This article contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission.
In today’s busy working environment, we never seem to find enough hours in the day to complete the tasks that we were given. 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 walk out the door 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 start
Leaving a project half completed is just going to make you super stressed. How can you move onto the next task knowing that you have an uncompleted one hanging over your head?
When you complete a task, a rush of endorphins is released, making you feel happy and more relaxed. Give yourself a new lease of energy and finish what you started before moving on to the next chore 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 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 working area. 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. Think positively
Positive thinking can have a huge effect on how productive you are at work. Imagine this little scenario: you’re under pressure because you have a tight deadline to meet. The first outcome is a lot of unnecessary panicking, wasting more time on thinking what you should be doing rather than actually doing it. Whereas if you had a more positive outlook, you would work faster without wasting time worrying and spending more time doing something to work towards your goal.
6. Limit distractions
Whether it’s your phone pinging, a colleague gossiping or the radio blasting in the background, distractions in the workplace 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 three months. As such, it’s a good idea to set yourself shorter deadlines and you’ll see your efficiency soaring through the roof.
8. Tidy 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 organised 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
Creating a list using project management tools like Trello can help you stay organised 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. Eat the frog
We’re not literally telling you to eat the slimy four-legged creature, but rather expressing that you should ‘bite the bullet’ and complete that tedious task that you’ve been putting off before taking on other projects. Once you’ve got it out of the way, you’ll take a load off your shoulder and feel rather relieved.
12. Communicate effectively
Poor communication can cost time and money, so be sure to communicate clearly and concisely when you are discussing anything in the workplace. Consider who you will be speaking to and what their preferred method of communication is.
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 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!
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 limit
It’s important to know your limit and not 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 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. As a full-time employee, 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 school? Whatever the reason, keep that in the back of your mind when you’re having a down day.
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
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 organised within the workplace.
Join the conversation! What do you do to boost your efficiency at work? Join in on the conversation below to let us know what your tips and tricks are…
This article is an update of an earlier version published on 29 March 2018.