13 small things to simplify your workday
“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~Lao Tzu
One of the best things I did when I decided to simplify my life was to simplify my workday — first at my day job and later, by quitting my day job, in the work I do now as a writer and entrepreneur.
I’ve eliminated most of the routine, boring, administrative tasks with a few simple principles.
These days, I have eliminated the non-essentials, and can focus on what I truly love: creating.
Not everyone can make such drastic steps toward simplicity, but if you have some control over your workday, you can do a few small things that will simplify things greatly.
If you don’t have control, or if you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do these things”, I’d start to ask why not? Is it possible to change things, if not today then over the long term? I found that often I thought something wasn’t possible (working from home, for example), but in the long run they were.
You don’t need to do all of these things — pick just one, and try it. Then try another and see if it works. Experiment to find what works for you.
And enjoy the simple work life.
1. Start early. Going into work early was one of my favorite tricks — it was quiet, before the phones and chatter and meetings started, and I could get a lot of work done in peace. By the time everyone else was getting started, I’d gotten two or three big tasks checked off.
2. Limit your hours. It’s ironic, because so many people work long hours and think they’re getting more done and being more productive. But they’re throwing brute hours at the problem. Instead, cut back on your hours and set a limit — say 6 or 7 hours a day — and get your most essential work done within that limit. If you know you’re only working 6 hours today, you’ll be sure to get the important tasks done first and waste less time. Limits force you to be effective.
3. Make a short list. Make a long list of all the tasks you need to do … then make a short list of 1-3 things you really want to get done. Choose so that, if you got only these tasks done, you’d be proud of what you did today. Start with the most important task, before checking email or reading online.
4. Batch distractions. What are your common distractions? Perhaps things like email, reading blogs, Twitter or another social network? Set a time for these, preferably later in the day: say, from 3-4 p.m. Don’t do the distractions before then. By grouping them all into one time period, you allow yourself to do other work first, but still get in your distraction time. Another approach might be to do them for 10 minutes at the end of each hour — but stick to that 10-minute limit!
5. Write shorter emails. If email takes up a lot of your day, the simple change of limiting yourself to 3-4 sentences per email will make a big difference. First, it’ll drastically shorten the time it takes to write or respond to emails. And second, it’ll shorten responses to your emails, which means you’ll spend less time reading email.
6. Limit meetings. The fewer the better. Some top Google executives just do 5-minute meetings — anyone who attends these meetings had better be prepared, and concise. If you can get out of meetings and just get the notes, or find an alternative way to communicate, it could save you hours per week.
7. Automate. The fewer repetitive and routine tasks you have to do, the more time you’ll free up for creating and important work. So automate wherever possible: have people fill things out electronically, or get info from your website instead of emailing or calling you, or use a service that automatically processes payments or ships your product, and so on.
8. Eliminate paperwork. I used to deal with a lot of paperwork, and even then I knew it was a waste of my time. If businesses and organizations could have paperwork filled out electronically, it would save a lot of paper, copying, filing, and duplicate effort. Whenever possible, eliminate paperwork in favor of digital. This might be more of a long-term move.
9. Clear your desk. This can be done in a few minutes. Clear everything off the top of your desk. Only put back a few essential items. Everything else should be: filed, given to the appropriate person, given a permanent spot in a drawer, or trashed/recycled. Make quick decisions and then get back to work.
10. Get away. If you can get out of your office, you can find a peaceful spot where you can focus on important work. Find a spot where you can work, turn off the Internet and do your work, and then turn the Internet back on so you can email or upload it to the appropriate spot. Working from home is a good option here. The more you can do this (it might be once a week, or an hour a day, or half of every workday), the better.
11. Take breathing breaks. Every 15-20 minutes, get up from your desk, and take a breathing break. It could be simply walking around the office, saying hi to someone, or even better, getting outside to get some fresh air. Walk around, get your blood circulating, perhaps massage your neck and shoulders if you feel tension. Do some pushups if you want to get fitter. When you get back to work, remind yourself what you want to be working on, and clear away all distractions.
