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How To Reduce The Number Of Hours You Work Without Sacrificing Quality

We all want to spend less time in the office, and more time outside in the sun, but most people cannot really afford to do that. Here are 12 tips and tricks on how to reduce the number of hours you work without reducing your overall output. 

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#1 Outsource the tasks you hate

Why do your own business bookkeeping when you can outsource it to a bookkeeper who can do it faster and better? When we work on tasks that we hate, it usually takes us longer (and it feels longer) to finish because we keep procrastinating it or we don't do it well and we're forced to redo things. Reduce your work hours by outsourcing the work you hate by people who can do it better than you.

Contributors: John Jonas from 

#2 Keep A List

I suggest using an electronic tool, rather than paper-and-pencil. You can’t remember everything so you need to keep important things out of your head. In addition to your to-do list, have a “Project” list, containing your big-picture objectives. A Project has a specific beginning and end. So “Grow the company” might become “Add two new salespeople by third quarter.” Then you must ask yourself, “What’s the very first thing I need to do to move that project forward?”

Specific action steps might be: “Review the budget to allocate the funds,” or “Request meeting with Sales VP to discuss resource allocation.” The idea is that if you had five minutes, and wanted to move that project forward, you’d know exactly what you’d need to do. If you don’t have a specific action identified, that task is less likely to get done, and as a result, that project is less likely to move forward.

Contributors: Maura Thomas from Regain Your Time

#3 Organize your To-Do list.

First, centralize your task list. Do you have to check two different email accounts, the Post-it notes on your computer, your calendar and your voicemail to figure out what you need to do? Get your to-dos all in one place. Next, break it down. The items that sit undone on your to-do list are probably the big, scary ones like “get a new job” or “roll out the new product.” Your brain doesn’t know what to do with ill-defined tasks like these until you turn them into smaller, actionable steps that are very specific, like “email the team regarding a date for the kickoff meeting.”

Contributors: Maura Thomas from Regain Your Time

#4 Tweak your environment

Start by decluttering. Talk to me all you want about messiness and creativity, but in my work I’ve seen over and over that clutter = stress. Your clutter sends the message (to yourself and others) that you’re overwhelmed and not in control, and that there may be things buried in the clutter that need your attention. Tackle electronic clutter, too. When you have lots of application windows and browser tabs open, you’re setting yourself up for constant distraction and task switching, which leads to scattered thinking and mistakes.

Contributors: Maura Thomas from Regain Your Time

#5 Control your attention

How much of your day is spent being reactive? If you often feel like the day flew by but you didn’t make any real progress on your plans, you might be allowing too many distractions to steal your attention. If you’re always distracted, you’ll get used to being always distracted, and you’ll find yourself bored in the “quiet times.” And as a result, you’ll unintentionally seek out the distraction! Ensure that you have times in your day when you can support your focus. Put your devices on Do Not Disturb, close your email, and spend time working on the things that are important to you – find your flow!

Contributors: Maura Thomas from Regain Your Time

#6 Charge More

The easiest way to reduce the number of hours you work is to charge more. You will earn more so you will be able to reduce your hours If you are concerned that you will lose clients by raising your rates, then go slowly. For example, you can raise your rates 15% per year and likely retain your clients. Even if the going rate for your service is below your new rate, be brave! You are worth it!

Contributors: Jane Muir from J. Muir & Associates, P.A. 

#7 Daily Routine

Sometimes, the only person standing in the way of working less is yourself. Maybe you feel responsible for everything, or guilty when things don't get done, or your perfectionism will not allow you to finish a project. If so, it's time to sit yourself down and set some boundaries. Design a routine that will enable you to get your work done in a reasonable work schedule, while still making time to eat, sleep and exercise. Delegate. Set a deadline when a project must be done and send it out even if it is not perfect. 

Contributors: Jane Muir from J. Muir & Associates, P.A. 

#8 Standard Operating Procedure

We all have a unique set of skills and experience, and we've perfected many processes to such an extent that it seems like a waste of time delegating. We might think that empowering, answering questions and then fixing the mistakes of a subordinate is more time consuming and stressful than doing the job ourselves.

For each repeatable task, there will be shortcuts and valuable lessons that we've learned through experience and trial and error. If we document our process in a remarkably detailed standard operating procedure (SOP), we can pass our abilities onto other people. With a step by step SOP, including images, videos, screenshots and anything else to make the task straightforward, we can pass the work onto those whose work time is far less valuable. After all, everyone has the same basic skills (sight, touch etc.), and each step in the process is usually straightforward when broken down.

Contributors: Jason Lavis from Natural Resource Professionals Ltd 

#9 Time Blocking

The key to maximizing the quality of your work and reducing the number of hours you are working is time blocking and discipline. You must identify and separate tasks that are important from ones that are urgent. Then, schedule a certain amount of time at the end of each day to handle those emails and other tasks that are not urgent. By being disciplined to focus on the “urgent” and ignore the “important” you will find that you are not spending unnecessary time on the less urgent tasks throughout the day. You are able to create more time to tackle the tasks that must be completed each day and slowly knock out the less urgent tasks little by little.

Contributors: Kelly Edwards from Lawton Marketing Group

#10 Identify Your Time Killers

Track the hours you spend on different activities in a spreadsheet to identify the ones draining your productive energy. For instance, most people spend excessive time snacking, gossiping and daydreaming; causing them to stretch their usual office hours everyday. Track every single activity in a workday and check whether one of these activities are snatching away your productive time. Assign boundaries to the tasks claiming a major share of your time and you are sorted.

Contributors: Ketan Kapoor from Mettl

#11 Watch Your Smartphone Habits

Pick up your phone only when imperative. Set time slots to get your hands on phone to check social media or connecting with friends and family. Avoid checking out your Facebook and Instagram feeds every now and then. When you tap social media icons, you get carried away in the information overload and sacrifice a considerable amount of productive hours. Also, it’s important to set a time frame to answer personal phone calls or else you run the risk of chasing deadlines everyday while compromising the quality of work.

Contributors: Ketan Kapoor from Mettl

#12 Tame the Email Beast

I only sit down and do one focused burst of email a day (two if the inbox is really busy)…I put an hour on the clock, and I race myself to get through as much as I can. I answer the most high priority ones first (like inquiries & client emails) and then I follow that with my “two minute emails” (the ones that can be answered in two minutes or less). And then I set aside time to work on those more in depth emails (like the ones that require me to make a decision, find out an answer, or complete some sort of work before I can write back) until the timer runs out. Whatever else is left can roll over to the next email burst. Because repeat after me, the world will not end if they have to wait just one more day before you can get back to them!

Contributors: Mary Marantz from Justin & Mary

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Written by Zak Parker

Journalist, writer, musician, professional procrastinator. I'll add more here later.

One Comment

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  1. great stuff! These are such helpful tips on reducing work hours without sacrificing quality. Finding the right balance between these two hasn’t been easy. love this! Thank you so much. Keep it up! 🙂

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