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8 Ways to Cut Down Your Ridiculously Long Workday

Topics: Career Advice
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We’ve all been there: 11 o’clock at night, little pieces of Chinese takeout stuck between the computer keys, the blue light of the computer screen shining bright, still stuck at the office with no endpoint in sight.

A recent Gallup study shows that Americans only spend about 3.6 hours per day working, but our workweeks are still clocking in well beyond the 40-hour mark. What gives? If you find yourself stuck in the office but plagued by a lack of productivity, it could be that you aren’t using your working hours wisely.

Wanna shave off some time? Check out these eight ways to cut down your ridiculously long workday.

1. Set An Alarm.

It’s one of the hardest things for me to master, but one of the most efficient when I can pull it off. Studies show that working without interruptions in small, dedicated bursts can do wonders for productivity. If you’re trying to save time overall, focus yourself on a specific task (that means something with a concrete end point) for 50 minutes — no phone, email, or G-chat interruptions — then take a 10-minute break. You’ll be surprised at how much faster things get done.

2. Carve Out Email Breaks.

Did you know that it can take up to 20 minutes to get focused again after checking your email? Instead of reading messages as they come in, set aside an email break every couple of hours to catch up on what you’ve missed. The same goes for check social media, G-chat, and Slack, too.

3. Make Your List Top-Heavy.

Some of the most successful people in the world will tell you that the key to productivity isn’t just making a list (though this is critical), but making a list that prioritizes the highest value items. If you’ve got eight things to accomplish in a day, focus your efforts on the items that will yield the highest impact.

4. Start Earlier.

As hard as early mornings can be, if you’re struggling to find time to focus, getting to the office when peace and quiet is still an option might be your best bet. Just make sure you don’t end up tacking time onto your schedule. If you work well in the morning, ask your boss or colleagues if you can shift your schedule a bit to start and leave earlier, and ask about holding important meetings in the morning. This opens up room for you to close out outstanding deadlines in the afternoon, unwind at night, and gives you a better chance of getting important tasks out the way before the day sneaks away from you.

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5. Pack Snacks.

Healthy employees are good for business, plain and simple. Why? Our minds tend to lose focus as we lose our sustenance. To avoid lulls in brainpower, pack two snacks and build your workday around them. If you’re eating something nutritious every few hours, you’ll be more on your game, and more physically ready to call it quits and get home for dinner when the time comes.

6. Outsource.

And on that note, if you’ve got a bunch of menial tasks that need to be handled, but a few high impact projects that need your attention, stop messing with the menial items and outsource them to someone whose time is cheaper than yours. This could be a more junior employee, a coworker, an assistant, or a freelancer. Whoever you pass it off to, it’s your responsibility to own your schedule and make that call. Recognize where your strengths are, and give your best attention to those tasks. It’ll shave time off your workday and make your output more substantial.

7. Own Your Space.

If you’re one of those people who can’t work in clutter, than don’t start working until you’ve decluttered. It’s pretty simple, really: if you can’t find any of the stuff you need to work, you’re going to waste more time. A good rule of thumb is to clean up your workspace for the next day before you call it quits and head home. This starts you off in a comfortable and lets you get down to business faster.

8. Put Your Hand Down.

If you’re drowning in work, quit offering to take on more. There’s no shame in saying no every once in a while. In fact, no will set you free. And remember: saying no to something just means saying yes to something else — like that expense report on your desk that isn’t going to do itself.

Tell Us What You Think

What tips would you add to this list? Share your secrets in the comments or join the discussion on Twitter.

Megan Shepherd
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