12. Practice a focus ritual. Every hour or two, do a refocus ritual. This only takes a minute or two. You might start it by closing down your browser and maybe other open applications, and maybe even take a walk for a couple of minutes to clear your head and get your blood circulating. Then return to your list of Most Important Tasks and figure out what you need to accomplish next. Before you check email again or go back online, work on that important task for as long as you can. Repeat this refocus ritual throughout the day, to bring yourself back. It’s also nice to take some nice deep breaths to focus yourself back on the present. More focus rituals.
13. Schedule big blocks of creative time. Not everyone can do this, but when possible, put a big block of 3-4 hours in your schedule for creating or doing other important work. Make this time inviolate, and don’t allow meetings or other things to be scheduled during this time. Be ruthless about clearing distractions and doing the work you love during these blocks, taking breathing breaks as necessary. Rejoice in your creativity.
We all possess valuable resources, but none is trickier or more valuable than time. Managing your time is THE key skill set in managing your life. Show me what you do with your time and I’ll show you what your value system is all about. When leveraging time you will utilize and expand on core strength. If you can manage your time well you can accomplish almost anything. Using time incrementally, methodically, and strategically will help you stay on track and achieve your life priorities.
Personal productivity is only as limited as your proper use of time. Wise use of time maximizes and leverages all resources and helps you achieve your goals, objectives, and priorities. Good time management allows you to plan ahead and to use your purpose and passion with laser focus—nothing becomes impossible. Your productivity, as you leverage your passion through good time management, increases exponentially resulting in compelling accomplishment.
“Plan your work, then work your plan” is a great axiom. The “work your plan” part has to do with time management. Planning is great, but is useless without execution. Time management is all about the execution of your plans, goals, passions, and objectives.
Time management can be leveraged through productivity systems and good planning.
The 80-20 rule is evidence of this…. You accomplish about 80% of your results from 20% of your work. The key here is to find your personal “prime time” then leverage that time in the most productive way possible. To schedule around your 20% “prime time”, where you are most productive and efficient is the key to leveraging time, productivity, and accomplishment. For most people their prime time is in the morning. This is the time to get all of your core work accomplished. This key time is to be secured and set aside as the valuable commodity it truly is. Prime work time should be scheduled on a daily basis and should have compelling content at its core. Planning, goal setting, reviewing, communicating, executing initiatives, key meetings, key document creation, and much more are all the key elements of utilizing your prime time window.
Procrastination and its opposite workaholism are both dysfunction to avoid. Our society allows for both to its detriment. It takes discipline and self control to avoid the dysfunction of workaholism and over commitment and the sickness and the result they produce. The same can be said of procrastination—we are to avoid it like the plague. It all starts with analysis and admission and truly owning our own poor habits.
The idea here is to have a balanced life. This begins with healthy relationships and healthy personal spirit. Living your life in balance and alignment starts with living your priorities. The piece and congruity that results is compelling. A life lived well, living your priorities, and being able to have fun productivity that energizes you is a compelling work style/lifestyle.
The Covey idea of sharpening your saw and resting so you can work more efficiently is the key. A life lived in balance with family, work, community, friendships, and personal fulfillment is truly a productive life.
It all starts at time management, personal discipline, and self-control. Just do it.
Time management is—
The definition of Time management is a set of skills, tools, and systems that work together to help you get more value out of your time and leverage it to accomplish what you want.
Learning time management will do the following:
- Give a personal definition of time management, and how you can use it
- Help you know the signs that you’re off-track
- Help you know the signs that you are on the right track
- Help you know what your focus should be on
You know you’re on the right track when—
- Your customers, boss, family and peers praise your accomplishments.
- You meet your sales, personal, or family goals and have a positive performance
- You are often considered for additional responsibility and special projects.
