From shortcuts and life hacks to proven productivity methods, we’re all looking to save time and get more done. If you want to be even more successful, it’s time to tap into your super powers: your habits.
A Duke University study found that 40% of the decisions we make each day are habits. While bad habits can derail you, good habits can put minutes back on the clock because they put you in a proactive mode and help eliminate wasted time.
We reached out to three productivity experts who offered six ideas for implementing habits that save time and improve your workflow:
When you check your to-do list in the morning, you’ve already wasted time, says Julie Morgenstern, professional organizer and author of Never Check Email in the Morning (Touchstone; 2005)
"If you’re overscheduled or end up with gap in your day, you don’t have the distance you need to correct it, and you go into pure reactive mode," she says. Instead, take five minutes at the end of each workday to check your calendar. Decide ahead of time how to fill free time or handle overlaps.
"You will buy back two or three hours a day of focused productivity instead of wasting a half hour sorting through all of your options," she says.
If you're easily tempted by social media or email, make a habit of logging out before you start a project or important task, says Emily Schwartz, author of The Time Diet: Digestible Time Management (2012).
"The extra step of having to enter in your password will buy you enough time to realize that you're distracting yourself and shouldn't," she says. "Distracted work takes far longer than focused work."
While meetings can be vehicles for wasting time, Morgenstern says establishing a pre-meeting routine can help improve their effectiveness. If you’ve called the meeting, send an email to the other participants telling them what to expect. If you’ve been invited, ask the organizer how to best prepare.
"Proactively engaging people before meetings could save an hour of wasted time trying to get everyone on the same page," she says.
After you delegate a task to a person, make a habit of writing a confirmation via email, clearly defining what’s expected, says Schwartz.
"This extra minute of follow up can save hours of hassle later if, for example, a deadline has been miscommunicated," she says.
When you put everything away at the end of your day, you can jump right into work in the morning, says professional organizer Janine Adams of Peace of Mind Organizing.
"If you have papers all over your desk, you’ll waste time finding what you need," she says. Tidying up each afternoon takes just minutes because you only have one day’s worth of stuff to handle. If you wait until you have a pile, it could take a whole afternoon, Adams says.
Dead cell phones can be inconvenient, causing you to waste time searching for an outlet. Instead of freaking out over the power left on your battery, Adams suggests creating a habit of charging your electronics.
"I plug in my phone, iPad and Kindle every night before I go to sleep," she says. "The charge usually gets me through the day and I don’t have to waste time worrying about my battery dying."