How to improve work efficiency
Have you ever looked up at the clock at the end of the workday and felt that you just didn’t get enough done? Are you working extra hours nights and weekends and still not hitting your target outcome? Why is it that you haven’t yet discovered how to be more efficient at work?
Developing a more streamlined and effective way of managing your work-related tasks doesn’t just make you more productive – it also leaves you with more free time to spend however you like, whether you’re improving yourself or relaxing.
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What is work efficiency?
Work efficiency is the ability to get the most output from the least possible input. It means doing more with less. Working smarter, not harder. When you improve efficiency, you’re able to get a larger output from the same amount of input – or even less. For employees, this means being able to get more done in a finite amount of time: the workday.
You can calculate work efficiency with this formula: output / input = efficiency. The output in the formula is the standard labor hours. The input is the actual number of hours you or your employees worked. Then multiply it by 100 to get a percentage. That’s your work efficiency.
Myths about work efficiency
Our beliefs about productivity and work efficiency can actually hold us back from achieving our goals. To improve efficiency, stop buying into these three common myths.
Busy equals productive
Our society is a “cult of busy” that has trained us to think that we’re being productive if we are constantly working on something. But being buried beneath a pile of tasks that shows no sign of abating is not the way to improve efficiency. Stop mistaking movement for achievement and start prioritizing. True productivity is achieving your desired results with less effort and time.
Multitasking is a must
Multitasking isn’t a must – it’s a myth. The truth is that if you’re doing everything at once, you’re really not doing much at all. “Where focus goes, energy flows” – and multitasking fractures that focus so your energy is flowing in all different directions. It’s much more efficient to give your full focus to one task at a time in order of priority.
Working from home is less efficient
Working from home is on the rise – and some employees are feeling more distracted and less productive. In the long term, ditching rigid 9-to-5 schedules and long commutes will lead to greater work efficiency, not less. The key here is to create an environment with as few distractions as possible and to break bad habits that decrease your productivity.
How to be more efficient at work
Any self-improvement plan takes time and dedication to implement, and learning how to work efficiently is no different. You’re essentially forming new habits that will contribute to your productivity instead of detracting from it. Here are some strategies to get you started:
1. Set reasonable goals
Setting goals is critical to success. We can create goals to help shape our paths – this can be an effective way to improve work efficiency. Unfortunately, we may not have assigned realistic deadlines to those goals – or we may have reached too high. Compelling goals are important, but you also need to assess how much time and resources your goal(s) requires. We often think we can skip from step A to Z to reach our goal, when in reality there are lots of steps in between that need to be accounted for. Keep your end goal (Z) in mind, but don’t overestimate the importance of steps B, C, D and so on.
Setting reasonable goals also helps you focus on the goal itself and the desired outcome. When your goal is too lofty to attain or is not defined, you can’t clarify it or properly focus your mind and efforts on it.
2. Tweak your time management practices
If you find yourself feeling buried in work, jumping from task to task with no clear strategy or struggling with work efficiency, you may need to refine your time management skills. Familiarize yourself with processes like chunking to group tasks together based on outcome so you feel less overwhelmed and more organized.
For example, if you are using chunking to organize your day, place tasks like answering emails and following up on phone calls toward the beginning when you’re fresher, and move errands that don’t require a great deal of thought, like picking up pet food, toward the end.
When you improve efficiency through time management skills, you reduce stress as well as get more things done, creating a loop that enables you to accomplish even more.
3. Ditch your digital devices
We spend the majority of our day staring at a screen of some kind. While heavy computer use might be part of your job, digital devices can be a major distraction and social media platforms can even harm your health. Improve your work efficiency by stepping away from your smartphone or computer. Take written notes during a meeting and see if your thoughts flow more freely.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with digital devices, but providing yourself with a small break from your normal processes can challenge your mind to work in new, productive ways. You may find that your memory improves when you’re writing something down by hand instead of typing it.
If you’re being distracted by social media or other sites but still need your computer to get work done, disconnect from the Internet or consider downloading a productivity app for your browser that only allows access to work-related sites. When you can’t easily click over to Facebook or another distracting site, you can focus on the task at hand and vastly increase efficiency. Putting your phone out of sight and on silent while you work on a project is another way to improve efficiency at work – think of all you can get down without scrolling through mobile apps or being tempted to discuss weekend plans with your friends and loved ones.