- You feel good about your work and family and are energized by them.
You know you’re off-track, when—
- You’re working really hard, and little is being accomplished
- You’re not meeting your sales, personal, business, or family goals
- People around you complain about you
- You’re the only one who seems to think you’re doing a great job.
- You’re always putting out fires
- You’re spending a lot of his time socializing and complaining
Eight most common time wasters—
- Lack of planning
- Lack of priorities
- Over commitment
- Management by crisis
- Paperwork and reading e-mail
- Routine tasks
- The telephone
How to combat procrastination—
- Accept that procrastination is common, and that you are not unique
- Fearing failure is absolutely normal… we often procrastinate because we fear failure
- If you find you tend to procrastinate in certain situations… face them head on
- Never choose low priority work in front of high priority work
- Control your socializing at work
- Schedule start time as well, as the finished time for your work being planned
- Adopt single handling thinking. Touch it wants. You’ll pick up one job only and only put it down when it’s finished. Multitasking is a myth…
We should focus on activities that—
- Contribute to your customer, family, stakeholders success and satisfaction
- Booster personal productivity and performance
- Support your family or organization’s strategic vision and goals
Time management tips—
- Know and use your calendar or Daytimer
- Prioritize demands on your time
- Keep your priority list in front of you
- Keep checking your progress with time management.
- Stockpile work or questions, and to schedule says its time work on them. Only work on things in your scheduled to do so.
- Seek support when you need it— delegate
- Develop techniques that help you when in a unique situation
- Pick a morning or an evening to work when no one is around and get organized. Order creates less stress and helps focus
- Spend a few minutes at the end of the day putting everything in its home base and getting ready for the next day. Remember… trash it, act on it, refer it, or file it away.
10. Keep yourself motivated.
More tips for time management—
Making a commitment that you’ll measure time more efficiently to be the best promise you ever make to yourself. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did. Here are some tips that may help to some move your way to a little more time efficient life. You may even find that after you get the hang of it, you’ll have more free time!!
- Manage your availability— in which coworkers know when you are available to help them and when you’re not.
- Learn to prioritize—one of the most important things you can do in your search for more time. Prioritize your commitments. If you belong to any organizations that are turned into obligations, just give up your membership. There is not enough time to spend on doing things which aren’t that important to you.
- Make all your calls in the morning—this is when people are most likely to be available. Then, block off the rest of your day on interrupted work.
- Schedule time every week to take care of your filing—take time every week to get your filing done and keep up the organizing and purging of your files. This will go a long way to help you stay on top of your job responsibility. The get and stay organized.
- Create an activity log—keep a detailed personal activity log for several days to determine how you’re actually using your time. See where you’re spending too much and not enough time.
- Control your busywork—it’s not always easy to admit that sometimes we allow ourselves to get immersed in busywork. Focus on the job at hand and don’t let meaningless tasks consume your precious time.
- Create a system for yourself—no one knows your schedule better than you do. Incorporate simple and effective systems in your life that help you do what must be done on a daily basis so that you actually can get things accomplished. Get a routine and form positive habits.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew—break up big projects into manageable pieces. Divide your projects and concentrate on one part at a time. Gradual progress and growth is the best practice.
- Never forced the finishing of a project, if it can be helped—there’s no point in force yourself to finish a job when you’re not making any headway. Switch to another project in the new challenge will refresh and renew your mind so that you can return to the original job. You will then feel ready to complete it.
10. Plan ahead—this tip will eliminate the procrastination and ensure higher productivity. Estimate how long a job will take. Then at about one third more time. Then count the number of days back from the deadline, and set that as your defining starting point…Hot tip!
11. .Learn what is urgent, versus what is important—there is a tremendous difference. Too often we respond to the urgent and forfeit the necessary. In other words, things that demand our media attention usurp what is necessary. By contrast, important tasks might not require an instant response, but they necessitate important activities that will keep you on track in achieving your goals. Be wary of the Tyranny of the Urgent!
