Balance — for many hard-working professionals, it’s the toughest goal to accomplish. Too many people excel in their career, advancing in their jobs and putting money in the bank, while they put off finding the balance of family life and time for themselves that they truly desire.
The challenge, for many, is finding more hours in the day. Fortunately, no matter what your work situation, it’s possible to squeeze out a few extra moments through tweaks to your work process, your equipment and your habits.
Beyond that, finding balance may require a commitment to shut down your smartphone and simply take an hour to relax, but for the rest of the hours that you are plugged-in, these tips may help you shave wasted time from your daily schedule:
1. De-clutter your Desktop
“But my desk is clean and organized!” you protest. That may be so — and for many, a neat and tidy workspace is paramount to keeping focused on the task at hand — but what about your computer desktop? I’m often amazed at how colleagues of mine can find what they’re looking for when their desktop is an endless array of icons stacked atop each other. If you don’t currently have an organizational system that works for your computer files, take everything on your desktop and move it to one folder — call it ‘Everything’ if you want to. From there, use folders to organize files into a permanent system. Just like in our home, something that doesn’t have a place will just sit out and collect dust.
2. Zero Out Your Inbox
Take the same approach with email that you took with your desktop. Create a folder within your email provider where you can move everything. From there, create subfolders that allow for filing away emails you need to save. Creating a ‘Random’ folder is perfectly okay. Now, make a commitment to finish each work day with zero emails in your inbox. Of course, some conversations continue beyond one day, so I created a folder called “1-Inbox”, with the number ’1′ assuring that it will always sit atop my other folders in alphabetical order, so that my emails are accessible but my inbox itself is clean and clear.
3. Don’t Settle for Slow Internet
Are you paying for the cheapest internet connection, yet spending hours each day online? Consider what a faster connection would be worth to you, and how much time you spend waiting on content to load. It’s oftentimes worth the investment to improve your connection from DSL to fiber optic or cable internet, and since increased productivity equals increased profits, it’s typically not a tough sell to the boss, if you work in an office environment.
4. Speed Up the Connection You Have
Even with the best internet connection, your personal machine can still drag it down. If you use a PC, run the ‘Disk Defrag’ program once a month and clear out temporary internet files. Check your internet speed with a site like Speedtest.net, to ensure that you’re getting what you pay for. In some cases, an old or poorly placed WiFi router can slow your home’s connection. Finally, put a password on your connection so that neighbors won’t use your internet and slow you down.
5. Don’t Let Your Hard Drive Fill Up
When your computer’s storage capacity is pushed to the brink, it bogs down your entire system. Keep an eye on it and don’t ever let it reach over 90 percent of its capacity. There’s nothing worse than spending half a day clearing out your computer because you let it overfill and are no longer able to save an important file. Portable external hard drives are now more affordable than ever, and are a perfect way to store your large music, movie and image files.
6. Consolidate Your Browsing Experience
Do you have a daily news and entertainment online routine? Plugging all of your favorite sites into a service like Google Reader or a social aggregator like Flipboard can save you the time of checking multiple sites and social media pages, pushing everything that’s important to you into one place.
7. Go Offline
Even when you’re diligently plugging away, the distraction of a text, email or Facebook alert can seriously slow your progress. Of course, most of us need to be accessible throughout the day, but there’s typically no harm in logging out of your email account or putting the phone on silent for half an hour at a time. Get in the habit of checking these outlets periodically throughout the day, without being a slave every second. You’ll find that you accomplish 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 biggest asset that computer-bound workers can possess, when it comes to completing their work in a timely fashion. If you can’t type nearly as quickly as you can speak, commit ten minutes a day to an online typing trainer (I like www.type-fu.com) until you can consistently and accurately type at least 40 words per minute.
What other tips do you have for creating a more efficient work process?