Forget about your job title or profession – everyone is looking for ways to be more productive at work. It’s time to set down your gallon-sized container of coffee, toss out your three-page to-do list, and put an end to those ridiculously long emails you’ve been sending.
Experiencing a highly productive workday can feel euphoric. But contrary to popular belief, simply checking tasks off your to-do list isn’t really an indication of productivity. Truly productive people aren’t focused on doing more things; this is actually the opposite of productivity. If you really want to be productive, you’ve got to make a point to do fewer things.
Most everyone would like to be more efficient. Just think, you would spend less time doing the things that you don’t enjoy and more on the things that bring satisfaction, happiness and profit. Some people are actually very adept at efficiency. They manage every manageable moment so they have more time for themselves to do the things they love. Here are eight techniques efficient people use to gain that freedom.
Many people fool themselves into thinking they are good at multitasking. But actually very few can solidly focus on more than 1 or two tasks, particularly if they require focus and depth. They fool themselves into believing they are getting more done when in reality they are accomplishing less and the quality of the work is poor. Really efficient people know that concentrated effort with few distractions leads to better work product in faster times. Otherwise the work may not be up to par, which means wasting even more time and energy going back to fix the mistakes.
So much productivity is lost when people take on more than they can accomplish. Don’t be inspired by CEOs and leaders who overload their schedules and burn the midnight oil. Really efficient people are extremely good at delegating tasks to others who will perform them better. When you know how to break down a task and empower others to contribute effort, you can choose the tasks most suited for you and crank through them in record time without distraction.
Use Appropriate Communication,
Poor communication is a huge time-waster. A fast email transmitting bad instructions or an offensive attitude can end up adding many unnecessary hours to a project. The masters of efficiency take a little extra time to think through their communication in the beginning. They consider their objectives when deciding to get on the phone. They craft their emails with purpose using the exact language necessary to get the desired effect. It takes a little more time at the beginning but can actually shave days from a project.
Apply Structure to the Schedule,
With all the available scheduling and productivity tools you would think more people would feel they have a handle on their schedule. And yet often people feel their schedule drives them instead of the other way around. Efficiency fanatics create standard routines in their schedule so they can achieve a disciplined approach and be ready for the important events. The more you control the calendar, the easier it is to make room for the unexpected.
Give Everything a Proper Place,
A lot of time is wasted chasing down lost items. Keys, pens and clothing hunts can cause distraction and frustration, especially when you have something important to do or somewhere important to be. People get really efficient from being organized. Establish a home for all the items you have. Factories that practice LEAN create common homes for necessary tools of the trade. You can do the same. Organize clothes, papers and electronics in a way that you can easily find what you are looking for. It may take you a few extra minutes to put things away but you’ll save a ton of time and irritation from having to search for what’s important.
Do you really know how much time you spend productively versus how much time you waste? I often know that I am talking on the phone with someone who takes efficiency seriously because they tell me when the call is almost over. Efficient people set a time for each of their tasks and work to keep the schedule. Try logging your time on conversations and activities for a week. Then spend the next week setting specific times for similar activities and work to reduce the times with similar output. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the gains.
Commit to Downtime,
Tired and overworked people don’t perform well. People pleasers will sacrifice their own downtime thinking they are benefitting others, but in truth they detract from productivity. Really efficient people make sure they get rest and recuperation so they can perform at their peak. Since one amazing employee can do the work of three average employees, best to let the team rest up and be top performers.
Effort is often wasted when people don’t have a clear path to success. Impatience is the direct enemy of efficiency. Really efficient people know they must take the time to research and break down a project into basic steps in order to achieve success consistently. Yes, planning takes a little time. But considering the challenges, process and responsibilities in advance will make for clear direction with the team. With good communication everyone can move confidently and efficiently to achieve all the objectives in record time.
Create a smaller to-do list,
Getting things accomplished during your workday shouldn’t be about doing as much as possible in the sanctioned eight hours. It may be hard to swallow, but there’s nothing productive about piling together a slew of tasks in the form of a checklist. Take a less-is-more approach to your to-do list by only focusing on accomplishing things that matter.
You know that ache that fills your brain when you’ve been powering through tasks for several hours? This is due to your brain using up glucose. Too many people mistake this for a good feeling, rather than a signal to take a break. Go take a walk, grab something to eat, workout, or meditate – give your brain some resting time. Achieve more productivity during your workday by making a point to regularly clear your head. You’ll come back recharged and ready to achieve greater efficiency.
Follow the 80/20 rule,
Did you know that only 20 percent of what you do each day produces 80 percent of your results? Eliminate the things that don’t matter during your workday: they have a minimal effect on your overall productivity. For example, on a project, systematically remove tasks until you end up with the 20 percent that gets the 80 percent of results.
Start your day by focusing on yourself,
If you begin your morning by checking your email, it allows others to dictate what you accomplish. Set yourself in the right direction by ignoring your emails and taking the morning to focus on yourself, eat a good breakfast, meditate, or read the news.
Take on harder tasks earlier in the day,
Knock out your most challenging work when your brain is most fresh. Save your busy work – if you have any – for when your afternoon slump rolls in.
Pick up the phone,
The digital world has created poor communication habits. Email is a productivity killer and usually a distraction from tasks that actually matter. For example, people often copy multiple people on emails to get it off their plate – don’t be a victim of this action. This distracts everyone else by creating noise against the tasks they’re trying to accomplish and is a sign of laziness. If you receive an email where many people are CC’d, do everyone a favor by BCCing them on your reply. If your email chain goes beyond two replies, it’s time to pick up the phone. Increase your productivity by scheduling a call.
Create a system,
If you know certain things are ruining your daily productivity, create a system for managing them. Do you check your emails throughout the day? Plan a morning, afternoon, and evening time slot for managing your email. Otherwise, you’ll get distracted from accomplishing more important goals throughout the day.
Don’t confuse productivity with laziness,
While no one likes admitting it, sheer laziness is the No. 1 contributor to lost productivity. In fact, a number of time-saving methods – take meetings and emails for example – are actually just ways to get out of doing real work. Place your focus on doing the things that matter most as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Remember, less is more when it comes to being productive during the workday.