Regardless of the industry, you work in, or the size of your company, office work can become cluttered and artificially busy in a hurry. There are meetings to attend, paperwork to do, reports to file, emails to check, phones to answer and, well, your Facebook page isn’t going to update itself.
If you’re not careful, your day can quickly fill up with non-essential activities, leaving you much less productive than you need to be. This can result in late project completion, assignments not meeting deadlines, and ultimately, your work performance being less stellar than it could be. It’s one of the easiest ways to add stress to your job.
You don’t have to be at the mercy of every productivity pitfall, though. There are steps you can take to speed up work and save time, freeing your schedule to handle more priorities and get more accomplished in the day, week, month, or year. It just takes the right tools and tactics.
This list, assembled to help you cut time sinks and maintain efficiency, describes 5 shortcuts that will help you save time, get more accomplished, and not get bogged down in less essential duties at work. That way, you can focus on priorities and take care of business.
1. Have Someone Else Answer the Phones
One of the most significant time sinks any given business deals with is customer phone calls. Answering phone calls and offering stellar customer service can be problematic for any business, but especially for younger or smaller companies that may not have the manpower to handle the number of calls they get.
Even large businesses can struggle, having to utilize a significant amount of the bandwidth to address minor concerns that can be answered quickly by even the newest of employees. These minor concerns can soon clog up the phone lines.
This can mean perception of your customer service suffers, as wait times for legitimate concerns lengthen out, and many customers will choose to switch to a competitor rather than wait for your team to “figure out what they’re doing.”
What many businesses don’t know, is that they can alleviate this burden by outsourcing some or all of your phone-based customer service to a call center solution or an answering service.
Much like outsourcing your janitorial work, accounting, or HR services, a qualified team can make a huge difference, decreasing your overhead, and allowing your team to focus on income-generating activities.
2. Automate Everything You Can
Speaking of automation, there’s probably quite a few of your daily activities that feel like a monkey could accomplish them with the right training and proper motivation. The good news is, in our age of technology, much of that is now outsourceable.
All without having to pay anyone. Automation opens a lot of possibilities if you know how to work it right, and some tools can do it for you for free.
Want to have every email (or emails from specific senders) you receive immediately upload to a spreadsheet file? You can make a Zap for that. Or say you want to tweet your Instagrams as native Twitter photos; there’s an IFTTT function that can help you get it done.
With a little bit of prep work, you can shave hours off of your work week by having your computer do menial tasks for you. It’s like having a little monkey of your own, without any of the mess.
3. Ditch the Data Entry
Let’s face it; one of the most frustrating parts of any office job is putting data where it needs to be. Whether it’s getting useful information out of a written document (or, more accurately, thousands of written reports), or just transferring data from one application to another when they don’t want to play nice.
Dealing with data can be downright frustrating. Worse yet, having to shift all that information manually can be time-consuming and wrist-cramping.
A better option is to use a tool that can, again, automate all of that for you. There are integration and data uploading tools that can virtually eliminate the need for data entry, allowing you to skip straight from working in one app, to working in another. No more endless hours of transcribing, no more endless tabbing, and no more finger cramps.
4. Get Organized
Let’s face it; keeping organized is key to staying on top of workflows, and email clients are not very good at making to-do lists. You need better tools to track what you need to do during the day, and sticky notes aren’t going to do it.
Remember, if the past three shortcuts have taught you anything, the computer is your friend. It can solve a lot of your problems if you know how to use it properly.
Take the Trello app for instance. It’s kind of like electronic sticky notes, but better. It organizes tasks in boards, and allows you to move them around as needed, and share them with anyone who needs to know your schedule.
If your tasks are a little more collaborative, tools like Asana or Workfront can help you with project management and can streamline workflows for a whole team. They grant you visibility into what team members are working on and makes pinpointing progress on a project very easy. In short, it’s way better than sticky notes.
5. Keep In Touch
Sometimes, the biggest problem is just being able to get answers to concerns and questions from people on your team. Calling them or getting out of your chair and walking to their office takes valuable time out of your day, and when you have to do it repeatedly through the day, it can eat into your productivity.
More importantly, both of these options have two serious problems.
First, you never know if the person you need to talk to is available, and you might be calling or walking to their office for no reason, as you’ll have to come back when they’re not preoccupied.
Second, there’s no record of the conversation, so it can be difficult to remember what was said, what new agreements there are, and what now needs accomplishing.
While chat programs like Skype and Google Chat can solve some of these problems, they present another: every now and again you need a way to share information or ask a question of a whole group, or even the entire company. In this case, you need a team communication app that has a more flexible UI.
That’s where apps like Slack come in. Slack allows you to contact team members at your (and their) leisure. It also leaves a written record of conversations and lets you broadcast news and questions to whole channels. That way, you can talk to whoever you need to, and whoever needs to reach you can speak to you.
Productivity and efficiency are sometimes hard to maintain. However, with the right tools, and a little bit of strategy, you can keep yourself running at full speed.