12. Under promise and over deliver—this is a very old axiom, but nonetheless very true. Never promised too much; you’re more likely to disappoint people. Instead, with all things, under promise and over deliver. People will be pleasantly surprised when you’re done more than originally planned.
Five ways to improve productivity—
There is so much happening and less and less time to handle of all these days. Learning how to increase your productivity could give you the edge you need to get it all done. The idea of getting it all done is nebulous at best.
Do we ever truly get it all done?
To think that we could have it completely whipped is a fallacy and a dangerous life paradigm. Could you get at least some of it done? It is possible…. here are a few ways and strategies that can increase your productivity:
- Schedule your time for work—be consistent. Don’t do personal things in your schedule to work. Make it to do list and prioritize your tasks. A list is often more effective for those of us need to consult a reference or see it in writing. When you’ve completed a task, cross off your list. You get a real sense of completion in satisfaction as you see your list getting shorter and shorter.
- Do the most difficult, time-consuming, least favorite jobs first— do the first things first. Do the hardest task at hand when you have the most energy and motivation to tackle the project. If you tackle the toughest job first, the rest of your tasks will seem that much easier.
- Do not allow yourself to get interrupted by other people’s emergencies or drama—be able to say No. Learn to have boundaries. Learn to say no and a polite but firm way. Be professional, kind and understanding, but also be ready to use the most famous boundary word of them all: NO.
- Organize your files—set up the system right from the beginning. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use a Daytimer for scheduling. Have a 31 day and 12 month filing system. You can have technology, but don’t let technology have you. Do not reinvent the wheel. An ordered space will allow you to be less stressed.
- Organize your workspace—the better organized and efficient your workspace, the more efficient you will be in time management. The time it takes you to search through out all your piles of paper or to remember where you put that file could be spent in working on new projects. Put the things you use most on your desktop and always put them back in the same place when you’re done. Keep a file organizer on your desk for current projects, so they are always at your finger tips. Have clearly delineated places for everything.
This book is about hope, renewal, and Life
Renaissance—about what is possible.
I’m writing this as a result of loss, death, and
personal depression, all of which have resulted in a
personal, Midlife Renewal and Renaissance.
The deaths of my father, Bob Hammond and
my friend, Dan Gunderson, caused me to think
about how I live my life and what kind of legacy I
am leaving behind for my children, wife, and
The deaths of two people very close to me
made me realize the fragility and temporal nature of
our existence. Life really does go by quickly and
must be cherished and relished.
My love for God, people, and especially
parents and families has resulted in this work. It
presents the possibility of incremental, practical,
and a workable personal healing and change. It also
presents methods for getting back on track as both a
parent and as a person of value.
My goal is to help people avoid a midlife
crisis, and instead, have a Midlife Renewal and Life
Renaissance– a restoration of hope.
I’ve made great effort to avoid being glib, trite,
or theoretical. Rather, I offer realistic, practical
solutions and strategies to live life on purpose and
with passion. This book is about the ability to do
the desires of your life; to live life on purpose with
intentionality. This is about practicality and giving
you the tools to take compelling action as you move
This book will help you…
• Have pride in your life, marriage,
and family as you define them.
• Discover satisfaction as a person.
• Find hope, by helping you create a
workable life and plan for living
with purpose, joy, and wisdom.
• Save you time, energy, hassle, and
money by being direct and
compelling in content.
My hope is that the content that I present here
will result for you an incremental, workable,
personal parenting/life plan that will enable you to
leave a positive and lasting legacy.
This will require of you a willingness to be
incremental, honest, and courageous. You will need
to persevere as you break through into your own
Renewal/ Life Renaissance.
I pray that your personal passion in leaving a
living legacy through your relationships results in
an awesome heritage to all whom you ever know
God bless you on your Hero’s Journey.
May this book’s content be a signpost along
Scott Hammond, FO-9