As you improve your structure at work, you will unquestionably gain time. You will spend less time searching for items and documents, or redoing things you previously completed but now cannot find, since you will now find what you are looking for much faster.
Less time will be wasted transporting yourself between physical locations since you now use the time you spend in a location more efficiently (and you therefore do not have to move around as much).
You spend less time correcting mistakes which you made while doing something half-heartedly last minute, since you now prioritize more consciously and work with greater foresight.
Help yourself choose
But it is easy to just fill this extra time we now have at our disposal with ”more of the same things”. The continual inflow of e‑mails, colleagues wanting your attention and meetings have a tendency to automatically get a high priority since you perceive them as being more or less urgent. This is exactly why it is a good idea to help ourselves to choose the right thing to do during the extra time we have gained, hence preventing wasting the opportunity we are presented with.
Do more of that which you are not doing enough
If we let the time we save by structuring more be consumed by whatever tasks come our way, we will not experience that we have gained any time at all. Instead of feeling that we have gained some ground, more of the tasks we usually do (and spend our time doing) obtain a sense of being urgent and we will end up working with less foresight rather than the opposite.
This is why you need to make it clear to yourself what you want to do more of when you have more free time at your disposal.
- Take a few minutes to reflect on the following: what do you not have time to do today which you would do more of if only you had the time? Would you call more clients, develop more things, converse more with the people you are in charge of, go home earlier, work more on refining your strategies, or something else?
- Write the things you come to think of on a note.
- Think of a way to be reminded of what you would want to do more of when the opportunity to do it presents itself. When you notice that you have a few moments to spare, you will want to catch a glimpse of the (three?) things you want to do more of when you have the time.
- If you spend a lot of time by your desk, you could make a sign.
- If you are frequently on the move or if you prefer digital reminders, create a background image for your screen (on your computer, phone, iPad, or the likes) where the three things are listed.
- Or, create a small card to keep in your wallet which you see every time you take out your credit card.
- Or, paste a note next to where you hang your coat every morning when you arrive at the office.
- Or, buy a small can of paint for porcelain and write the three things on the bottom (on the inside) of your coffeecup, so that you see them just as your coffee break is over.
- Or, tape a strip of paper onto the space between the laptop keyboard and the screen onto which you have written the three things.
- If you need to do something in order to do this, but you do not have time to do it right now, write it down as a to-do-task on your to-do-list so that you can remind yourself to take action on your good ideas.
Make use of your increased efficiency
If you make it clear to yourself what you want to do with the time you save by being more structured than before, you will make better use of your structural improvements. The structuring actually resulted in something new, rather than just give you time to do more of the work that does not actually increase your utility. You make it easier for yourself to have more of what you currently do not feel you have enough of.
What was your way?
How did you make it clearer to yourself what you want to do during any extra time gained through structuring? Tell me!
If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work — here are many ways to get just that.