12 Tips to “Take Your Time Back” at the Office

Are you having to work more hours to get the same amount or even less work done? Use these 12 tips to take back your time at the office.

  • Cleaning off your desk can actually interfere with efficiency. It’s far more important to have a good system for getting your work done than it is to have a clean desk.
  • “Handle each piece of paper only once” is bad advice. But DO make a decision or take an action each time you handle a paper.
  • Avoid binders: If you don’t have time to file, where will you find the time to hole-punch?
  • Sticky notes are useful planning tools . Used properly, they are a helpful adjunct to your appointment book, and are very useful when mapping out steps towards a goal.
  • The typical corporate employee sends and gets 201 electronic messages a day and is interrupted as often as every 10 minutes*. To be productive, you need times when you can work without interruption. Establish “communication-free times” when you don’t answer the phone or respond to e-mail. This is most effective if done department-wide–or even company-wide.


  • Filing alphabetically is rarely a good idea. You’re better off filing by category or purpose–placing related items together, regardless of where they fall in the alphabet.
  • If you want to fit a new activity into your life, you must first take something out. Decide what NOT to do. Cross low-impact tasks off your to-do list.
  • Daily planning is not enough. Many crises can be prevented by planning months ahead. As soon as you decide to do a project, think through the steps, then “pencil in” each one in your appointment book. This turns your appointment book into a planning tool, rather than just a place to record daily minutia.
  • The way to clear your desktop without losing track of current work is to create Action Files for works-in-progress. As a back-up, note important deadlines in your planner. This conquers the “out of sight, out of mind” worry.
  • To get maximum benefit from your information management software, use it to its fullest! Stop making notes on paper–type it into your computer instead. It’s easy if you place the phone right next to your computer and use a telephone headset. You’ll save hours upon hours every week by eliminating paper!
  • Leaving a voice mail message is often more efficient than sending an e-mail. Not only is it faster, but recipients who are away from the office will get a voice mail message faster. E-mail is best for non-urgent communications or when you must keep a detailed record of what was discussed.
  • Filing tip: Never file a newsletter intact. Note any events you plan to attend in your appointment book, tear out useful articles and file them by topic, then throw away the rest of the newsletter.

Jan Jasper © 2000-2002

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