These four simple strategies can help you spend less time on those redundant tasks that drag down your day.
When I began my career, I had at best a hesitant understanding of my job requirements and the daily actions I'd be taking. Every day, without fail, I'd waste significant time doing monotonous tasks and fail to improve my station in life. After a while, I learned various ways to skip the drudgery by automating or eliminating awful tasks.
Here is what I learned:
1. Digitally Sign and Fax Everything For some reason, faxing still exists. An old manager once insisted I fax a press release to television stations, because "they still read faxes." Whether you believe that is immaterial; you will, at some point, have to fax something. And chances are you have to sign things from time to time, too.
If you're looking for a massive corporate solution, eFax and EchoSign tick the corporate security and durability boxes and can be scaled to fit small or large companies. On the other side, HelloFax and HelloSign have made it as easy as emailing to fax and sign things. After six months of using both, I've saved a few hours worth of drudgery by editing, signing, and annotating documents directly from the site, and it's relatively cheap.
2. Share, Don't Attach or Sync I love Dropbox and Box.com for bundles of files, but I've found that my synced folders require too much flushing to update. I've recently started using Droplr for any and all files I need to send quickly--a selection of b-roll or a corporate head shot--by simply dragging them onto the taskbar icon and sharing the link. Perhaps Box and Dropbox will find quicker sharing alternatives, but until then Droplr will continue to save me from awkward right-clicking (or waiting for Gmail to maybe attach correctly).
3. Follow Up Intelligently Instead of wondering when you should follow up to an email or, indeed, how long it's been, use Followup.CC. You simply BCC certain email addresses to get them returned to your inbox when you need them next--for example, blind-copying email@example.com will bring the email back to your inbox in (surprise!) a week.
This significantly cuts down on my worry about remembering to follow up with people in a reasonable fashion. It also psychologically will keep you moving forward instead of constantly wondering what you’ve already done. Probably.
Procrastination is usually met with a degree of guilt. Removing said guilt and saying, "OK, this is going to be me doing something else," and giving yourself a select playground to procrastinate within will actually unlock productivity. Create several Feedly feeds. Balance the things you have to read with things that will be more fun--your heavy tech reading list with a few film blogs or a gossip blog--something to break up the tension that your head gains over the course of a day.
I have ADHD (inattentive), and I use this technique to let my mind--as it's prone to do--wander in such a way that I will accidentally end up doing work while I goof off. In truth, many people procrastinate because they're bored or exhausted--which, if you’ve dedicated yourself to a task for more than a few minutes, you should understand and embrace and let yourself relax.
By straining yourself to do a task, you'll either finish it in a way you won't be happy with or simply never finish it. By giving yourself a (brief) break to do something a little more fun, you'll most likely relax enough to at worst get refreshed and at best get a new perspective.
ED ZITRON is the founder of EZ-PR, a PR and media relations company based in New York City and Raleigh, North Carolina. He is also of the author of This Is How You Pitch: How to Kick Ass in Your First Years of PR. He has worked with Target and the Nature Publishing Group, as well as smaller startups and tech figureheads. He covered the technology and video games industry for seven years for Future Publishing and Eurogamer. @edzitron