If there is a recurring task that takes up a large amount of your time, consider whether getting some training will speed things up for you in the future. If you run a blog, but haven't taken the time to learn all that your CMS (Wordpress, Drupal, etc.) has to offer, you're probably spending a lot of time doing things the hard way. Information and training is not only readily available, but mostly at a low cost. Unless it's something you are planning to outsource, there's just no reason to continue to do something inefficiently if you can learn a valuable skill and save time in the future.
2. Build a System
ometimes a lot of our time is spent repeating steps. Are you answering the same emails every day? Create a canned response in Gmail, or save an email template for Outlook. Are you doing things manually that can be automated? Use Quickbooks or Mint.com to automatically download and sync your credit card and banking transactions. Stop repeating tasks that can be eliminated if you can spend the time to build a proper system for it.
3. Assign a Point Person
When there are too many cooks in the kitchen, most of the time is spent figuring out how to avoid tripping over someone else. If there are multiple people (or departments) involved in a project, decide ahead of time what needs to be committee approved and what can be left to the discretion of the point person. A lot of time is wasted waiting for approvals from various people for decisions that really don't deserve so much attention.
4. Establish a Routine
Don't get stuck figuring out over and over again how to do the same task. Having good documentation is time consuming, but it's essential to have step-by-step instructions for tasks that are extremely detailed and prone to error. Otherwise you'll end up correcting the same mistakes. Make sure to keep this in an easily accessible place or you'll forget or be too lazy to reach for it when starting the task. You'll also find this handy when it's time to pass this task to someone else.
5. Set a Deadline for Decisions
It's not wise to make decisions too quickly, but it's just as detrimental to take too long. If you have all the information you're going to get, allow yourself some time to ruminate over the pros and cons or come up with a creative solution, but waiting and hoping that something will magically come to you is not a good move. You'll just end up reviewing what you've already gone through many times over. Decide on a deadline to make a decision and make it, so you can move forward.
6. Read Carefully
Whether you're skimming through emails too fast or tossing the instruction manual aside before putting together the crib, you'll inevitably waste time undoing errors or rereading an email because you found out you missed an important question. Don't end up back on square one because you decided to skip the first step.
7. Keep Organized Notes
Do you find yourself in meetings where you end up discussing something that was previously resolved in another meeting, but no one remembers? Do you find yourself asking the same questions or running into the same problem that you vaguely recall fixing last time? Takes notes and make sure it's organized and effective — no, mental notes won't cut it.
8. Plan Ahead
Ever bought a desk without measuring and realize it won't fit through your office door? Some people are really good a "eyeing" it or improvising, but for the rest of us, it's just a time sink. Take the extra time to make a plan of action — even if you're just shopping at IKEA.
9. Make a To-Do List
Whether you use a task management system or a spiral notebook (I use both), just make sure it works for you and your lifestyle. Do this the night before as a way to wind down and let go. In the morning, your list will be ready and you won't have to stress over what to do next.
For all our running around obsessed with being productive, we end up running in circles because we don't know when to stop. Take some time to recenter, refresh, and relax. Drink some water. Get some sun. Maybe you'll decide a few of those things on your list isn't even all that necessary. What better time saver is there?