Help me learn to work faster and more efficiently
September 6, 2011 7:09 PM   Subscribe

So I got some new responsibilities at my company (great!) but I am so slow at the new work it's dragging my day out too long and affecting my productivity with my existing work. Help me learn to be faster and end my long workdays before they end me.

My new responsibilities are theoretically easy on paper. I have to sort through feeds, social media, and a lot of other stuff to find stories/pictures/content to then repurpose by writing up updates to an entertainment news site.

Sometimes the finding can take a little while, but then there's reading through everything in order to summarize, writing, prepping the links, creating an image for each piece or a video embed or uploading a video to our server, then formatting it all properly. Someone who used to do this work told me it should only take a few minutes or so for each post, 10 max maybe, but I wake up and begin my day three hours early (I work from home) and that's in addition to preparing one or two stories before I go to bed.

It has not been long doing all of this, but it's affecting the work I was doing before greatly because this part has seemingly taken over. My boss is mostly understanding but that can't last forever. Meanwhile, today I spent more than 11 hours working without a break longer than 5 min or so just to get through my whole day, still messed up on the pre-existing job and squeaked through on the other. I can't sustain this 11-hour thing. I crashed for a 2-hour nap afterward I was so tired.

So, essentially, how can I make this news stuff go faster?! How do I become super efficient at it? It is just a matter of time or am I just being scattered somehow? I'm hoping to increase my responsibilities eventually. I made my own little mini daily editorial calendar spreadsheet, and sometimes write handwritten to-do lists.

I have so many other things to do that I need my schedule to be less crushing so I have me time. Or I will burn out.

I will state that I'm kind of a 9-5er and a clockwatcher in general, willing to work long hard hours occasionally and temporarily if there's a crunch or something, but long hours/no flexibility in general make me really miserable. I had been working long, hard hours with little sleep right before getting this job so it might be that I need a break. I work six days a week. In case all that informs your responses.

Thanks in advance.
posted by Fire to Work & Money (9 answers total)
Question: how long has it been since you added in these new responsibilities?
posted by sciencegeek at 7:20 PM on September 6, 2011

Is the person who had these responsibilities before you still with the company? Perhaps you could ask for them to "mentor" you for a while.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 7:46 PM on September 6, 2011

Response by poster: - less than a week, but I took this job with the notion that the new stuff would be quick and I would have more time for myself.

Obviously, that is not the case so far. I expect more time will help somewhat, but looking for other advice here. Especially with things taking forever right away, and making me sort of hate this new work already.

- Yes, and he is kind of doing that, but it's hard for him to understand what's taking me so long. He does offer help and suggestions. I can ask him questions. But I think maybe all his experience and efficiency at the whole thing might make it harder to see it from my perspective.
posted by Fire at 7:51 PM on September 6, 2011

Some ideas:

* write everything out in Markdown so it can quickly be formatted into HTML.
* write some snippets that will speed up the formatting of things for you. I use Textmate for this, but many advanced text editors can handle snippets. Something like Text Expander could work too.
* use Pinboard or Delicious to quickly save links while you search. Tag items as necessary. Once you have all your links, you can load the days bookmarks, sort by tag, and write your articles. That way you're going from one work mode to the next, not back and forth between searching and writing modes.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:29 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You need to create a system for each post. I have no experience with what you are doing exactly, but backwards guitar has some good info there. I have a style blog that requires me to take pictures of myself daily, upload them, and then post them. Sure, it's only once a day, but before I had system for doing it, it took an hour or so each morning to do. Now, it takes less than 30 mins total.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:50 PM on September 6, 2011

What were the help and suggestions offered by the other guy? Knowing some of those can help us interpret.
posted by the fish at 9:02 PM on September 6, 2011

Response by poster: The advice is stuff like take 20 minutes doing the new work each hour and 40 minutes doing the old work. Also to not always use specialty sites for images. I came up with the spreadsheet "editorial calendar" for myself.
posted by Fire at 8:46 AM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: Nothing else, eh? Still having the same problem and none of this is really anything I'm not already doing. I'm also responsible for posting about breaking news, so saving everything doesn't work, though my edit calendar has a repository I can reach into during the day. But my goal is to shave about two hours off my day.
posted by Fire at 1:26 PM on September 8, 2011

Warning: braindump ahead.

It appears quantity is more important than quality so don't try and do your best, just do what's good enough. Speed is your need right now.

Set up distinct precise filters to help sort your feed. Get the best snatch and grab program you can find and learn how to use it.

Open a new folder each morning and name it with the date. Dump everything you find in there during your searches.

Make a template for the content and format on the run.

Make a template for images and format on the run.

Skim, skim skim. Don't read in-depth. Summerize on the run into your templates.

Run an inline spell check program so you don't have to go back and re-edit.

With this type of task I like to do it all in one sitting, like the first two hours of my day. If you need to do it through-out the day with your other work then you must set up a routine and that routine MUST include breaks for yourself.
- EG, a two hour routine - 40min of new task, 5 min break (get up from desk!), 70 min of old work, 5 min break (get up from desk!). Use a timer. And if you haven't finished what you need in the 40/70 min work blocks, make a quick note of what you need to get back to after your break. Don't ignore your need for breaks, food and liquids as this will affect your productivity.

Good luck, me-mail me if you think I can be of more help.
posted by the fish at 5:02 PM on September 14, 2011

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