Companies are always keen to look at systems and processes to improve productivity, but often ‘the little things’ relating to personal productivity can be equally important. Here we list our top 5 tips for working more effectively:
1. Learn some shortcuts. Small savings in time and effort can all add up, and learning a few keyboard shortcuts can help make common tasks quicker and easier. In most Windows applications, ‘CTRL-S’ will ‘Save’ work in progress, whilst ‘CTRL-Z’ will ‘Undo’ your last change, even when this option is not visible on the menu. When testing web sites, ‘CTRL-F5’ or ‘CTRL-R’ will perform a ‘hard refresh’, bypassing browser caching and removing the need to delete temporary files. And if you find your desktop becoming cluttered, just hit ‘Windows-D’ to instantly minimise all open windows.
2. Prioritise hard tasks first. Most people find that their concentration is higher in the morning, and can deteriorate after lunch in a mid-afternoon ‘slump’. It therefore makes sense to tackle tricky tasks early in the day when your mind is at its sharpest, and save less demanding tasks for later when attention begins to wane. Completing difficult items first can also provide the extra motivation needed for addressing the smaller bits and pieces on your to-do list.
3. Turn off email. When trying to focus on a task, incoming emails can be a constant source of interruption. At such times, it is often helpful to close down your email for a controlled period of time in order to give full attention to the task in hand. In most circumstances, it’s unusual for an email to require an instant response: if an urgent issue arises, it’s more likely you’ll be contacted by phone or in person.
4. Working with large files. Copying large files from A to B can be a slow process. However, if you simply wish to ‘move’ the file on the same drive, ‘Cut > Paste’ is instant versus ‘Copy > Paste > Delete’, as this essentially ‘renames’ the file rather than rewriting any data. When transferring files over FTP, bear in mind that uploads typically take much longer than downloads: a file that downloads in 5 minutes may take up to an hour to upload onto a remote server.
5. Minimise internet distractions. Social networks, discussion boards, video clips, games, funnies and even ‘serious’ news sites can all be tempting alternatives when faced with difficult or repetitive work, so maintaining self-motivation is key. A recent Google homepage featuring an interactive Pac-Man game is estimated to have cost worldwide businesses 549 years of employee time and $120m in lost productivity during the course of just one day, illustrating how small distractions can accumulate to impact the bottom line.