Last Updated Jul 6, 2011 9:27 AM EDT
I asked Russell Bishop, efficiency expert and author of Workarounds That Work: How To Conquer Anything That Stands In Your Way At Work, for his best advice on getting more done while spending less time doing it. Here are his best tips. And please -- enjoy your free Friday afternoons, or at the very least, dinner before 8.
1. Silence Your Email Sure, you need to keep your email program open since your job likely requires you to be logged on. But turning off that "ping" will prevent the time-wasting Pavlovian response that has you clicking on messages every five seconds. "Add a note to your signature line indicating that you check email, say, three times a day -- 8:00 am, 1:00 p.m., and 4:30 p.m.," suggests Bishop. "Also add a note that you respond within 24 hours (or some other time frame depending on your job), and lastly add a note that if this is urgent, to call your cell phone."
2. Make Sure Meetings Require Your Presence Seriously, is there anything worse than a Friday afternoon meeting? Perhaps a Friday afternoon meeting on a sunny day in July. But even meetings earlier in the week take valuable time out from your schedule that might be better used elsewhere. Here's Bishop's smart tip: "Respond to meeting invitations asking what role you can play so that you can prepare. This is a polite way of saying, 'Is this a waste of my time? I don't go to 'just-in-case meetings.' If it's only an update meeting, offer to provide your update in writing so you can keep your current project moving."
3. Map Out Your Professional Priorities
Clearly, you need to do your boss's bidding. But volunteer for projects that move you where you want to go, says Bishop. "Before embarking on a task, ask yourself 'what value shows up if I get this done?' Do your best to only work on tasks that move you forward on your critical goals and objectives." This will save you time because you won't be doing more meaningless (to you) work than you have to.
Follow these 3 simple steps and you should have an easy half day lined up by the end of the week. "Simply following the email suggestion about when you process email can save you 30 to 60 minutes a day," says Bishop.