoming emails: each email gets categorized, deleted or filed immediately. It’s just as unproductive to over-categorize as it is to not do so at all. A simple, easy to use, easy to remember system for filing and finding items is very, very important.
3) Manage your day. First thing I do each morning is check my calendar and write down/ print my appointments. Next, I list out all of the things I need to, should, and would like to accomplish that day. Then I prioritize and order them. Just because something is critical doesn’t mean it’s the first thing you tackle. Perhaps, the easy 2 second phone call happens first. Create a road map for your day, write it into your schedule and then follow it. Then and only then should you start checking and responding to your emails.
4) Pack lunch. Sometimes I get so busy that I skip lunch and by 2:30 I’m so hungry that my whole internal system crashes. Not good. When I pack lunch, not only do I save money, but it takes me just 5 minutes to walk to the kitchen and microwave it, versus the 20 minute trip to the cafeteria, which will easily get skipped.
5) Clean your desk. When I’m in the midst of clutter and confusion, my mind follows suit. Taking 5 minutes to recycle and file papers, throw out trash, and put my desk supplies back in their places immediately gives me a renewed sense of order and control.
6) I track my finances. I know this sounds crazy to you, but this is my stress reliever. For you, it may be going to your favorite blog site or taking a walk or reading the news. Whatever it is, do it – at least for 5 or 10 minutes. Those few minutes with my finance spreadsheet always calms my nerves and gets my thoughts off of whatever task I was working on previously.
7) Delete, delete, delete!!! Get rid of old versions of files you will never use, old emails you will never need to refer back to, all that junk that just takes up space. Same goes for hard copies of stuff or even just stuff. Decluttering and deleting will make you feel miles lighter and will give you the added bonus of more space!
8) Delegate. Do you really have to do every single thing on that list of yours? Are there directs/ peers/ partners that can perform the same task as well or possibly better? The general rule of the thumb is that the easiest task should go to the least skilled person who can perform that task acceptably. This way you are freeing up your more skilled resources to handle more and more difficult tasks. You, at the top of this chain, should only handle the tasks that you and only you can complete. What a waste for you to be checking for grammar errors or checking time sheets!
9) Make your meetings count. Set ground rules, set the agenda, and stay on track. If you’re in a meeting to obtain consensus on a decision, stick to the agenda and keep topic derailers on track. If you’re in a meeting to provide an update on something; do so, ask if there are questions, then end the meeting. If you don’t accomplish what you wanted to in one meeting, chances are you will need another meeting and another until you resolve your issue. By reducing side conversations, tangent ideas, and other such distractions, you are giving yourself a better chance to accomplish your objective.
10) Value your time. Understand that your time is valuable. Don’t be afraid to say no… to meetings, to projects, etc. that aren’t necessary. If something is time-consuming but will yield little return, don’t do it.
11) Be a good partner. This may seem contrary to the last, but when you can do something to help someone out, do so… especially if it’s something quick and easy for you and will save someone else a lot of time. The more contacts you have that can count on you, the more contacts you have that you can count on. Not only is it the right thing to do, what goes around comes around.