In economics, we discuss the allocation of scarce resources. Those discussions generally focus on guns and butter, labor and capital, or other economic-speak but don’t cover our personal resources. You can distinguish yourself by properly allocating the scarce resource of your time.
The saying “time is money” is true because you are using your employers’ resources on the job, and your personal resources for the rest of the week.
When you view your time as a scarce resource, there are several ways you can increase efficiency:
1. Consider email as a separate task. Set aside a few hours each day for email instead of keeping your client open and constantly responding to emails as soon as they arrive. While you may not be able to reply affirmatively when your colleague inevitably asks “did you get my email?,” you will have more time to concentrate on specific projects without interruptions. You should also consider scheduling your Facebook and social media time so it doesn’t consume your time in small chunks throughout the day.
2. Choose events carefully. There are many demands for your time, including AFF programs. Don’t attend events simply to attend. Could you spend a few extra hours in your office finishing a project that would be more valuable than attending a happy hour? Make sure the benefits of attending the event outweigh the opportunity costs of your time. (We’re biased – but AFF events are worth your time!)
3. Find appropriate work/life balance. It is not healthy to work excessively. Schedule yourself for plenty of time to rest, relax, be with family and friends, and engage in hobbies. Your production in the office will be better as a result. Work smart, not hard.
4. Use technology to keep an efficient schedule. Today’s technology makes it easy to schedule yourself as much as you want. Utilize reminder emails and don’t give any excuse for missing meetings, deadlines, or appointments. Or – you can be old fashioned and use a paper calendar. Just make sure you have an organized calendar that works for you.
5. Give yourself deadlines. When working on a project that is important but not urgent, give yourself a deadline and stick to it. The consequences of missing this deadline might be none, but an achievement based mindset will help you get the task done faster.
Distinguish yourself by using time efficiently. It’s an important skill to have, and you can get there by developing good habits. There are only 24 hours each day, so use them wisely!
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation. This post originally ran in fall 2012.