Stop Office Overload
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Stop Office Overload

6 ways to get more accomplished on the job.

The American workweek now averages 45 to 50 hours -- not including commuting time, which can add another 10 hours a week, according to time-management expert Lee Silber. And unfortunately, time at the office often isn't well spent. Once you finally leave, frazzled, you can't stop thinking about the millions of things to do tomorrow.

"You can leave the office behind mentally if you achieve what you had to by the end of the day," says organizational expert Julie Morgenstern, president of Task Masters, a New York City-based organizing firm. Some ideas:

  1. Hardest job first.
    Knock off the most critical project as soon as you get in. "If the day gets out of control, at least you'll know that you managed to do one big thing," says Morgenstern.
  2. Use your influence.
    If are in a position of power at work, use it. For meetings, set an agenda and a time limit. "Meetings go on forever for two reasons: lateness and going off topic," says Morgenstern. "If you call a half-hour meeting, no one will show up late. Your agenda should never have more than three points." If good ideas come up that are off topic, put them on the agenda for another meeting.
  3. Steer clear.
    If you are not a decision-maker on an issue, finagle your way out of the meeting. "Before the meeting, ask the boss what she sees you gaining from attending. Then ask if there might be a better use of your time," says Morgenstern.
  4. Establish a closed-door policy.
    For work that requires heavy concentration, set aside closed-door time, say an hour. Let people know not to knock with a polite sign.
  5. Get caller ID.
    Monitoring calls can save hours, allowing you to sidestep distracting personal chats. If your employer won't pay for this service, screen your calls liberally. Every hour, check messages and return only essential business calls. Save personal chats for the end of the day, as you're winding down.
  6. Take 15.
    As quitting time approaches, take 15 minutes of what Morgenstern calls "sacred regrouping time." Look at your daily planner -- a must-have -- and check off what you've done, and make a realistic plan for what you will do tomorrow," she says. "Include a time estimate for each task, and the following business day, you'll hit the ground running."