How to Do 8 Hours of Work in 4 (Because, Election Day)

It’s Election Day, which means all of us have an unspoken agreement that we won’t get a lot done in the office today. (All those nodding their heads while reading this, say “I.”)

That being said, duty calls—even when there’s something far more significant happening in the real world. That report that’s due today, those emails lingering in your inbox, that meeting at 4 PM won’t just disappear.

But is it possible to get all your work done in half the time? I’m no wizard, but I also know I’ll likely spend half of my day refreshing Twitter for updates, so I’d like to try.

So, how can you begin to cut your work down so it takes you, say, three or four hours instead of eight?

1. Assess Your To-Dos

Look at the list of everything you need to get completed today. Highlight anything that 100% needs to be done today—no questions asked. Move those items to a new list called “To Do Today.” Now look at everything else and ask yourself the following: Can this definitely wait for later? Yes? Move it to another list called, “To Do Later This Week.”

Still wavering on a few items? Make the decision by determining the following:

  • Is this a want-to-do versus a must-do?
  • Does someone else depend on you completing this today?
  • Can you start today, maybe laying out the groundwork, and finish tomorrow?
  • Did you make this deadline for yourself or did someone else?

2. Move Meetings

Because chances are you’re not the only person distracted today, you might be able to move around some previously scheduled items—I’ll go ahead and say that most people will thank you for it. That being said, you also probably scheduled them for a reason.

So, here are some alternatives. Maybe start the discussion via an email and have people add their initial ideas there for now. Or, have a brief meet-up to split up tasks and regroup later in the week.

But in general, if you’re suggesting that you push it to another date, make sure to not only let everyone involved know, but also throw out some good times for it to take place. You’ll save yourself, and everyone else, a lot of stress later on.

3. Communicate With Your Team

Make sure your team knows where you stand on anything they were expecting with a quick email or message. Even if it’s not a hard deadline, you should keep everyone in the loop—especially if it’s a task you typically complete that day.

For example, you can send this email for a report you’d like to push:

Hi David, I don’t want to rush this report. Is it OK if I have the finalized version to you by Wednesday? In the meantime, here are my initial thoughts.

4. Break Your Tasks Into Time Blocks

As Parkinson’s Law states, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” so if you only give yourself 15 or 30 minutes to work on something, that’s how much time it’ll take you (believe me, it works).

But don’t just say you’ll spend 30 minutes working on a task. Set an alarm or a calendar update. Or, email the recipient that you’ll have it back to them by said time—once it’s out there, your guilty conscience (hopefully) won’t let you be late.

5. Force Yourself to Focus

Finally, you have to tune out for a bit. We say it time and time again, but you’ll be your most efficient self if you store your phone away, log out of email, and go on instant chat snooze for a couple hours. I promise, the news will be there when you finish—and if you laser focus for a bit, you’ll have the rest of the day to soak it up.

If you follow these five tips, you’ll free up a good chunk of your day to be, well, tuned in to other things. But realistically, it’s impossible to cut your work in half and not see more stuff pop up later (I told you I wasn’t a wizard). So, be prepared that the rest of the week might present more work for you and set your schedule and to-do list accordingly.

Photo of person distracted courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.

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