10 ways to save time at work

A handy guide.

We all wish we could turn the clock back, make different decisions and spend more time with the kids. With hindsight, we'd all have lived our lives differently, especially, I suspect, at work. You see it's at work where the most time gets wasted. Wasted time is lost time. Time that could have been made making better decisions. Better because with more time and less pressure, decision making becomes more objective.

So whilst I cannot tell you how to go back and change the past, I can help you make more time in the future. That way you'll gain time you'd otherwise lose. You'll make good decisions and have more time for family, friends and fun.

Here are ten simple things that will help your time travel more slowly:

  1. Define your vision and focus on this, not the carrot on the end of the corporate stick;
  2. Write down, in the present tense, how your Iife will look in five years time;
  3. Making scheduling tomorrow's tasks the last thing you do at work each day. Then start your day with the most important from that list;
  4. If you're desk based, run your PC with two screens - then you can use two applications at the same time - the improvement in efficiency will amaze you;
  5. Go paperless and use a tablet computer when on the move - invest - integrate - work simply;
  6. Avoid pointless meetings - when you do meet, keep to both agenda and time - leave when bored - nobody will sack you;
  7. Be brutal with time thieves - get 1:1 meetings done in an hour - don't 'drop by' or allow others to drop in on you;
  8. Say no to stuff that's not for you. Instead, volunteer for stuff that builds your career;
  9. Keep fit - make time to work out and make it sacred;
  10. Break routines - this blog was written on a hot afternoon by the pool.

Robert Ashton's book Teach Yourself Time Management in a Week, is published by Hodder Education

Photograph: Getty Images

Robert Ashton's book Teach Yourself Time Management in a Week, is published by Hodder Education

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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