Seven time-saving tools and tips for busy professionals

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Date: 13 January 2022

An alarm clock on an office desk

The young and furious are keen on hustling. They're ready to give up lunch breaks and pull all-nighters. But the thing is, it's not sustainable. At some point, the workload is going to start feeling taxing on mental and physical health.

The good thing is it doesn't have to be so bad. Busy professionals can free up some time, without sacrificing the value they add to the company.

The key is to use tools that can bring efficiency to processes and streamline a large portion of the workload. If there's tech to get things done, why do it manually? 

This article talks about tools and tips that busy professionals can use in the workplace to make workdays less stressful.

The last decade was all about automation and SaaS. This trend has made people realise just how much their workflow can be automated. 

Using tools to reduce workload helps busy professionals free up time to dedicate to critical thinking and strategic decisions, rather than mechanical tasks that don't add much value. 

There are lots of tools and advice out there on how busy professionals can maintain a healthy workload while still checking all the boxes on their to-do lists. However, this article will focus on specific tools that offer significant benefits. It also focuses on actionable advice that will help busy professionals get a breather.

1. Use inventory management software

Companies that sell a product need to know how much inventory they have at all times. Inventory management poses several challenges depending on the business' nature. 

A business with only a handful of products but omnichannel operations may need to look at how much inventory is available for all channels. On the contrary, a brick-and-mortar with a massive product portfolio will need to track where each item is placed, know what the optimal order quantity is, and how frequently the orders should be placed, among other things.

Unless there are streamlined processes in place to address these challenges, the business’ operations are likely to suffer either as a result of stock-outs or inventory collecting dust. 

Source

A lot of businesses deploy traditional inventory recording techniques. However, simply using a FIFO system on a journal doesn't cut it anymore, especially for a business with an omnichannel presence. 

What you need is a robust inventory management software that can automate a large portion of the inventory management processes. If you've never heard of them, check out Lightspeed's guide on inventory management software.

Optimal inventory management doesn't just offer economic benefits. It's also key to allowing busy professionals the time to think about the more strategic parts of inventory management and the business as a whole. 

By using a good inventory management software, you'll find yourself better positioned to make inventory-related decisions.

2. Hire a travel management agency

Business travel is expected to cross the $1 trillion mark next year. As the vaccination rates climb and people return to the office, professionals will go back to hunting for lounges and booking tickets for their staff. 

From reimbursements to bookings, there's a ton of time that goes into managing business travel. However, hiring a travel management agency can be a smart move. If you don't know which travel management agencies will suit you best, this list on TravelPerk breaks down the best business travel management companies. 

Most travel management companies offer two-fold benefits in terms of freeing up a busy professional's time. 

First, the travel management company will take over all the fundamental tasks attached with business travel from bookings to VAT recovery. Second, a good travel management company will also offer their clients continuous updates to ensure a traveller's safety and improve their travel experience. 

Of course, the specific features depend on the travel management company. And that's why the TravelPerk list is a valuable resource.

3. Don't micromanage

Micromanagement is a time-hogging exercise that demoralises the team. A lot of busy professionals find themselves with no time even after having delegated a good portion of their work. The reason is that they try to constantly monitor how things are going even after delegating.

That's not how delegation works. When a task is delegated, it means the person delegating the task has other high-priority tasks that need attention. 

Micromanaging delegated tasks is a recipe for stress. Not only will you need to finish high-priority tasks, but you'll also be anxiously looking over how the delegated tasks are coming along.

Instead, consider delegating tasks only to members that you trust. Someone who has successfully completed similar tasks in the past without any handholding. Sure, it may be scary at first. But over time, you'll learn to put trust in people that are worthy of it.

4. Fewer meetings, more emails

Most professionals aren't big fans of attending meetings - they're boring! It's not surprising that 70% of all meetings keep employees from getting things done. But does that mean meetings should be banished? Not really.

Meetings are still helpful when circumstances warrant holding one. However, most meetings can either be substituted by email or a loom recording. Holding meetings only when truly necessary will streamline communication within your team. 

If you're a busy professional, there's a good chance that a sizable portion of your schedule goes into meetings. Holding meetings strictly on an as-needed basis will unlock a lot of your time. 

When meetings are necessary, make sure that there's a well-defined agenda about what the meeting will be about. Try to keep things straightforward and to the point, and let people know when they'll have time to share their opinions or insights. 

Randomly discussing a matter at hand misdirects the members, and they're more prone to going on a tangent. So, now you know. Fewer meetings and more emails can save you a ton of time.

5. Finish critical tasks first

"Focus on signal over noise. Don't waste time on stuff that doesn't actually make things better," says Elon Musk

Every busy professional has a laundry list of tasks that need to be completed each day, week, and month. Organising the approach to completing tasks is key to getting things done faster. For instance, it's okay to apply for a passport renewal application a few days late, but you can't defer creating a pitch deck until next week. 

So, how does this save time? Well, prioritising difficult critical tasks prevents you from wasting time procrastinating. You'll also find you’re less likely to rush, make mistakes and get stressed out. All of which can lead to you taking 2x as much time you normally would.

Even if you end up not finishing all your tasks, you're less likely to lose sleep over deferring low-priority tasks to the next day or week than having that big pitch hang over your head.

6. Self impose deadlines

This may sound like a sure-fire way to add stress to your life. But over time, it can be a useful tactic for getting things done faster. Of course, it's never a good idea to rush through tasks. So ideally, impose reasonable deadlines. 

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion," says Parkinson's law

When someone has an hour to complete a 30-minute task, there's a good chance they'll end up taking more than 30 minutes to complete the task. Instead, consider timing tasks with a stopwatch. See if it helps you focus and get things done faster.

7. Improve decision-making skills

Professionals, especially higher up in the management, make dozens of decisions each day. Often, thinking, strategising, and making tactful decisions form a core part of their role. But over time, professionals can get into the bad habit of paralysing themselves over making decisions that won't have a significant impact.

For instance, deciding which wine to serve for the office party next week isn't a decision that should take away a lot of your time. Invest time and energy into decisions that have a longer-term impact. 

Many busy professionals have important tasks that require their expertise and experience. Putting too much time into thinking about low-impact decisions will result in reduced productivity.

The key is to train the brain to recognise what's important, and which decisions should be made quickly versus which ones require more thought.

Everybody has 24 hours

Every professional has 24 hours. Some are productive and manage to have a healthy work-life balance, while some struggle to get enough sleep at night. The difference between both groups is that they do things differently. 

To have a healthy work-life balance and still retain productivity, professionals need tools that can reduce their workload and strategies that can allow them to reduce the time they take to complete tasks. 

Implementing the tools and tips discussed here will go a long way in helping professionals unclog their schedules and reducing their stress levels.

Copyright 2021. Article made possible by SKALE.

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