8 Cheat Codes to Save Time in Your Work Day
Let’s face it.We only have 24 hours in a day to get things done. So how do we minimize distractions and work efficiently? How do we increase productivity and not busy-ness? How do you actually save time in your work day? (Sounds like a fantasy world, right?)
This was a challenge for me when I worked as a in-house designer and it’s become even more difficult in my life running a design consultancy. It’s a tough nut to crack, but here are a few guidelines I build my work day around…
1| Architect your week
In order to save time in your work day, you have to start with getting the week organized. One of the best ways I’ve learned how to do this is to designate different days of the week for different purposes. Separating out the type of work I do allows me to get into different “modes” each day and use my time more efficiently.
There are many various ways you can organize your week. Some people choose to put all their recurring meetings on a specific day of the week. Others designate one day as a no meeting day for “desk time” only.
Here’s a peek at what my weeks have been shaping up as lately:
Monday – Planning, Meetings, Desk Time
Tuesday – Meetings, Desk Time
Wednesday – Desk Time Only. No Meetings!
Thursday – Meetings, Desk Time
Friday – Content Creation, Business Development
As you can see, Mondays include planning for the week or organizing tasks and to-do lists. Basically I take this time to decide the specifics and tactics of the week ahead. Otherwise, Monday looks very similar to Tuesday and Thursday. I spend time chatting with my clients and working on their projects.
Wednesday is set aside for 100% productive work time. This means no meetings or other business-related tasks. Usually I can get a huge chunk of work out of the way on Wednesdays. It leaves me feeling amazingly productive! Being able to work like that without distractions is incredibly magical for your creativity.
Fridays are probably my favorite days.. This is the day I get to plan my consulting strategies and content empire! I get to dream up new ideas, curate thoughts/content, and create timelines. This day typically involves a lot of experimentation as well. Just think of me as the UX / Consulting / Marketing / Social Media / Design Mad Scientist Lady!
2 | Make a gameplan for your day
After you’ve architected your week, the next piece to save time in your work day is to create a daily game plan. This doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy, it just means that you have a general idea of what you want to accomplish during the day.
I typically start my days by reviewing my boards and lists for each client and seeing which pieces have pressing due dates. I prioritize those tasks first. I then take each task and allot a chunk of time for it on my calendar.
For example, I say I am working on Client 1’s project until lunch and then after lunch switching to Client 2. After a brief phone call and break, I will wrap the day up with Client 3. Having this general idea of what success looks like for the day is a phenomenal way to save time in your work day. This way you’re not sitting after each task and wondering what to tackle next!
3 | Check emails at most twice a day
Email is a time-sucker.
We all know this.
Everyone talks about it all the time and how they wish they could get to the magical land of “inbox zero.” (By the way, I’ve heard there are unicorns in that magical land!)
The reality is, email is a distraction. Especially if you are a creative. It takes you out of your current task and the proceeds to suck up 15-20 minutes of your time. Again and again and again. Don’t let your inbox suck you in.
Take control of the situation by designating 2 times in your day to check email. I usually do this early in the day (after I’ve planned it out). I respond to emails I may have gotten since the day started and make any notes I need to based on what I’ve received in my inbox.
Then, I close my email window or app. Yes, I said CLOSE it!
I put aside a time later in the day (maybe the afternoon) and then check my email again. This gives me time to sit down and send out thoughtful email responses and do any other administrative work I may need to do. (Set up events on my calendar, add to my tasks boards, etc)
Limiting email time helps you focus better during the other times in the day and allows you to save time in your work day. This way you can give your energy 100% to the task at hand and produce great quality work (in less time!).
4 | Have a work-only space / zone
Having a special space that is exclusively for working is a game changer. Some people have an office to go to daily, some choose to rent out a desk at a coworking space, and others (like me) carve out some space in their home for their office.
Your sacred work spot doesn’t have to be fancy at all… it can be a little nook in a room of your house, a small writing desk or one end of the dining table. The one thing to keep in mind is that you want this spot to be only for work and nothing else. This is key if you want to save time in your work day.
Keep your work separate from everything else, especially if you want to save time in your work day. Creating a barrier of separation (like a work zone or area) creates a very special trigger in your mind.. When you sit down in this spot over and over again to do work, the neural pathways in your brain are trained to go into “work mode.”
