20 Useful Tips to Improve Your Efficiency at Work

Want to improve your work efficiency? Here are 20 effective and no-nonsense ways to becoming a trusted and dependable employee.

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Illustration of a woman working efficiently on her laptop

In today’s busy working environment, we never seem to find enough time in the day to complete all our tasks. Constant meetings and long to-do lists can make it extremely challenging to finish all our work in a timely fashion.

Although difficult, there are ways to be more efficient at work and clock off at 5pm instead of spending hours working overtime. Here are 20 tips that will help you manage your time and improve your efficiency in the workplace.

1. Finish what you started

Leaving a project incomplete is just going to make you super stressed. How can you move onto the next task knowing that you have an another one hanging over your head?

By finishing a task, you’ll give yourself a new lease of energy and finish what you started before moving on to the next item on your to-do list.

2. Plan your week in advance

A great to-do list will cut hours of procrastination and confusion about what you should be doing next. At the beginning of the week, spend an hour making a detailed list of what you need to accomplish – this way you can choose the most important jobs to complete first so you’re not wasting time.

3. Keep track of your time

A good way to test how efficient you are is to log the time that you spend on each project. You should write down how much time you spend on each task and activity (including random conversations with colleagues and making coffee), and you’ll then be able to identify what’s taking a chunk out of your day and where you can be more efficient.

4. Take regular breaks

Taking breaks is essential to increasing your productivity. There’s no way that you can be as efficient as you were at the start of your day without looking away from your work. Indeed, scientists say that you cannot focus for over 90 minutes at a time – suggesting that you should rest every 90 minutes during an activity.

5. Break up your tasks

If you’re someone who gets overwhelmed with large tasks or big projects, you can combat this feeling by breaking up your tasks into smaller chunks. Create a list of different elements to the projects and go through it one step at a time. By doing so, you can celebrate small wins and feel like you’re getting somewhere by visually monitoring your progress through your to-do list.

This will also help you cope with the procrastination often caused by the overwhelming feeling you get with a big project. In turn, you will most likely get your work done faster as you won’t be wasting time worrying about everything that has to get done.

6. Limit distractions

Whether it’s your phone pinging, a colleague gossiping or the radio blasting in the background, workplace distractions can greatly affect your efficiency and motivation levels. Try to avoid these interruptions as much as possible – you could turn your phone off and use noise-cancelling headphones (if your work permits it) to keep yourself as focused as possible.

7. Give yourself shorter deadlines

Cyril Northcote Parkinson once wrote: “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.” Let’s face it: we’ve all been in the same situation where we’ve procrastinated so much that we end up completing a one-week project in one month. As such, it’s a good idea to set yourself shorter deadlines and you’ll see your efficiency soaring through the roof.

8. Tidy up your workspace

A cluttered desk could mean a disorderly life. And if you’re guilty of a messy desk, you probably waste at least 10 minutes a day searching for your diary, notepad or (even worse) that confidential document. By creating an organized environment, though, you will be able to find items easier and concentrate more on your day-to-day tasks.

9. Be comfortable

Being comfortable at work is key when it comes to being efficient. If you’re wearing a pair of jeans that are just a bit too tight, your mind will be on how much they are digging in, rather than the work at hand. Likewise, if you sit on an uncomfortable chair, you’ll spend over an hour a day fidgeting trying to relieve yourself of the pain.

10. Use project management tools

Using project management tools, like Trello, can help you stay organized and will show you your progress as you tick off tasks throughout the day. You can also set yourself deadlines on your personal board to ensure you reach your goals.

11. Don’t multitask

Many people assume that multitasking is a good skill to have, but more often than not, multitasking can lead to carelessness and mistakes since you’re not fully focused on a single task – which will lead to more time wasted cleaning up your mess! So, to avoid this, focus on one thing at a time. I promise, it will work in your favor in the long run!

12. Communicate effectively

Communication is key – especially when it comes to the workplace. Poor communication can cost time and money, especially when you and a teammate are on completely different pages. So, be sure to communicate clearly and concisely when you are discussing anything in the workplace.

You can do this by first identifying if your coworker is available for a discussion. For example, if they have their Slack status set to busy or their headphones in, this is a clear indication that they don’t want to be disturbed at this point in time.

It’s best to consider your colleague’s preferred method of communication and arrange a convenient time for you to have a meeting or discuss an upcoming project.

13. Be an early bird

Waking up early and getting tasks done at the beginning of the day will make you feel so much better and far more efficient. If you complete all your important tasks by 11am, you’ll feel a lot happier and relaxed for the rest of the day. So be the early bird and catch the worm first!

14. Reflect

By reflecting on your work processes, you can figure out what you’re doing that’s efficient and where you’re going wrong. You can then think about ways to improve your methods and be more effective.

15. Know your limits

It’s important to know your limits and not to try to push through the fatigue. Chances are you’ll end up making careless mistakes because you were just too tired. When you’re feeling worn out, call it a day and start again with a new set of eyes and a refreshed mind.

16. Nip office drama in the bud

Unnecessary drama can be toxic to your team ethos and the general working environment. When tempers are flying high, it’s important to not get involved or try to defuse the situation. If you’re involved in the drama, speak to your colleague privately or contact your HR department and get them to mediate.

17. Get your beauty sleep

We often underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep and how much more efficient it can make us. You need that time to rest, recharge and gain energy for the day ahead. If you’re constantly on a sleep deficit, you’re going to find it harder to focus at work.

As a full-time worker, you’re probably stretching yourself too thin trying to maintain a social life, career and keeping your house in order, but it’s important to schedule in sleep time and make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of shut-eye each night so you can wake up feeling refreshed and recharged.

18. Motivate yourself

It’s easier to work efficiently when you have a goal to work towards to. At times when you’re lacking motivation, think of why you have a job in the first place: is it because you want to save and go on the trip of a lifetime, buy your dream car or maybe simply to send your children to a good school? Whatever the reason, keep that in the back of your mind when you’re having a down day.

19. Meditate

When you have a free mind, you’re able to focus better. Spending a few minutes each morning meditating and riding your worries can help you be more efficient at work. If you really want to stick to this, you should follow the same routine daily to help increase your focus.

20. Take care of yourself

Without proper self-care, you won’t be able to be the best version of yourself and work to your full potential. So, what does this mean?

It means that you should place value on the following areas in your life. For instance, try maintaining a healthy, balanced diet that will provide you with ample energy throughout your working day. Having a desk job, can also be detrimental to your health. Therefore, it’s important to get at least some form of exercise in during the day. If you can’t find the time (we know how busy your day can get) then consider doing some of these stretches at your desk.

Key takeaways

Being more efficient at work can help us achieve the ultimate work-life balance that we are all chasing. These tips can help you achieve your goals and learn new methods to be more organized within the workplace.

To wrap things up, these are the top takeaways to remember:

  • Utilize to-do lists
  • Break down major tasks
  • Avoid multitasking
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Stay organized
  • Switch off when you need to
  • Prioritize your health

How do you stay efficient at work? Got any tips to share with us? Let us know in the comments section below.


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 29 March 2018.