I don’t wish I had more time.
Now don’t get me wrong—I don’t always follow my own advice. (Don’t we all know what we should do, yet sometimes choose not to do it?) When that happens, I push back due dates or apologize for getting to someone after a delay. In those moments, I wonder if things would be different if I had more time.
But deep down, I know that having more time wouldn’t solve the problem. Because if I mismanage the time I already have, having more time means I’ll have more time to mismanage.
Having more time doesn’t necessarily result in accomplishing more. However, here are some ways you can regain time in 2020.
Tame your inbox
- Reduce time searching your inbox. To stop wasting time sifting through your inbox, move all project-related conversations into your project management tool. Asana, Trello, TeamworkPM, and Wrike are great examples of such tools. They allow you to organize your conversations by specific projects and tasks, and their search function enables you to find a particular conversation instantly.
- Automate scheduling. You’re wasting time whenever you email back and forth with clients trying to come up with a day and time to meet. Online schedulers offer a clear-cut process for you and your clients, which will save you time, help you avoid double-booking disasters, and keep you looking professional. You can pick an online scheduler from a plethora of options—AcuityScheduling, ScheduleOnce, and Calendly, to name a few.
- Create and share guidelines. Instead of answering emails faster, try to eliminate any emails that shouldn’t be coming into your inbox in the first place. For example, to stop spending time answering emails about how someone can be featured on your blog or podcast, put together a page that walks them through established guidelines.
- Use forms to collect information. To end back-and-forth messages with your clients requesting information or assets throughout the project, create a form that asks for everything that you need all at once when you first begin working with them.
- Switch off notifications. Social media notifications can quickly and needlessly fill up your inbox. They not only clutter your inbox but also distract you from tasks at hand. Don’t allow social media to hijack your time. You can always set aside time to check your social media channels to catch up.
- Declare war on distractions. Nothing eats up more of your time than distractions. Get rid of them one by one. First, create a log of your distraction triggers. Next, go down the list and address each one of them. For example, if you get distracted by the alerts your phone makes when you get a new message, put it on silent.
- Don’t use your inbox as your to-do list. When you do this, you let other people dictate how you should spend your time. Instead, use one of the project or task management tools to keep track of your tasks. Forward the emails that require action into your assignment or project management and automatically turn them into tasks.
- End task switching. Instead of switching between tasks, batch them. Batching allows you to save time because you are not wasting it jumping from task to task. Once you’re clear on your task list, you can easily see what you can batch together. For example, you can batch writing blog posts, recording video or audio content, create social media updates, follow up with your potential clients, or send out invoices.
- Double-task instead of multitasking. Multitasking slows you down because you’re interrupting your focus and productivity by switching from one task to another. When you’re double-tasking, you engage in two different types of activity at once—for instance, a mental and a physical one, such as listening to a podcast while working out. Double-tasking helps you slash in half the time it would take to perform two different tasks individually.
- Do the last 5%. It’s very tempting to skip tasks such as correctly labeling a document or testing the link that you’re about to share. But stop yourself and take a minute to complete the job properly. You’ll save hours of your precious time for a year.
Put technology to use
- Speed-write emails. No matter how many emails you eliminate, there will always be emails to answer. Save time composing the same messages or paragraphs by using Gmail features such as Canned Responses or adopting tools such as Text Expander (for Mac). They allow you to instantly use prewritten copy by inserting a template or hitting a key that expands into a phrase or paragraph.
- Record your answers. This shortcut comes in especially handy when you need to give feedback or explanation. This is also a fantastic way to demonstrate how you do something, such as upload and format a blog post, research a topic, or set up an event. Such tools as Loom, Screencast, and Jing are perfect for that.
- Save time on follow-up. It can be time-consuming to nurture relationships with your strategic partners, vendors, and clients. But when you automate some aspects of fostering relationships, you can save quite a bit of time. It can be as simple as scheduling emails wishing your top contacts happy birthday, congratulating them on a business anniversary, or suggesting that you schedule a catch-up call (where you give them a link to your online scheduler).
Working simply and efficiently means getting more work done. That’s why how you do things daily needs to have a purpose. By using the time you have intentionally and wisely, you can accomplish much more than what your time usually allows.
Natasha Vorompiova is a business systems and operations expert and founder of Systems Rock.