Editor’s note: This is a guest post from workplace expert Alexandra Levit, a Wall Street Journal writer and published author. Follow her on Twitter.
Technology is supposed to increase our productivity and reduce our work hours, yet many of us find the opposite to be true. We feel busier than ever, we stay at the office later than ever, and sometimes we leave without finishing a single task of substance! Do these five things right now and go to your family on time tonight.
1. Clear off your desk. When your office is cluttered, you’ll have the tendency to flutter around it aimlessly, without a clear sense of where you should channel your energy. I suggest thinking of every new item arriving on your desk as an insect that is infiltrating your territory. Your job is to dispose of it as quickly as possible, either by chucking it in the nearest recycling bin or putting it in its proper place. The only material on your desk should pertain to the task you’re working on at that very minute.
2. Get Your Google on. Manage your virtual world more time-efficiently by signing up for Google’s suite of offerings. The products, which include Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Sites, streamline tasks and facilitate collaboration among people working together on projects. Many are free, and the data are safely backed up and available everywhere you have an Internet connection.
3. Don’t buy that plane ticket. Do you really need to meet with that sales rep on the other side of the world? Video calling services like Skype, which is free and available in 28 languages, allow you to connect visually with anyone in the world via a webcam and a microphone. And what about that training seminar that will keep you out of the office for a week? Webinar technology like Cisco WebEx allows for one-way communication from an individual speaker to an audience, and it can include polling and electronic Q&A.
4. Order strategy – instead of donuts – for the team meeting. Do not call team meetings indiscriminately, and don’t put them on the calendar every week so that people take them for granted. Chit chat can be reserved for happy hour. We all know that real project work gets done outside the conference room and that we do not accomplish things simply by talking about them. Please don’t usurp an hour of valuable work time unless the meeting generates important strategy, delegates tasks to ensure team member accountability, or flags problems so that they can be managed before they get out of hand.
5. Nip procrastination in the bud. Raise your hand if you’ve spent weeks putting off a task that should only take a few hours because you know you don’t want to do it and fear you will spend too much time surfing the web and answering your e-mail? Fight the urge to put things off by breaking complex and overwhelming projects down into smaller chunks with easy starting points. After each mini-task has been completed, reward yourself with a special treat.