4 practical tips for going into the long weekend feeling productive (not frazzled)
A letter from editorial director Lisa Smosarski.

There’s nothing quite like the Monday morning before the Easter weekend. A heady cocktail of impending excitement muddled delicately with absolute terror at the prospect of two consecutive four-day working weeks. For those of us working the traditional 9-5 (we wish) in an office or computer-based role, how you plan for next week will be the big decider. Will you end up knocking off at 4pm on Thursday for pre-bank holiday beers? Or rack up 16-hour shifts before slumping exhaustedly into the weekend?

The recent results of the four-day working week trials prove, on balance, businesses can run as effectively on a four-day week. But a focus on productivity needs excellent planning and strict time-keeping. So, before you get your head down for the big pull forward, see if you can adopt some of the learnings from the trials to make the next few weeks more manageable:

  • Keep meetings short or postpone them if possible. You can win hours back with strict time-keeping, clear agendas or making get-togethers less frequent. See if there are any you can shave back over the next fortnight.
  • Eat the frog. As the MIT method proves, doing the trickiest tasks first saves time by avoiding procrastination.
  • Smart work. Smart working is different to flexibility and focuses on allowing the employee to work where and when they like to complete their work. If you work in a company that offers Smart, flexible or hybrid working, discuss the most productive way of getting through your workload and prioritise that on these shorter weeks.
  • Time-block. If you can, list out everything you HAVE to get done by the Tuesday morning after the long weekend and time-block your diary to allocate time to each of those tasks. Use that schedule to keep yourself on track.

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Work smarter: use Quick Steps in Outlook
Acting digital content director Ellen Scott shares insightful hacks to make work that little bit easier.    

Sorting out our email inbox takes up such a significant portion of our time and headspace that anything that makes it even a tinier bit easier is a massive win. Enter Quick Steps, a functionality in Outlook that few people I chat to are aware of.

Quick Steps is a way to create a button that automatically does multiple processes at once. The idea is that if there are certain things you often do with emails, creating a Quick Step will save you faff and a few minutes – which start to add up. So, let’s say you often forward emails to your boss and also move them to a special folder. You can create a Quick Step to do both things for you in one click like this:

In Outlook’s top menu bar, click on the drop-down menu next to Quick Steps (it might be hiding in the ellipsis), then ‘new Quick Step’ followed by ‘custom’.

  1. Choose an action – you’ll spot options for moving messages to folders, forwarding, replying, deleting, creating tasks, the works.
  2. Add another action. And another, if you like. As many as you want.
  3. Create a name for this sequence of actions – one that you’ll remember that relates to the process. Something like ‘red alert emails for manager’ or ‘polite no’.
  4. Whenever you want to do that series of actions, you’ll just select that Quick Step. Easy! 

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