4. Learn to say “No”
Whether it’s because we feel pressure from ourselves or those around us, we sometimes take on tasks that we don’t need to. We’re so set on proving that we’re capable of multitasking that we take on tasks we could just as easily delegate to others. We associate the word “No” with missed opportunities or failure, but that’s not the case at all.
Learn how to say no when your plate is already full or you lack interest in a task. If you can delegate smaller tasks to those around you, do so. Freeing up your schedule allows you to focus more closely on assignments that really matter to you and will help you increase efficiency at work.
5. Take breaks
Stuck on an idea? Feeling like you have so much work that you don’t know where to begin? Worrying that you have too much to do can create its own sort of mental roadblock. Before you know it, you’ll have spent a day agonizing over what to do first or how to get it done. That’s a quick way to get nothing done.
If your focus is stuck on a project that you can’t make any headway on, your energy becomes blocked and work efficiency grinds to a halt. Take a break. Do something completely unrelated to the task at hand. Go on a walk. Do some yoga. Listen to music. Changing your focus can help you change your state, so when you do return to work, you feel refreshed and ready to tackle your project with new eyes. Build in multiple breaks during your workday to give yourself time to relax and regroup and you’ll find that work efficiency naturally increases.
6. Create a routine you love
People who know how to be more efficient at work and consistently accomplish their goals do so by creating sustainable habits. Develop a routine that puts you in the best possible state to be productive at work. Routines look different for everyone, so find the one that leaves you feeling your best. You may end up at the gym for an hour every morning, or taking a long walk at lunch to release some stress. One of Tony’s habits is a morning priming exercise where he adjusts his thoughts and emotions for the day.
Understanding the mind-body connection can help you see that a mindful priming exercise not only helps you improve efficiency, but it can also help you unlock an extraordinary life. When you create a routine that makes you feel happy, healthy and clear-minded, your work efficiency will skyrocket.
7. Let go of perfection
Perfection is an illusion that causes stress and can lead to limiting beliefs that impede your level of success. Understanding and accepting that nothing will ever be done perfectly helps you get tasks done without crippling expectations. It also helps you embrace setbacks as learning experiences; when you stop fearing failure, you’ll be less inclined to procrastinate, as we often put things off to avoid failure.
To help curb your perfectionism, listen to and alter your self-talk. Treat yourself with kindness and cut yourself some slack if you don’t perform up to your high standards in some cases. When you let go of perfectionism and start focusing instead on progress, you will increase efficiency as well as overall well-being.
8. Improve your environment
A comfortable work environment has always been important to productivity. Now, with some industries expecting the percentage of permanent remote employees to double in 2021, it is increasingly up to employees to improve this aspect of work efficiency. First ensure you have all the tools you need to do your job well: multiple monitors, ergonomic seating, a printer or scanner and so on.
Next, look at how pleasant and inspiring your space is. Is your desk clear – or cluttered? Do you have music playing that sparks your creativity? Is there artwork on the walls that puts you in a positive mood? Improving your work efficiency requires an office setup that allows it. If you’re not sure how to make your office more conducive to your work, consider working with an interior designer or functional office consultant for advice.
9. Use all your time
How much time do you spend on tasks that are unrelated to work? Commuting back and forth, cleaning your house or going grocery shopping are all necessary parts of your day, but they’re also important sections of time you could put to work for you.
Tony has a strategy he calls No Extra Time (N.E.T.) to accomplish small tasks like listening to podcasts, reading important work documents or taking an online course. You may only have a few moments per task as you scrub down the kitchen or drive down the street, but over time these moments add up, allowing you to accomplish plenty in what you would otherwise consider your downtime.
10. Connect with your purpose
We often don’t achieve our goals not because we are lazy or inefficient, but because we’re not inspired by the things we must do each day. To overcome this obstacle, connect your daily tasks back to your ultimate purpose or goals in life. At least once a day, check in with yourself and make sure the tasks you’re working on are truly important.
We’ll all still have mundane tasks we don’t love – but that must get done. Get these done first, then reward yourself by working on something you enjoy. Or, divide your tasks between the things that are pressing (like finishing an article on a deadline) versus things that can wait until the next day (such as returning an email). Learning how to work efficiently always goes back to prioritizing.
You can improve work efficiency by setting compelling goals, learning how to manage your time and developing thoughtful habits. To learn more about achieving professional success and further mastering work efficiency, attend Business Mastery. The multi-day event teaches you how to find personal fulfillment while taking professional strides.