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The clock strikes five, but you're not even close to being done with your day. Meanwhile, Ms. Perfect in the next cube is scooping up her purse and bidding all a cheerful goodbye. Want to know her secrets to getting more work done in less time? Our experts can help.1. Feeling Good? Get to Work!
Laura Stack, author of Leave the Office Earlier, says that one of the biggest ways that people waste time not is by not matching their tasks to their energy level. "During peak energy periods, you should be working on complex tasks, like writing proposals or number crunching." Save the filing and answering e-mails for low-energy times. Unfortunately, Stack says that when office workers are in a good mood they tend to socialize. "That's when they want to do the fun stuff. Then they feel energy lag and say, 'I guess I should get to work.' So something that would have taken 30 minutes in a peak zone could take 90 minutes in a down time."2. Know When to Pick Up the Phone
Communicating by e-mail can be a great time-saver. It can help you connect with someone who keeps a very different schedule, or inform the office chatterbox that the meeting is at three without signing on for 20 minutes of conversation. But Stack says that in many situations, sending an e-mail is the more time-consuming choice. "We talk a lot faster than we type," says Stack. "That's why I use the Rule of Three. If you have gone back and forth three times, pick up the phone." She also advises using the phone if you have something difficult or emotionally charged to say -- rather than composing 20 drafts to make sure you aren't misunderstood.3. Have Your Bags Packed
If you do a lot of business traveling, take a tip from Niki Leondakis, the Chief Operating officer for Kimpton Hotels. Leondakis always keeps an extra set of all the basics -- toothpaste, makeup, running shoes -- in her suitcase. "This way, if I forget my face cream at the hotel, I won't be in a jam later," she says.4. Sit Up Straight
Make your sure that your workplace is ergonomically correct -- with good lumbar support, comfortable hand positions, and no crossed legs! "To work efficiently, you have to be comfortable. If you aren't, you'll have to get up and take breaks more often," says Stack.5. Minimize Interruptions
Arrange your workspace in a way that keeps socializing to a minimum. Stack suggests facing your chair away from doorways and hallways, and removing extra chairs from your office or cubicle. And turn off your cell phone! If you must, "Use it to check messages and to return truly urgent calls," says Alan Weiss, PhD, president of the Summit Consulting Group and author of The Unofficial Guide to Power Managing. Otherwise, your friends and family can wait until after 5:00. Similarly, segregate your work e-mail from your social e-mail. Start a separate e-mail account for personal matters -- including all those special offers e-mails from travel sites and your favorite retailers -- and ask friends and family members to e-mail you there exclusively. That way you can focus on your work during work hours, and do your socializing after hours, or during lunch.6. Give It Five
If you're procrastinating on a big project, Stack suggests doing it for just five minutes. "By then you've already gathered your materials, and once you have that forward motion you'll realize it's not so bad," says Stack, who uses this ploy when trying to motivate to file. "I hate filing, but I know if I don't file regularly it gets out of control. So I'll do it for five minutes and will be amazed by how much I got done, and then I get a feeling of satisfaction."7. Create an "Un-Do" List
We all have long lists of the stuff we have to do today. But Karen Salmansohn, author of Ballsy: 99 Ways to Score Extreme Business Success, says you can find more time in your day if you make a list of all the things you should stop doing. Are there tasks that can be delegated to an assistant or more junior employee? A contact who continually requests meetings and lunches but has yet to provide you with any meaningful new business or leads? Do you spend a lot of time gossiping, complaining, or doing someone else's job (and subsequently gossiping and complaining about it)? Identify the time drains in your day and scratch them off your to-do list. And then go home!
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, August 2006.