This is article one of a three-article series. The purpose is simple: To help you to be more efficient. Better efficiencies lead to more effectiveness. More effectiveness can result in better productivity. Give these tips a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Top 10 Efficiency Tips
Following are 10 tips to help you to be more efficient at work and even in your personal life.
- Check your email three times each day. Otherwise, shut it off so that you can complete other projects and tasks.
- Forget your dog… Checklists are your new best friend. Why try to memorize a process, when you can simply document it using a checklist? This five-column format works best for me: Task number, task (begin each with a verb), person responsible, deadline (month, day and year) and status (done or not applicable).
- Create and utilize annual calendars. If something occurs daily, monthly, quarterly or annually, how do you remember it? Create an Excel spreadsheet with this information and add an automatic prompt for you to check it regularly (at least weekly). You cannot keep this information in your head. You are human – not robotic.
- View emails using “Show as conversations” mode. If you are sorting your emails by person’s name or date, you are working chaotically. Outlook has a way to check your emails that will allow you to save time and your sanity. It’s called conversations. Check it out. It will take you a week or two to get used to it. Once you do, it will change your life.
- Add relevant email trails and meeting handouts to calendar appointments. Who has time to search through email after email searching for meeting handouts? Simply add the items to the calendar appointment. This works for Outlook and Google.
- Use agendas and meeting minute templates. Ensure that meetings you lead and attend have agendas. Agendas help you to maintain professionalism and keep meetings on track. Within three days of a meeting, ensure a recap is distributed to meeting attendees. The recaps should include a list of those who attended and missed the meeting, a summary of the topics discussed and a task list with next steps. The task list should mirror the five-column checklist format described above.
- Edit documents using track changes. When editing and proofreading, use track changes so that you and others can see what was changed. You will love this feature when reading lengthy documents. You should not have to search line by line trying to figure out how a document was modified. You are too busy for that.
- Use shared drives and Google Drives. If you are part of a team, I recommend that you use shared drives and Google drives. Team members should be able to access common documents. Collaboration is key, which is difficult if you cannot access documents that all of you need.
- Implement deadlines. Deadlines are important. We use them to meet commitments and keep organizations running. “As soon as possible” and “at your convenience” are not deadlines. Those phrases mean different things to different people. This is a deadline: “By June 30, 2019.” I prefer for deadlines to be communicated in subject lines of emails. An example is “Approve timesheets – Deadline: Feb. 1, 2019.” You have an action and a complete deadline (month, day and year).
- Utilize a method to track deadlines. There are many ways to track deadlines. Some use the Outlook task list (you can drag and drop emails), some use Word documents and others use accordion files (the pockets are numbered 1 to 31 – one per day of the month). Find the approach that works for you and WORK it. The approach does not matter. What matters is that you track and meet your deadlines so that you will be a blessing to others and not a burden.
What tips do you have?