More and more, we face a seemingly insurmountable list of things that must be done in our professional lives. That mountain of tasks often enforces the idea that we must work harder and longer. When we’ve put in more time, the mountain will have dwindled to something more manageable, right?
Actually, that’s not correct. An interesting study conducted by Stanford University found that those who put in 70 hours of work produced no more results than those who worked 55 hours and that those who worked fewer than 50 hours had higher quality results. So, there’s a converse correlation between hours worked, results, and the quality of those results. In a nutshell, working harder and longer doesn’t do anything but waste time, money, and energy.
So, what’s the solution? Working more efficiently is the answer. With improved efficiency, you waste fewer resources, get more done, and dramatically increase quality at the same time. We’ve included 10 key tips here to help you maximize efficiencies in your day.
When presented with a massive to-do list, most of us freeze mentally. Then we take stock, figure out what we need to get the job done, and plunge in. The problem here is that each of the tasks on that list has different values. One is not necessarily as important as another. One might be more urgent, while another might require more time to complete. Completing them in the wrong priority can lead to serious problems, such as missing critical deadlines because you focused on the big job rather than the urgent task. The solution here is learning how to prioritize.
When we focus on how long a task takes us, we’re saying that the time spent is the only thing that matters. So, if you just spent four hours organizing your files, you’re probably not feeling all that great about yourself. Chances are good you’re feeling anxious and uneasy. However, what if that organization task saves you untold hours in the future? What if it allows you to deliver a better customer experience or improve company profitability? Measure the results of tasks, not the time spent accomplishing them.
Look on the Bright Side
People with a positive attitude get more done. It’s as simple as that. There is a direct correlation between negative outlooks and poor efficiency. Having a positive attitude allows you to stay upbeat and productive even when you’re facing an increasing list of tasks while also helping you give every one of those your best efforts.
Learn the Art of Collaboration
Humans are social creatures and we work better in groups than alone. However, that doesn’t mean that we’re all natural collaborators. Learning how to collaborate with others (including task delegation and group working) can help improve efficiency, workflow, and productivity. Interestingly, it also helps increase your sense of belonging and connection with those around you, which creates a more positive work environment.
Converse to collaboration, outsourcing offers the means to delegate tasks to someone better at doing something than you are. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and develop the ability to let go and not micromanage things. Then, find people who can do things better. In many instances, you’ll find that outsourcing is more affordable than hiring employees and can add time back to your day while ensuring those tasks are being handled by skilled experts.
Go on Autopilot
While there’s a lot of advice out there that says being mindful of every moment is vital, the truth is that routines and habits can save you time and effort in some instances. Creating routines allows you to essentially put your body on autopilot and stop thinking, which takes time and uses energy.
Automation is more than just a buzzword. It’s an essential strategy to helping ensure that mundane but essential tasks are completed while simultaneously saving yourself time and energy and allowing you to do what you do best. There are several ways that you can automate things, including building routines and systems.
However, you should also focus on tools that allow you to streamline processes. One good example here is Smartsheet, which offers project management capability collaboration of resources, easier management of workflows, and other benefits. Ultimately, automation is about reducing the number of decisions you must make each day, reserving willpower and mental energy for things that matter more.
Realize the Lie of Multitasking
We’ve been taught as a society that multitasking is the only way to deliver value to our employers. However, that’s a lie. Human beings are incapable of consciously multitasking. Yes, our brains do multitask – your heartbeats while your lungs work and your muscles contract. However, those are involuntary, for the most part. You have no direct control over them.
Real multitasking would be something like ironing a shirt while simultaneously typing out that blog post that’s been weighing on your mind or interviewing a new hire while simultaneously going over your P&L sheet. Understand that multitasking is a lie and that attempting to do more than one thing at a time simply means you’re spending more time on lower-quality results. Do one thing at a time, and do it well. Then move on to the next task.
Many of us tend to put things on the back burner when they’re not particularly pressing. That project that’s due in three weeks? Chances are good you’re going to wait until the last week to start it – and you’ll get it done.
Use that to your advantage. Set shorter deadlines for projects. That will speed up your processes and improve your efficiency in each project. Of course, you still need to build in downtime – being “always-on” leads inexorably to burnout, which leads us to our final tip.
Take time out. Take a long lunch, or use that PTO you’ve been accruing but never seem to be able to take. Everyone needs a little downtime to recharge their mental and physical batteries. When you return to work, you’ll be more efficient and more productive.
When you’re able to achieve more, work more efficiently, and be more effective in your role, you’ll feel more rewarded and more fulfilled.