Efficiency is more important than ever in today's fast-paced business world. However, it takes a little planning. Here are six tips to help you create efficiency in the workplace.
1. Tackle Important Jobs First
When your to-do list is long, it’s tempting to go through it and finish the fast, easy tasks first before digging in to more involved jobs. Find the three most critical assignments on your list and tackle them first. If you do the important things before anything else, you will still be in good shape at the end of the day even if a few roadblocks appear in your path.
As you determine the day’s most critical work, keep in mind that sometimes small but urgent tasks have a way of crowding out important ones with a later deadline. It’s imperative to keep priority work on your schedule so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
2. Find Shortcuts
Bundle together the similar tasks on your list, so you can keep your focus on the type of work at hand. If you have several reviews to write, schedule a block of time to do them all at once. If you have sales calls to make, use route planning software to reduce downtime while you’re in the field. If you routinely send emails to customers, research software that can schedule them ahead of time and save interruptions. Write monthly reports as you complete projects and they will be nearly done when it’s time to turn them in.
3. Devise a Routine
An unorganized day is rarely an efficient one. Start with a schedule, and you may increase your efficiency simply by knowing what job to perform and when. If you know that you will spend 30 minutes before lunch returning phone calls, you might be more likely to silence your phone in the morning, eliminating a distraction while focusing on a priority assignment. Once your schedule becomes a habit, your mind is freed from making time-consuming decisions about what to do next.
4. Take a Break
While breaking from work might seem counterproductive to creating efficiency in the workplace, it isn’t. Speed and efficiency aren’t the same. Have you heard the adage about working smarter instead of harder? It applies here. Work breaks have been proven to boost creativity, increase productivity and improve mental well-being.
Step away from your work area and stretch your legs. Take a few deep breaths. Change your scenery; go outside and get some fresh air if you can, or chat with a coworker (who is also taking a break, of course).
In addition to short work breaks, be sure to take your lunch break. You need to refuel by eating a well-balanced meal so you can return to your work ready to perform at your best. A full lunch break might also allow you some time to exercise, meditate or read a book, all healthy habits that allow your body and mind to unplug from the job for a while.
5. Plan for Mistakes
Even the best-ordered day can take a wrong turn or two. The workplace, after all, is full of humans who occasionally make errors. While you can’t necessarily plan the mistakes themselves, you can plan more time for a project than you anticipate needing. Remember that most projects rarely go off without a hitch. Planning for unexpected events will make snags a little less difficult to deal with when they happen.
6. Take One Task at a Time
At first glance, multitasking seems like a great way to be efficient. Why not do two things at once and get them both done? Unfortunately, while it seems as though multitasking is an effective way to work, your brain is really wired to perform one type of job at a time. For example, if you are attending a virtual meeting and listening to a podcast simultaneously, your brain isn’t hearing the podcast and the meeting speakers at the same time — it is switching back and forth between the two competing discussions. As a result, you will hear part of the podcast and part of the meeting, and miss things in between. Another example is talking on the phone while answering email. Your mind can’t focus deeply on either the phone conversation or the email replies. It may feel strange at first, but for maximum efficiency, concentrate on one job at a time.
While it’s not always easy to change, creating an efficient work routine doesn’t have to be an overhaul. Make a few adjustments here and there, and you’ll be on your way to increased productivity.