These are all things I have been guilty of (and sometimes still am). Though, in my effort to pull the slack time out of my day and put it into more productive endeavors, I’ve purged most of the these things from my routine.
How about you?
1. Checking e-mail first thing in the morning. This scrambles your brain for the day before you’ve even had a chance to think.
2. Not making a commute productive by taking mass transit or carpooling. Since I’ve started taking the bus a few months ago, my commute (30min morning, 1-1.5hr evening) has gone from being a nuisance to a pleasure. I read, listen to music and just relax. I also get a forced walk to and from the bus-stop, which is a great way to unwind after the day. I know this one isn’t really “in the office” but it has a big enough impact on your day that it deserves attention.
3. Not getting into the office at least 90 minutes before your first meeting. If you don’t get in early enough you’ll start your day off with randomizing meetings, which sets a poor tone for the day. Like it or not, the morning is often the time of the day when people are most creative, and best suited for solitary work on big projects and such.
4. Responding to e-mails as they arrive. Without attention and focus is tough (impossible) to let the creative parts of your brain really shine. Despite the fact that smart people tend to take pride in their ability to multi-task, science has shown that it actually decreases intelligence and creativity.
5. Checking personal e-mail at work. Yet another randomizer. 99.999% of personal e-mail can wait until you get home.
6. Having small gaps between multiple appointments. These just eat away your day. It is dead time. Be proactive about managing your calendar so this doesn’t happen.
7. Reading papers, e-mail newsletters or distributions lists. Again, you can go for months without reading the news and still be more informed than your co-workers. It’s called listening to other people and just being aware of your environment. Proactively seeking out more news to ingest is a sure-fire way to waste time.
8. Not having an 80/20 mentality for figuring out what to work on. No matter how much time you free up with great time management skills, it won’t matter if you can’t figure out what the important things are for you to focus on. You will always find something to do to fill up your day. Is it the right stuff?
9. Finishing meetings after the scheduled ending time. If you have 5 meetings and let each one run over by 5-10 minutes, you are wasting a significant chunk of your day. This tends to be the result of a lack of leadership by whoever called the meeting. Don’t be afraid to set a hard rule and politely leave at the agreed upon time. Eventually, the meeting organizer will learn to keep to a schedule.
10. Not ignoring the phone. All workplace phones have voice-mail. Use it. If your workplace is very phone-centric, just make it a point to return calls at set times during the day, or use caller ID (common for workplaces) and set rules for who you will pick up for. Let everyone else go directly to voice-mail.