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How to save time to avoid overtime

We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Work smarter, not harder’. And we know the value of work-life balance.

So why do we sometimes work overtime, during the week or on weekends, to get caught up, attacking massive to-do lists or valiantly trying to meet critical deadlines or push a project across the line?

Many reasons cause employees or contractors to stay in the office longer than desired for optimum health or productivity. One main reason is that we don’t know how to save time to avoid overtime.

This expert article explores how to maximise efficiency so you can clock off and enjoy life. While some ideas are easy to apply, others need some effort.

Applying these tips, however, will help you save time to avoid overtime.

Avoid office gossip

Engaging in office gossip – although tempting – is a massive time waster.

Next thing you know, you’ve been gossiping around the water cooler and have wasted 15 minutes (or more) that could (and should) have been more productive.

Here are 7 ways to stop office gossip.

Don’t procrastinate

We’ve all procrastinated at work, including with tasks we don’t look forward to tackling. Taking the first step to fight procrastination is often hard, but it is possible.

Be honest about why you procrastinate. Plan. Set deadlines. Eliminate distractions. Schedule concentration time in your calendar. These are great ways to overcome procrastination.

Schedule breaks and eat lunch

A great deal of research points to the importance of refreshing to operate at maximum productivity. Driving yourself into the ground makes you sick. Therefore, schedule breaks and eat a healthy lunch.

Leave your desk for a change of scenery. Enjoy fresh air and a bit of exercise (a stroll around the block does wonders). Don’t feel badly about taking stopping for a cuppa. These are perfect ways to re-charge.

Avoid packing out your schedule

Do you schedule back-to-back meetings all day, and then wonder why you scramble to complete tasks? Packing out your schedule leaves little time to think, reflect and stay on top of responsibilities. If one appointment runs late, chances are you’ll be behind the rest of the day.

Instead, leave time in-between meetings to organise and action items emerging from meetings. Also catch up on at least a few emails and keep work moving. Block out ‘non-meeting’ time so you can breathe and be more productive.

Eliminate distractions

Focusing on a deadline or completing one task at a time is powerful. However, this requires eliminating distractions. Turn your phone on silent. Only answer emails at set times, instead of reacting each time an email arrives. If someone pops by for a chat, explain that you’ll say hello later.

Do anything you can, in other words, to pave the way for a clear day.

Get organised

Many employees feel too overwhelmed to be productive during the workday. They stay after hours hoping to get on top, so the following day runs smoothly. Instead, take time during your workday to get organised. Make lists and prioritise. Schedule reminders. Search online for ways to help you get – and stay – organised. An example is the 4-quadrant way of operating:

  • Quadrant 1: Urgent and important
  • Quadrant 2: Not urgent yet important
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important
  • Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important.

Streamline processes

Continually assess your processes to reduce the number of steps required to complete tasks. Brainstorm this with colleagues or team members.

Leverage IT

Use software applications designed around efficient planning, implementation and tracking. For example, Microsoft offers productivity tools like Excel, Word, Teams, and Outlook. Learn to leverage their full capacity, however.

Video communication tools can also save you time from travelling to and from face-to-face meetings. and other platforms help schedule and monitor workflows.

Make proactive suggestions

If you know ways your employer can invest to increase efficiencies, be proactive and develop a short business case (including rationale and costings). One idea might be to explore software the organisation can invest in to automates tasks.

You might not get all the ideas you present across the line but that shouldn’t stop you from giving it a go.

Think about training

Sometimes you can be inefficient because you’ve not found the time to be formally trained on how to be efficient. Work with your manager on a training plan if you don’t have one. And stick to the plan.

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