If, at the end of each day you find yourself wondering, "Where did the time go? I didn't get half the things done I planned to!" you're probably a victim of the evil Time Suck. Time Sucks are those vicious little tasks and distractions that chomp away at your work day and leave you feeling inefficient and exhausted.
The good news is that many of them can be avoided or worked around. Some of them can be deleted altogether. The secret is to see them coming and successfully fend them off. Here are 13 suggestions:
1. Make full use of your down time. While waiting in line or in transit, check or answer emails and manager your calendar on your Blackberry or iPhone. You can do this at the bank, drive-through restaurant, taxi, bus, DMV, theater, etc.
2. Arrange your work schedule so that it begins an hour before everyone else's. That way you'll have an uninterrupted hour to concentrate on nothing but the task at hand.
3. Set aside 15 minutes to a half-hour each day (or evening) of non-company time to respond to personal emails and do your social networking. Then discipline yourself not to even glance at your personal email account, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc., during the rest of the day.
4. Make phone calls. Often a phone call takes less time than a long text message or a lengthy email, and can save you from embarrassing typos.
5. Leave your personal life at home. Only discuss your private life during breaks or at lunch -- better yet, leave it for friends and/or family after work. Over-sharing in the work place wastes monumental amounts of time, and is often unwelcome.
6. State the end time at the beginning. Say, "I have five minutes for this phone call." Or "This meeting needs to wrap up in an hour," or, "we can discuss this for 15 minutes, then we need to move on." That way the people you're communicating with know they need to be concise.
7. Clean off and organize your desk at the end of each day. This will save you invaluable time sorting through papers and trying to find things. The desk junk will pile up if you don't clear it every 24 hours.
8. Clean out your e-mail inbox. Remove yourself from emailing lists that distract you, such as clothing, gadget and retailer promotions from sites where you purchased something once but can't see yourself doing it again. It also includes email newsletters you've subscribed to but don't have time to read and cutsie chain messages from friends who never send you anything of interest.
9. Rev up with protein. Drinking a protein shake for a meal or a snack can give you extra energy and lose you extra pounds. You can also work while drinking (the shake).
10. Always leave your keys, cell phone, sunglasses, purse and/or wallet in the same place. How much time to you waste racing around frantically before you leave, looking for these items? You know you're going to need them at the same time every day, so why spend invaluable time searching for them?
11. Multitask while you're on the phone: You can do mindless chores while chatting, such as deleting junk emails, tossing out junk mail, or organizing your desk and dusting your equipment. If you're working at home, there's no end to the chores that can be done while on the phone, from emptying the dishwasher to making the bed to playing fetch with the dog.
12. Take calculated breaks: When you get bogged down, instead of trying to unproductively soldier through even though you feel fried, take a quick break. How about a walk outside, a protein snack, some cold water on your face or a little online fantasy shopping? Sometimes you have to clear out the cobwebs and start afresh.
13. Schedule appointments and important meetings as early as possible in the day: When your work depends on other people, meet with them before urgent deadlines, delays and setbacks start popping up. This also works well with doctors appointments.
These are just a few of the ways you can wring more out of your work day. You can probably think of at least a dozen others. What's your most hated Time Suck, and how do you avoid it? Inquiring and productive readers want to know!