These tips can help you spend your time better and focus on what's important in your work. All tips aren't for everyone. What you can and should do always depends on your role and the organization you work in.
Use MyAnalytics in Outlook
Would you like to know how many people read a specific email you sent? Check out the MyAnalytics Outlook add-in to see how many people have read, replied to, or forwarded your email.
Tip: Go to Outlook and open an email you've sent or received. Then click MyAnalytics at the top of the email, just below the recipients line, to see the statistics.
Fewer meetings, shorter meetings, or more focused meetings. These are some options if you want to save time spent in meetings.
Send recaps instead of invitations
Email isn't always a time-waster. It can be a useful way to decrease attendance at meetings while still keeping people in the loop. If you have colleagues whose decision-making input isn't needed at a meeting, you can email them an update after the meeting to let them know what was decided.
Shorten your meetings
A recent survey of executives showed that 25 to 50 percent of time spent in meetings was wasted. Some companies have introduced standing meetings. While not appropriate for all forms of meetings, a standing meeting will by necessity be shorter and more efficient than a typical sit-down meeting. Alternatively, consider shortening or consolidating recurring meetings, especially if there are more than 10 attendees.
Rethink recurring meetings
A common productivity tip is to “spring clean” your calendar. Try canceling all recurring meetings for a week and re-adding them as needed for those that are truly missed. This has been shown to reduce 10-30% of the number of meetings when done as a team.
Rethink the attendee list
Big status meetings and update meetings for attendees who “need-to-know” can drain attention when all participants aren’t fully engaged. Multitasking is a common indicator that the person isn’t fully needed in a meeting. Can you send a recap instead?
Discourage “business tourism”
The term "business tourists" has been used for people in a corporation who “make a point of attending all the meetings they can, just so they feel they are in the loop.” Successful meetings require dynamic input and focus from all participants and disengaged attendees can significantly detract from meeting effectiveness. As an organizer, you should try to limit collaboration to the meeting participants to reduce distraction and ensure adequate contribution.
Pick up the phone, don't "reply all", or unsubscribe from email lists that aren't useful, are some alternatives for what you can do if you see that you spend too much time on emails.
Remove unnecessary email recipients
Before clicking send, look over your recipient list and make sure each person will add value to the conversation. Think twice before using Reply All. Your default should be to reply only to the sender. Use Reply All only when your response is truly relevant to all involved. Some recipients may need to only know the outcome of decisions, rather than being CC'd on the full conversation.
Send fewer emails - use Skype or pick up the phone
Before sending an email at all, consider these insights. An organizational simplicity task force found that reducing executive email output by 54 percent resulted in a 7 percent productivity increase throughout the entire company. A management tip column supported this approach by urging executives to “pick up the phone.” Often, phone calls are more efficient than back-and-forth email conversations, and allow for questions to be answered in real time. Skype is a good option.
Unsubscribe from groups that you don’t read
Consider removing yourself from groups you don't really need to be part of. If you end up just deleting the emails or moving them to your "Read later" folder and never look at them again, maybe it's better not to have those emails clutter your inbox.
Spare others' inboxes
Maybe you can introduce the following company discipline around CC’ed e-mails. It’s simple really: when responding to an email, move everyone you can to BCC with a note that says “moving Joe, Sally & Eileen to BCC to spare their inbox”. This gives these colleagues a chance to object if they want to stay on the thread, but also gives them an easy out from emails that will just clutter their inbox and waste their time. This simple recognition of the value of people’s time also helps spread good behavior every time someone sees it. Pass it on.
Be a thoughtful coworker!
Condense emails and status updates with daily or weekly digests for “inform” type emails. This reduces the overall noise and randomization caused by email overload.
Save drafts or delay delivery for email until the recipients’ normal business hours. Limit late night/early morning email to urgent email to cut through the noise.
Turn off notifications on your phone and desktop when you are trying to focus.
As a team:
For example: No meetings Wednesdays
Agreed upon “team hours”
Be respectful of people’s time
Be intentional of meeting overruns and who you invite
We define focus time as at least two consecutive hours of time without meetings. Focus time is meant to represent enough time so you can focus on deliverables or complete other important tasks.
Block focus time on your calendar
Prioritize your own time and block against double-booking over it. In the same way, be respectful of double-booking over your team’s blocked time.
Fewer meetings can mean more time to concentrate on meaningful tasks or rest.
More time for fostering relationships can translate to higher levels of productivity
Allowing time for a little relaxation during work hours can do more for your profession success than provide mental recovery. Dedicating time to fostering relationships and growing networks has proven to be invaluable for professional advancement. A study carried out by a partnering team proved a correlation between successful salespeople and large networks. They discovered that top salespeople boasted internal networks that were 33% larger than those who performed below average. In this case, an investment in meaningful coworker relationships translated to higher performance.
Make time for what's important
Before skipping lunch and instead have a fourth cup of coffee at your desk, go enjoy a meal with your team. You’ll give your brain a break, grow your network, and probably boost your productivity.