It’s 8:58 am. You glance at the clock. You have minutes to get to your 9 am meeting and you’re still halfway across town. While you travel, you begin to rehearse in your mind the main points of what you’d like to present but realize you are unprepared. But wait! Ugh. You’re missing last weeks report and other collateral to backup your presentation. You now begin to feel stressed. And, on top of everything else, you realize you forgot to call back an important client yesterday. More stress builds. Sound familiar? Many of us go through this scenario from time-to-time. This stress really boils down to keeping track of time and using your time more efficiently. Sometimes we get caught up in working hard instead of working smart.

By incorporating some disciplines of efficiency to improve productivity, we can rocket through the workday and not feel overwhelmed. I asked a few Janesville professionals to offer tips or tricks they use to get through their workday to increase productivity. Here’s their advice:

1) Try not to check your email for the first 30 minutes of your workday.

Don’t even open it. Most people are settling in and reading their emails, so it can be a mellow time.

2) Instead, take the first 30 minutes to plan the rest of your day. Or make a to-do list.

“I get in the habit of creating a phone log of all phone calls and list what each client and/or caller needs and wants, then I prioritize those needs from most important,” says Amy Carey, community education coordinator at Mercy Health System. She also says she prioritizes her paper work into to-do piles for each workday.

Lindsay Scheidell Hergert, communications professional at the American Heart Association reviews her to-do list not just in the beginning of the day, but throughout. “The course of my day can be altered with the drop of a hat so I try being realistic about how the 'list' may change and make sure to communicate to partners quickly if project deadlines have changed.”

3) Use technology to your advantage (if you can.)

John Beckord, president of Forward Janesville Inc. has dual computer monitors. He says it’s one of the best ways to improve efficiency and productivity. “I can have my online banking on one screen and budget spreadsheet on the other. It’s all right there in front of you, without having to minimize and enlarge screens constantly,” he says. “I can have my website searches in one screen while writing an article or an email on the other … no fishing and screen shifting.”

4) Know when you are most productive.

For example, for me, I am most productive in the morning, especially after an early morning workout. I find that I’m more self aware, enthusiastic, energetic and focused. I try to always be in the office as much as possible in the morning so I can capitalize on that energy.

Lisa Ames, executive director at Independent Disabilities Services in Janesville has a different take on productivity. She says she just has to be highly productive all the time. “I wear too many hats so I don't have time to even think about slacking off. Being in the non-profit world means I have no choice but too be productive!” Lisa also attributes her high productivity to being overly organized.

5) Put like-minded tasks together.

“I save phone calls, occasionally, and return calls in groupings. This allows me to be more efficient with each call, note taking, etc., related to the calls,” says Jim McMullen, development director, KANDU Industries, Inc. and Best Events Catering.

“I prioritize my email inbox into folders so my current inbox always reflects what needs to be done,” Amy Carey adds. “Once it’s put into a folder, I know that it was taken care of and I now have it to reference to in the future.” Amy also says prioritizing tasks, emails and messages is one of the best ways to make sure nothing gets deleted prematurely.

6) Be on time for meetings.

“I make sure my staff knows meetings are expected to start and end on time. Any off-task or discussions that get off-track with minutia of detail are suggested to be done offline (or in other words, outside of the meeting between those involved.) The clock is our friend!” says Jim McMullen.

I agree. How many times have you had to get late arriving people up to speed on what was covered in the first 10 to 15 minutes? If that happens frequently, that can be a waste of valuable time.

7) Carve out transition and travel time.

There’s nothing like a little surge of stress when you know you’re running late because you didn’t factor in travel time or transition time between meetings. One of my tricks is to add travel time into my meeting planners to ensure I have ample time – especially off-location meetings.

I also devote the final hours of my workday to some of my least-pressured tasks. It gives me time to reflect on the day and make sure the priority tasks were marked off my to-do list. It gives me a sense of accomplishment each day.

What about you? What tips and tricks help you improve your personal productivity while at work? Join the conversation below!

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