Use these tips to learn how to spend your time better and focus on what's important in your work. Not all tips are for everyone. What you can and should do always depends on your role and the organization you work in.
Use MyAnalytics in Outlook
Would you like to know how many people read a specific email message that you sent? Check out the MyAnalytics Outlook add-in to see how many people have read, replied to, or forwarded your email.
To see information about an email message and general insights into your use of time
- In Outlook, open a message that you've sent or received.
- In the Message tab of the ribbon, click MyAnalytics. If the MyAnalytics panel is not already open, it opens now.
Tips for meetings
Fewer meetings, shorter meetings, more focused meetings. These are options you can choose to save time spent in meetings.
Send recaps instead of invitations
Email isn't always a time-waster. It can be a useful way to decrease attendance at meetings while still keeping people in the loop. If you have colleagues whose decision-making input isn't needed at a meeting, you can email them an update after the meeting to let them know what was decided.
Shorten your meetings
A recent survey of executives showed that 25 to 50 percent of time spent in meetings was wasted. Some companies have introduced standing meetings. While not appropriate for all forms of meetings, a standing meeting will by necessity be shorter and more efficient than a typical sit-down meeting. Alternatively, consider shortening or consolidating recurring meetings, especially if there are more than 10 attendees.
Rethink recurring meetings
A common productivity tip is to “spring-clean” your calendar. Try canceling all recurring meetings for a week and then, as needed, re-adding the ones that are truly missed. This has been shown to reduce the number of team meetings by ten to thirty percent.
Rethink the attendee list
You might notice that some participants aren’t fully engaged during big status meetings. Multitasking is a common indicator that the person isn’t fully needed in a meeting. Can you send a recap instead?
Discourage “business tourism”
The term "business tourists" has been used for people in a corporation who “make a point of attending all the meetings they can, just so they feel they are in the loop.” Successful meetings require dynamic input and focus from all participants. Disengaged attendees can significantly detract from meeting effectiveness. When you organize a meeting, try to limit participation to a more focused group so that you can reduce distraction and ensure adequate contribution.
Tips for email
If you see that you spend too much time in email, try these alternatives: Pick up the phone, don't "reply all", or unsubscribe from email lists that aren't useful to you.
Remove unnecessary email recipients
Before you click send, look over your recipient list to make sure each person will add value to the conversation. Think twice before using Reply All. Your default should be to reply only to the sender. Use Reply All only when your response is truly relevant to all involved. Some recipients might need to know only the outcome of decisions, rather than being Cc'd on the full conversation.
Send fewer emails - use Skype or Teams or pick up the phone
Before sending an email at all, consider these insights: An organizational simplicity task force found that reducing executive email output by 54 percent resulted in a 7 percent productivity increase throughout the company. A management tip column supported this approach by urging executives to “pick up the phone.” Often, phone calls are more efficient than back-and-forth email conversations, and they allow for questions to be answered in real time. Skype and Teams are also good options.
Unsubscribe from groups that you don’t read
Consider removing yourself from groups you don't really need to be part of. If you end up just deleting the messages or moving them to your "Read later" folder, you might never look at them again. Maybe it's better to not let those messages clutter your inbox in the first place.
Spare others' inboxes
Consider introducing the following company discipline around Cc’d e-mails: When you respond to an email, move everyone you can to Bcc with a note that states, “moving Joe, Sally, and Eileen to Bcc to spare their inbox.” This gives these colleagues a chance to object if they want to stay on the thread, but it also gives them an easy out from emails that will just clutter their inbox and waste their time. This simple recognition of the value of people’s time also helps spread good behavior every time someone sees it. Pass it on.
Tips for after hours
Be a thoughtful coworker!
- For “inform”-type emails, condense the emails and status updates into daily or weekly digests. This reduces the overall noise and randomization caused by email overload.
- Save drafts or delay delivery for email until the recipients’ normal business hours. Limit late night and early morning email to urgent email, to cut through the noise.
- Turn off notifications on your phone and desktop when you are trying to focus.
As a team, be respectful of people’s time. For example:
- Agree upon “team hours.”
- Be intentional about who you invite to meetings.
- Try to limit meeting overruns.
- Consider starting a policy of no-meetings Wednesdays.
Tips for focus time
We define focus time as at least two consecutive hours of time without meetings. Focus time is meant to represent enough time so that you can focus on deliverables or complete other important tasks.
Block focus time on your calendar
Prioritize your own time and block against double-booking over it. In the same way, be respectful of double-booking over your team’s blocked time.
Fewer meetings can mean more time to concentrate on meaningful tasks, or to rest.
Make time for networking
Making time for fostering relationships and growing networks has proven to contribute to professional advancement. A study carried out by a partnering team proved a correlation between successful salespeople and large networks. The top salespeople boasted internal networks that were 33% larger than those who performed below average. In this case, an investment in meaningful coworker relationships translated to higher performance.
Make time for relaxation
Allowing time for a little relaxation during work hours can not only provide mental recovery, it can promote your professional success.
Make time for what's important
Before you skip lunch and have a fourth cup of coffee at your desk, go enjoy a meal with your team. You’ll give your brain a break, grow your network, and probably boost your productivity.