Most articles that are aimed at improving productivity focus on ways to increase attention and energy in order to help us get more done more quickly in one sitting. This is something of an uphill struggle for many of us however as we are simply not designed to focus on one task for such long periods of time while ignoring distractions. In the wild, noticing and responding to distractions was crucial to our survival and computers and spread sheets simply didn't exist – you can't just shake away thousands of years of evolution in an afternoon.
Fortunately there are simpler ways to get more done in a day and most of these involve removing distractions completely, or just decreasing the amount that we have to do in a day. You may not realise it but you probably spend hundreds of minutes every week on menial tasks like cleaning, finding your clothes and waiting for your computer to boot up. So if you can cut these time-sappers down then you can get more work done without having to change the entire way your brain works.
There are millions of time savings tips out there and if you trawl the net you'll find no shortage of tips from other people trying to increase their output. Here I will share some of the strategies I use and some of the best tips I've found on the web to help you start putting those wasted minutes to better use.
Make the Site You Need for Work Your Home Page
As a writer I use an online service to organize my daily tasks and give me 'jobs' for the day. This is the first page I need to go to when I go online to start my working day, so I realised not long ago that it should also be my home page. If your home page on your work computer is currently Google, then you should change that right away to the first page you need to get on with work. This will save you the time it takes to type it into the URL bar but better yet it will stop you from getting distracted by other things online.
Don't Completely Fill Any of Your Drawers or Cupboards
Putting clothes away neatly is something that takes up a lot of time for me and it's something that I really don't like doing. I've managed to make it a lot easier lately since I made the conscious decision not to fill my drawers all the way to the top. This way there's plenty of space for me to put things away so I'm not having to rearrange everything every time to get it to fit. The same goes for any storage.
Multitask With Your Correspondence
There are certain calls that we all have to make in a day whether it's making an appointment at the doctor or chatting to your Gran who hasn't heard from you for ages. Either way this can take up a lot of time, so it's a good idea to multitask and do this at the same time as performing another task. If you have been waiting for ages to play your new Xbox game, then you can do this while catching up with your Gran on hands-free, and if you need to make an appointment with the Doctor you can do it while you're doing your daily shop.
Or to save even more time when shopping, why not set up online shopping so that you can order the food you use regularly with just a few clicks of a mouse?
Use Online Services and Tools
Remember I said I used an online service to provide an automated to-do list for my day? That's one example of the kind of online service that can save you time. You should also be using the labels in GoogleMail for instance (which are very useful) and making sure to bookmark the pages you use often. You can even bookmark particular GoogleMail pages, and you should definitely spend some time learning keyboard shortcuts.
Taking a few moments to learn how to get more out of your software and hardware can pay off in the long run.
Get a Smart Watch
I haven't invested yet, but the Pebble Smart Watch is a fantastic device that's definitely on my 'to buy' list. If you get a lot of e-mails and you find yourself constantly pulling your phone out of your pocket only to find that you've got another spam message, then you'll know what a time waster this can be (especially if it then moves you to check Facebook). Using a smart watch you can get those notifications sent straight to your wrist so you'll know whether or not they need dealing with urgently.
Organize Your Folders
If you have huge folders on your computer then it will take ages for Windows to load the contents and ages for you to find what you're looking for. Adding some organization then is a very easy way to save yourself a few seconds every time you need to find a file – which adds up to a lot of seconds. If you must save a file in a stuffed folder though, put a '1' in front of the file name and it will automatically be at the top (or organize by date if that's an option).
Write a Cheat Sheet
Mental block can slow you down during a lot of tasks whether you're programming or translating. If you have any kind of technical task that you do regularly or are trying to learn, creating a 'cheat sheet' where you can quickly find answers is a very useful resource that can save a lot of time that would otherwise be spent umming and ahing.
Charge Your Phone on Airplane Mode
If you need to charge your phone in a hurry then put it in Airplane mode. This will prevent it from listening for texts and e-mails or downloading updates quietly all of which uses up the power as it comes in. Turning off the phone isn't so great either as it uses a lot of energy turning it back on, so the best answer is to put your phone on Airplane mode and then plug it in.
Eat Out of the Pan
Okay so this one is a little student-ish, but if you're alone and you want to save lots of time, then why not eat out of the pan after cooking a meal? That way you can save time dishing up and washing up later on.