If you’re like a lot of Simple Dollar readers, you’re reading this article at the start of your work day (and if you’re not, imagine you are, at the start of your next work day). You’ve got a pile of things to do today, some of them urgent, but many of them not so urgent. You’ll probably find some big holes where you can sit around idle, browsing the web or reading a magazine.
I’m going to suggest a challenge to you for today, one that might just be a revelation to you.
Your eight hour workday has 480 minutes in it. Spend every single one of those minutes doing something to make your work life easier. Let me walk you through it.
First, take care of the work you need to do today. There are likely some pressing matters around you that need to be dealt with and some projects you need to work on. This will take some portion of the day.
But, obviously, there will be some downtime in there – the time that you would ordinarily use to daydream, chat with others, click on links, and so on. Use that time differently today. Here’s how.
One, clean your workspace. Get rid of the junk sitting on your desk. Go through it and either file it or trash it, since that’s where most of it should be. Throw away any garbage you have lying around.
Two, think of your regular routine tasks at work and ask yourself how they could be done faster. Perhaps you have a really poor way of managing and handing in expense reports. Maybe (like me in the past), you have a really poor way of handling time sheets. Perhaps your days are interrupted by lots of meetings that aren’t beneficial.
Then develop ways to make these things more efficient. Find out if you can get some of those meetings rescheduled into a solid block of meetings instead of spread out throughout the day – or maybe try to get out of a few of them. Come up with your own efficient template for time sheets or expense reports that can shave a few minutes off the time – and share those templates.
Still got time? Look at your daily work. Are there any pieces of work you find yourself wasting time on again and again? Maybe you’re a technical writer and you use many of the same elements over and over again in your writing. Maybe you’re a programmer and you keep using some of the same elements in your code.
Spend some time creating a library for your own use. Make a clear framework for those documents you write all the time so you can easily just fill in blanks and change a few pieces instead of writing a ton again or heavily editing an old document. Add some new programming functions to a shared library that you can access yourself.
It should be easy to fill up every minute of a focused day with these tasks.
All of these things have one big central thing in common: they don’t help you right now at all, but they shave off minutes of work almost every day in the future. You can write faster. You can find things faster. You can program faster. You can get your expense reports turned in faster.
That shaved time gives you more time to devote to the things that will make you stand out. If you save fifteen minutes each day where you’re not searching around for things, filling out paperwork, hopping from meeting to meeting, or rewriting things you’ve already essentially written before, you now have fifteen more minutes each day to turn an average project into an impressive one, to build your relationships with other people on your field, or do something else to genuinely stand out.
And it’s those who stand out who get the raises, the promotions, and the opportunities.
You have 480 minutes. What are you going to do with them?