Balance — for many hard-working professionals, this is the toughest goal to achieve. Too many people excel in their careers, get ahead in their jobs and stash money in the bank, while they put off finding the balance of family life and time to themselves that they really want.
The challenge, for many people, is finding more time in the day. Luckily, no matter what your work situation, you can take advantage of a few extra moments by making adjustments to your work processes, tools, and habits.
Beyond that, finding balance may require a commitment to turning off your smartphone and only taking an hour to unwind, but for the rest of the time you’re connected, these tips can help you cut time out of your daily schedule:
1. Tidy Up Your Desktop
“But my desk is clean and orderly!” you protest. Maybe so — and for many people, a neat and tidy workspace is essential for staying focused on the task at hand — but what about your computer’s desktop? I often wonder how my coworkers can find what they’re looking for when their desktop is an endless array of icons stacked on top of one another. If you don’t currently have a functioning organizational system for your computer files, take everything on your desktop and move it into a single folder — call it “Everything” if you like. From there, use folders to organize files into a permanent system. Just like in our homes, something that doesn’t have a place will just be piled up and dusty.
2. Empty your Inbox
Take the same approach with email that you take with your desktop. Create a folder within the email provider where you can move everything. From there, create subfolders where possible to store the emails you need to save. Creating a ‘Random’ folder is fine. Now, make a commitment to complete each work day without emails in your inbox. Of course, some conversations go on for more than a day, so I create a folder called “1-Inbox”, with the number ‘1’ to make sure it will always be on top of my other folders in alphabetical order, so that my emails are accessible. but mine inbox itself is clean and clear.
3. Don’t settle for slow internet
Are you paying for the cheapest internet connection, yet spending hours every day online? Consider how a faster connection can benefit you, and how much time you spend waiting for content to load. It’s often well worth the investment to upgrade your connection from DSL to fiber optic or cable internet, and since increased productivity equals increased profits, it’s usually not that hard to sell to the boss, if you’re working in an office environment.
4. Accelerate the Connection You Have
Even with the best internet connection, your personal machine can still drag it down. If you are using a PC, run the ‘Disk Defrag’ program once a month and clean up temporary internet files. Check your internet speed with a site like Speedtest.net, to make sure that you are getting what you are paying for. In some cases, an old or poorly positioned WiFi router can slow down your home connection. Finally, put a password on your connection so the neighbors won’t use your internet and slow you down.
5. Don’t Let Your Hard Drive Get Full
When your computer’s storage capacity is pushed to the brink, it bogs down your entire system. Keep an eye on it and never let it reach more than 90 percent of its capacity. There’s nothing worse than spending half a day cleaning your computer because you left it too full and can no longer store important files. Portable external hard drives are now more affordable than ever, and are the perfect way to store your large music, movie, and picture files.
6. Consolidate Your Browsing Experience
Do you have a daily news and entertainment online routine? Getting all your favorite sites into a service like Google Reader or a social aggregator like Flipboard can save you the time of going through multiple sites and social media pages, pushing everything that matters to you into one place.
7. Go Offline
Even when you’re diligently connecting, distractions of texts, emails, or Facebook alerts can seriously slow down your progress. Of course, most of us need to be accessible all day long, but there’s usually nothing wrong with logging out of your email account or turning off your phone for half an hour at a time. Get in the habit of checking these outlets periodically throughout the day, without becoming a slave to every second. You will find that you complete your actual projects more efficiently when you can give them 100 percent of your attention.
8. Type 40 Words Per Minute (or more!)
The ability to type quickly is perhaps the single greatest asset a computer-bound worker can have, when it comes to getting their work done on time. If you can’t type as fast as you speak, spend ten minutes a day on an online typing trainer (I like www.type-fu.com) until you can type at least 40 words per minute consistently and accurately.
What other tips do you have for creating more efficient work processes?