How can you get the most out of your work day? The key to a truly productive office is to not work harder, but work more efficiently. Check out these tips for how to be more efficient at work.
Does it ever feel like your workday is taken up with answering emails, attending meetings, and other tedious tasks? Unless your professional job duties are solely administrative in nature, these time-consuming activities can make it seem like you’re spinning your wheels.
If you want to learn how to be more efficient at work — so that you can actually accomplish something during your days — read on for some helpful tips that the whole office can implement.
1. Understand How Your Brain Works Best
Many employees find that they perform at their peak in the morning, and that makes sense. After all, you’ve had the previous evening and night to relax, rejuvenate, and get ready to tackle that to-do list once again.
If you enter the office each day feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, then it stands to reason that you should tackle your most challenging projects and activities in the morning. Save correspondence and less-important agenda items for the afternoon, when you might not feel as creative or inspired.
However, not everyone works the same way. Some people simply don’t feel fully revved up until mid-morning or even later. If you like taking care of chores that require less brainpower first thing, or if your peak performance happens later in the day, then schedule your time accordingly.
2. Categorize Emails, Memos, and Agendas
It’s almost impossible, in today’s modern business world, to eliminate administrative tasks altogether. There are phone calls that must be returned, emails that must be answered, and other paperwork that requires your attention.
So why not learn how to deal with these communiques in the most efficient manner possible? Business productivity experts recommend taking action immediately, and prioritizing emails and memos according to a four-step principle. Let’s use email as an example to learn how this is done.
Unproductive people check their inbox, respond to only the most pressing messages, and then get sidetracked as they check their calendar, revise a meeting agenda, or confer with colleagues. Try, instead, taking one of the following actions for each and every email that enters your inbox:
- Do: Take care of those issues you must attend to yourself, and do it right away. If immediate action isn’t possible, schedule a time to get it done.
- Delegate: If someone else has more time or is better suited to a task, forward the email and ask them to help.
- Delete: Keep your inbox — and mind — clear by deleting anything that doesn’t require action.
- File: Create folders for meeting minutes, agendas, information pertaining to particular accounts, proposals, anything that you need to keep but not take action on.
3. Adopt a Closed Door Policy
Chatty colleagues and impromptu meetings can be real productivity killers. Make it known that you have a closed door policy, meaning that when your door is closed, you are not to be interrupted. Encourage coworkers to send calendar invites for brief meetings, or to ask questions via email.
To avoid seeming standoffish or unapproachable, reiterate that this is solely productivity-related — and keep that door open when you won’t mind brief visits.
4. Put the Kibosh on Meetings
If there’s anything that causes an office worker’s eyes to roll, it’s a meeting. To the extent that it’s under your control, minimize the number of meetings held. If a meeting is absolutely necessary, keep it as short as possible, and encourage others to come prepared by sending agendas in advance.
Walking meetings are gaining favor, and for good reason. They can improve health, creativity, communication, and engagement.
5. Eliminate the Chain of Command
One reason walking meetings are effective is because they can break down barriers between management and direct reports. Similarly, encourage your colleagues to eliminate the “chain of command” approach to communication.
People should talk directly to whoever can get a job done best or quickest. If the manager that a worker approaches can’t handle the request, she can escalate or delegate it.
Forwarding endless emails or adding agenda items to take care of small requests and questions, like who handles health care enrollment or who’s in charge of maintenance requests, is a waste of everyone’s time. Be direct whenever possible.
6. Encourage Policy Change At All Levels
One more tip concerning hierarchies: get rid of them to the extent that you can. Of course, that’s not always possible or feasible; after all, someone has to be the primary decision maker (and responsibility holder) for various aspects of business.
Your boots-on-the-ground workers, however, know better than management how to be more efficient at work. Let them suggest policy changes, opt out of meetings, or organize their days to maximize the way they use their time. Letting lower-level employees have a say and be heard is also great for office morale.
Giving folks autonomy over their workday, or letting them implement software systems that can aid productivity and eliminate time-wasters, can really boost your bottom line. Schedule Like A Boss is a great example of one such system for sales personnel.
7. Take Time for Breaks
Contrary to popular opinion, learning how to be more efficient at work isn’t a matter of putting one’s nose to the grindstone, working late, or cramming more to-do list items into less time. Sometimes, slowing down is the best way to get more done.
Check out the Pomodoro Method, which involves a “sprint” of 25 minutes working at your full focus followed by a five-minute break. Ideally, that break will involve some physical activity, like a walk or maybe some stretching.
There is ample research showing the value of break-taking to improve productivity. Of course, the breaks shouldn’t devolve into foosball free-for-alls, but well-timed and brief respites from serious mental activity can really help your employees work smarter, rather than harder.
How To Be More Efficient At Work Your Way
Motivating your employees and teaching them how to be more efficient at work, while at the same time keeping them happy and boosting morale, can feel like a difficult balancing act. Start to implement our seven tips and you are sure to see a difference, however.
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