Save yourself an hour each day: increase your productivity

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that I could do with a few more hours in the day? Recently I noticed that I was getting to the office earlier and leaving later, but I still seemed to have things left on my to-do list every night.

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I needed to change something and since getting to work at the crack of dawn every day didn't sound appealing I started looking at ways to save myself around an hour of time every day - just enough to squeeze in those extra few tasks that always seem to get neglected at the moment and still make it home in time for dinner.

I've written before about the apps that help me save time (and money!) and I've also written about how most tips about time management just don't seem to work for me (I'm still not good at prioritizing my to do list and sticking to it!) but, in the name of not getting up at 4.30am every day, I thought I'd try out a few more really simple tweaks to my day to try to increase my productivity.

Here's how I got on:

Plan ahead

I used to spend the first 30 minutes or so of the working day organizing my schedule, but now, at the end of each day, I plan ahead for the next, meaning I can get straight to work when I get in. So far, this seems to be working really well for me.

In an effort to minimize wasted time between tasks I did also try to plan roughly what I'd be doing for every hour of the day, rather than just listing jobs to-do. This didn't work that well for me - maybe because I have a happy knack of underestimating just how long things will take me! But it may be something that works for you?

Friends of mine who commute to their office have said they use the time on the train to check their emails on their cell, browse social media and news sites to see what's going on in the world, check their schedule and have a first cup of coffee! When they arrive at the office they're then ready to start actual work rather than doing all of the above for the first 30 minutes of the day.

Turn off your email

Okay, so I don't exactly turn off my email - that would be a terrible idea! But I have turned off the alert that tells me when I have a new email. I know that I find it a distraction when a new email comes in - I can't help but look at it! And that's a problem as I often lose my train of thought and many times on an email that actually doesn't need my immediate attention. Maybe it's my way of procrastinating - definitely true if I'm on an admin task! But whatever it's down to, it definitely takes me twice as long to do things when I'm constantly stopping and checking every new email.

This one is definitely saving me time, but I just need to work out how often to check my email now - I'm always slightly worried that I'll miss an urgent email, but then how often does something actually need my immediate attention? And all my team has my cell number in case something does crop up.

Take proper breaks

As well as working more when I'm in the zone, and less when I'm not - which I covered in a previous blog post - on a "normal" day when I'm neither killing it or finding it hard to focus, I've tried to add proper breaks into my day. It may seem counterproductive but I find that getting up from my desk and taking a decent lunch break and stopping for a coffee at regular intervals actually means I get more done over the course of the day.

Before, when I was just trying to power through, I started slumping mid-afternoon and moved through things much more slowly. Now I spend my lunch away from my screen and come back refreshed and ready to go.

Put a time limit on meetings and calls

As well as trying to schedule my meetings before 1pm (where possible) so I can fully focus on other important tasks during the afternoon, I've now started trying to limit the time I spend in meetings - how many ‘30 minute' meetings have you been in that are actually still going 2 hours later?

While it's not appropriate for all meetings - it goes without saying that I'd never cut a customer short after 30 minutes! I am trying to be strict about how long internal and even supplier meetings and calls are going to last. So far it seems to have helped everyone stick to the agenda, and people - myself included - are being much more concise with the points they're trying to get across. No more rehashing the same points a few times over within the meeting.

Have you got any simple ways to save yourself some time every day? Let me know in the comments.