What could you do with an extra 552 hours a year? Believe it or not, that’s how much time an office worker spends on administrative or repetitive tasks, finds one study—amounting to roughly one-third of the working year. But there are ways to streamline your work. Check out our eight tips that can help any professional do their job more efficiently—whether you work in a traditional office or at home. Which ones will you try today?
1. Keep important information visible with an efficient filing system.
Out of sight can quickly become out of mind, which can lead to missed deadlines or wasted time searching for the information you need. You can try revamping your filing system by storing frequently used documents in clear plastic folders with colored tabs that you can keep handy in a file organizer on your desk. By putting the most recent or pressing information in the front of the clear folders, you don’t even have to open them to see what you need to do. Color coding the tabs helps you spot the folder you need at a glance.
2. Schedule time to file.
But filing systems only work if you, you know, file the papers. We’ve all experienced that paper backup, where we “pile” rather than “file. Blocking out time to attend to this important task will ensure that it gets completed and nothing gets inadvertently overlooked. Try to look at your week and schedule time on your calendar for filing, like you would any other must-do. Friday afternoon might be a logical time; you can review what’s been accomplished over the past few days and create a work plan for the following week.
3. Give admin duties to your email system.
It’s amazing how many organizational tasks your email application can handle if you just know how to use it efficiently. Try investing time to understand the functions now will pay ongoing dividends in time saved. Try scheduling messages to be sent at a specific time or setting up prompts so that missives from a certain sender always hit the top of your inbox.
4. Organize your inbox.
Speaking of your inbox, resist the urge to just keep all the messages there in a big, confusing jumble; instead create folders to organize the messages by project, client or action needed, just as you would with hard copies. You can even have one that’s specifically for items you need to accomplish that day or week. An organized inbox can help you stay on track and verify that everything is moving forward on schedule.”
5. Make temporary “to-do” lists with sticky notes.
Need to remember to call someone at 10 a.m.? A note stuck on your computer monitor is a convenient and prominent visual reminder so you don’t forget it if you’re engrossed in your work. Or, put one on your office door to remind you of an important file you need to take to your 2 p.m. meeting. They also can keep you updated on unfinished business; if you have several notes still hanging around at the end of the day, add them to tomorrow’s to-do list.
6. Set calendar reminders.
Sticky notes are handy for last-minute reminders, but if it’s for a task too far in the future, they quickly become easy to overlook. In that case, try setting reminders in your calendar application for project deadlines. You can start with the deadline when the project must be completed and submitted; then work backward from there to set alerts for project components all along the way. You can even set additional notices to remind you to check on the progress, particularly if you are awaiting input from other people or teams. You’ll never be caught off-guard by a huge project again.
7. Learn keyboard shortcuts.
Figure out your keyboard go-to buttons for both your email and word functions to create a huge time saver for repetitive functions. For example, it’s great to just hit the ‘R’ key or ‘CRTL+R’ to reply to a message or the ‘F’ key or ‘CTRL+F’ to forward a message in email. There are also “extensions” you can add to your browser that make it easier to copy and paste multiple items.
8. Employ the KISS principle (keep it simple, smarty).
The easiest tip is to keep it simple. Whatever task you’re handling, the more steps there are in the process, the greater the chance that errors will be made. And that goes for organization, too—with every step of your organizational process, make sure that it’s saving time rather than adding a “to-do” to your overflowing list.
About the Author
Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer who specializes in small business, finance and real estate.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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