This little trick has been amazing for my productivity and it means I spend less time ‘browsing’ or on social media while I’m at my workspace. I can simply sit down, and snap into “work mode” immediately.
If I ever do find myself in a moment of distraction, I physically move myself away from this space. Over time, as you train your mind to respect the sacred workspace, you’ll find that the amount of time it takes to finish work decreases, because your brain goes into “work mode.”
You might not even notice it happening!
5 | Build in efficiencies
We often lose time in our work days when we are task-switching. A lot of energy is expended when we are sitting down and changing our thought patterns to focus on a new task. Since it takes so much energy, it also takes up time. One of the best ways to conserve your mental energy and save on transition time is to build in efficiencies into your day.
To build in efficiencies and save time in your work day, I recommend trying to group like activities together. I’ve been doing this for years now and it has been a lifesaver.
Whenever I’m scheduling meetings with colleagues or clients, I’ll schedule 30 minute meetings back to back so that I can have a chunk of time later on to work, undisturbed. This way I have to do less task-switching. If I have to spend time wireframing for 2 client projects, I’ll try to finish those two tasks back to back and then switch to the next one. If I have to drive somewhere for a meeting, I’ll club this outing with a few other errands or tasks that have to be done at the bank or post office. Then when I get back home, I can efficiently switch my mindset and work on the next thing.
Using your time and your mind efficiently can make things oh-so-smooth and effortless in your day.Your brain will be a bit more relaxed, AND be used at its highest potential. Boom!
6 | Utilize project-management tools
Don’t try to organize everything in spreadsheets and Google calendar. Take my advice now, while you still can and while it’s still early… find a project management tool to organize your world. In my mind, this is a no-brainer if you want to save time in your work day.
Keeping the tasks, details, and resources for a project all in one place saves you from having to shuffle around and find them later. There are so many great tools out there these days that can help you plan out checkpoints in projects, due dates, and other details.
Here are some of the tools I’ve used over the years:
- Asana – I use this now! Simple, easy and versatile. Oh, and free!)
- Trello – Another simple project management tool, doesn’t have as much versatility as Asana. But usually does the trick.
- Basecamp – Great tool and very robust. Amazing for teams that collaborate frequently and on long projects.
- Jira – Perfect for engineering teams. Not my favorite tool, but has the detail needed for heavy engineering tasks.
For other tools I love and use that can save time in your work day, check out one of my previous articles.
7 | Take notes during meetings
Simple, easy, and straightforward: take notes during meetings… always! And I recommend making it a habit.
You are a busy professional and you have a lot going on in your mind and in your day. It’s impossible for you to remember every detail and important nuance to your daily conversations. So, my recommendation is to take notes. This is probably one of the easiest ways to save time in your work day.
As a design consultant, I usually take notes in the margins of my artboards or as comments on my designs. Sometimes I take notes directly in Asana (see #6). Taking notes is a must for me, because I will inevitably forget what I just discussed with the team. Not only is it embarrassing to go back to the project manager later and ask for a recap of the meeting, but it means that whole meeting was wasted. Pretty much the opposite of saving time in your work day.
8 | Outsource if you’re not good at it
If I had to pick one step on this list that was my favorite, it might be this one…
If you have a task that you need to complete, and you know it’s not your strength, don’t kill yourself over it. Get help from someone who is an expert. Not only will this save time in your work day, but it will also make you a much happier person.
This is something I relearned recently. I was working on setting up a WordPress website for a client of mine and spent about 6 hours on one simple theme installation. I was just having SO much trouble. Finally, I gave up. I was frustrated, tired, and felt like crying. The next day, I went on Upwork and hired a WordPress developer to help me out. He figured out how to finish the installation and setup the rest of the site in no time. (Literally, 20 minutes.)
That day, I swore I would never spend time tinkering with WordPress ever again.
My time was too valuable. And I know yours is too.
So find experts to do the things that aren’t your strengths so you can take the time back and sparkle in your true domain expertise. In the long run, it leads to better results and more productivity because you’re not mentally fried from a WordPress battle 😉
What do you do to save time in your work day? Have you tried any of these steps before? I’d love to hear about your experiences with them! Comment below and let me know 🙂
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