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 better focus on your goals. When you’re working on an important project that’s going to take significant effort to complete, set a deadline for yourself—one that’s earlier than the actual date by which your employer needs you to complete it. This will help you focus on completing the task on time, allow you to better plan for what you need to do; the extra time will also act as a buffer if anything pops up unexpectedly.
Map out a schedule at the beginning of each day. No matter how tempting it is to dive into your favourite project as soon as you get to work, it’s smarter to review what you need to accomplish during the day and then allocate your time accordingly. Set aside half an hour or so at the start of the day, and after lunch, for the smaller things that need to be done- for example, answering emails and arranging calls- before you get stuck into the larger projects that will likely take a few hours. By planning your time out in this way, you’ll be much more organised, and better able to avoid last-minute panic when it comes to getting tasks finished.
Include short breaks.We have a limited capacity for being able to concentrate for extended periods of time. Studies show that taking breaks over the course of the day serve to reenergise us, resulting in better decision making and heightened productivity once we return to our desks afterwards; we can be up to 13% more accurate and efficient in our work afterwards. Merely switching activities at the computer doesn’t count as a break: to get the best results, you need to get up and move around, giving your mind a respite from the screen. Whether it’s a lunchtime workout or a trip to the kitchen for a coffee and a chat with co-workers, anything that gets you up and moving will help. Scheduling in breaks will also help you stick to a set schedule.
Avoid too much caffeine. One or two cups of coffee or tea can give you a burst of energy when you need it most: at the start or end of the day. There’s a fine line to tread, however: drinking too much caffeine might even make you more tired than you were beforehand, as it has the potential to deplete your adrenal glands. Rather than returning to the kettle for a pick-me-up, try decaffeinated coffee or tea, bottled water, or green tea.
Manage your communications. Emails, messages, text messages, voice mail: the number of communications you receive as part of your work can be overwhelming, stressful, and can add up to 26 wasted minutes a day. Instead of allowing yourself to be distracted by an alert every few minutes, turn off all notifications. Use your pre-scheduled segments at the start of the day, and after lunch, to check your messages instead. That in turn allows you to prioritize the ones you need to respond to: leave the rest until you’re finished with the most important tasks of the day and put aside twenty minutes before you leave to answer them.
Check your productivity level. It’s worryingly easy to do a day’s work without actually managing anything productive. To avoid this, you need to take a proactive approach to your work, regularly checking whether what you’re doing and how you’re doing it will get you closer to your goal. Everyone can improve their productivity levels; you just need to have a good grasp of your working patterns. Determine whether you’re a multi-tasker or someone who needs to focus on one thing at a time instead. 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.