Drowning in work? Six tips for improving your efficiency
Do you find your work piling up around you, despite your best efforts to stay on schedule? Assuming your supervisor isn’t overloading you and you’re not being asked to do work you’re not yet qualified to do, you might simply be suffering from a lack of efficiency. And since reducing your workload is likely not an option if you want to keep your job, you’re going to have to learn how to work more efficiently. Keep the following tips in mind.
- Set deadlines for yourself. As John Rampton writing for Inc. points out in “15 Ways to Increase Productivity at Work,” a certain level of stress, especially when it’s self-imposed, can help you focus on your goals better. So when you’re working on an important project that’s going to take significant effort, set a deadline for yourself—one that’s earlier than the actual date by which your employer needs you to complete it.
- Map out a schedule at the beginning of each day. No matter how tempting it is to dive into your favorite project as soon as you get to work, it’s a smarter idea to review what you need to accomplish and then schedule your day accordingly. For example, set aside four 15- or 20-minute segments for emailing and other correspondence; two or three 90 minute segments for long-term or more important projects; and divide the rest of your time according to the tasks you need to complete.
- Include short breaks. In his Psychology Today article titled, “Want to Get More Done? Start Taking Breaks,” Ron Friedman, Ph.D., states that we have a limited capacity for sustaining concentration over extended periods of time. He also says that studies show occasional breaks serve to reenergize us, resulting in better decision making and heightened productivity. Note that merely switching activities at the computer doesn’t count as a break: you actually have to get up, move around, and give your mind a respite from the screen. For example, if you have something you need to check with your supervisor or colleague, walk over to his or her desk. Other suggestions are to walk over to the water cooler, or even take the stairs down to the coffee shop in the lobby to get a (decaf) latte.
- Avoid too much caffeine. One or two cups of coffee can give you a burst of energy when you’re dragging. However, if you drink too much caffeine, you’ll just get even more tired because it depletes your adrenal glands. Instead, choose decaffeinated coffee, bottled water, or green tea.
- Manage your communications. Emails, messages, text messages, voice mail—the number of communications you receive in a day can be overwhelming. Instead of allowing yourself to be distracted by an alert every every couple of minutes, turn off all notifications and instead, use your pre-scheduled segments to check your messages. Then prioritize the ones you need to respond to, and leave the rest until you’re finished with the most important tasks of the day.
- Check your productivity level. There are so many ways to get through the day without actually doing anything productive. You need to take a proactive approach and regularly check whether what you’re doing and how you’re doing it gets you closer to your goal. A Fortune article titled “10 ways to increase your efficiency at work,” originally featured in DomaineHome.com, advises that everyone can improve their productivity levels. One way to do this is to determine whether you’re a multi-tasker or someone how needs to focus on one thing at a time. Once you’ve found the style of working that suits you best, stick with it and you’ll likely become more productive.
Improving your efficiency at work involves developing more effective strategies to complete your responsibilities. With the tips above in mind, you can change your work habits and enjoy a heightened level of productivity. And that way, you never have to feel as if you’re drowning in work again.