Does it feel like your To-Do list is running your life and wearing you down? Are you always looking for ways to increase your work efficiency? You’re not alone.
I work with a lot of budding and seasoned entrepreneurs that are overwhelmed by the To-Do’s in their life. The problem is that most people think they need more time in their day rather than learning how to work more efficiently with their time. There are only 24 hours in a day and at least 6 to 8 of those spent sleeping. A handful of the remaining hours are needed for eating and other basic life necessities. That leaves about 8-12 hours left over for work.
Here are 3 unconventional tips of how to increase work efficiency using the time you have.
- Call it quits with social media – at least a little bit each day! You wake up in the morning to your cell phone alarm beeping. You turn off the alarm and while you have the phone in your hands, you check your email and text messages. You follow a link down the Pinterest rabbit hole. You’re off to digital overload and you haven’t even left your bed!
Around the world, we spend 144 minutes – over 2 hours! – on social media every day. To put that in context, in an 8-hour workday, that is one-quarter of your day! Use these quick tips to disconnect:
- If you must work on a computer, disconnect from the internet.
- Install anti-distraction programs like SelfControl or Freedom. These apps let you block your own access to websites, email, or even the internet.
- Revamp your email habits.
Don’t check email first thing in the morning. While it seems like this would be productive, it has the opposite effect. Use 2-minute scans to find important emails and ditch the rest. Check email at pre-determined times, like 10 AM, noon, 2 and 4 PM.
Other tricks include using autoresponders, asking co-workers and project managers to flag important messages, and being meticulous about subject lines. A lot of email programs have sorting filters for incoming mail.
Set up a free gmail or live account to collect spam. Use this email to sign up to subscriber lists – if absolutely necessary. There are a lot of email lists offering great information. I like to think mine is one of those lists. Use your real email and set up a sort feature for those lists. But for the one-offs, use a free “dump” account. This allows you to get that free copy of “8 Destinations Around the World to Visit Before You’re 50” without having to read every single travel tip known to man delivered 5-times a week to your inbox!
- Just “stand up” to meetings. OK, perhaps the pun isn’t working as well as I wanted it to. But standing up during meetings reduces the amount of time spent in meetings. Stand up meetings are usually 15 minutes and cut to the chase:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- What obstacles are in your way?
These meetings are designed for proficiency without any time to get cozy in a conference room chair with a latte. Stand up meetings help you and your team quickly identify what still needs to be done and how yesterday changes what gets done today. Because you’re standing there isn’t a lot of room to multitask.
Compare that to the more traditional sit down meetings to learn how unproductive meetings really are. Surveys have shown up to 92% of participants are multitasking during the meeting and executives have found 67% of sit-down meetings are unproductive.
Since COVID-19, a lot of meetings are held virtually. To have a successful virtual meeting and maintain work efficiency, send out an agenda ahead of time, appoint a moderator, record the meeting, and stay on track. Multitasking is inevitable in virtual meetings but if you can keep them short and engage everyone at the meeting, you will minimize multitasking and increase meeting productivity.
Of course, the tried-and-true methods to increase work efficiency still have traction. Here’s a quick summary of my top 3:
- Set goals that can be accomplished in a day or two. It’s like the saying: “There’s only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” If your goals are too far off, it’s too easy to get distracted along the way. Some time-management experts recommend identifying 3 goals, or tasks, a day and begin with the hardest task first. That way, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment early in the day as well as get the hardest task out of the way.
- Take breaks. Yep, get up and walk around. Research shows we can only handle about 18 to 52 minutes of concentrated work at a time. If you work for 52 minutes, take a 17-minute break for optimal recovery. For 25-minute work segments, take a 5-10-minute break. And for 18-minute work spurts, recharge for 5 minutes. Use the Pomodoro technique. Set a timer and when that timer goes off, save your work and take a break. Figure out your optimal time segments before your work becomes sluggish. You might find that you can work longer in the morning but need more and more breaks in the afternoon.
- Sleep. Most of us do not get enough sleep or good quality sleep. Lack of sleep leads to reduced cognitive abilities, increased risk of disease, mood swings, weight gain, low sex drive, and poor balance. If that doesn’t entice you to go to bed early, you’ll be interested to know that statistics showed that workers who get more sleep make more money. Use an app to help you fall asleep. Headspace still ranks at the top but there are plenty of great apps out there. Try Sleep Cycle to learn how you sleep and get tips to boost your ZZZZ’s.
Increasing work efficiency will give you more time in your day to enjoy the things you enjoy doing. Pick one of the things on the list and give it a try.
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