How to Work Smart: 9 Steps to a More Productive Work Day
Tips on How to Be More Efficient
In today's hectic workplace, downsizing and rising workloads have forced us to work smarter. Tim Kehl, a work-life balance specialist based in Madison, Wisconsin, offers a few tips below on how to work smart and be more efficient.
For additional strategies, review these time management tips and work-life balance tips.
How to Work Smart and Be More Efficient
Using time more efficiently is an important skill that everyone from the receptionist to the managing partner can learn.
Adopting the right combination of time-management practices can cut stress and save you up to an hour a day. Below are nine tips on how to work smart and be more efficient.
1. Use technology to get organized. You cannot be your most productive if you are disorganized and surrounded by clutter. Get rid of those random piles of papers and sticky notes and use a simple electronic filing system. There are numerous software programs that can help you organize a wide array of customer and product particulars, allowing quick and easy access. Also, adopt a personal scheduling program that allows you to keep a calendar, to-do lists, work plans and a directory of contacts.
2. Group incoming messages. Constantly checking and answering your e-mail, voice mail, and other messages only interrupt your train of thought and hamper productivity, especially in jobs that require creative, innovative or strategic thinking.
Learn to respond to incoming messages in batches and consider checking them only three or four times a day.
3. Adopt a "one-touch" approach. Utilize the "Do, Delegate, Delete or File" principle for dealing with e-mails, letters, bills, text messages, voice messages, and other requests.
4. Drop time wasters. Much time is wasted on the job by procrastinating, doing "busy work," visiting distracting websites (especially social media sites), attending unnecessary meetings, over-editing reports and interacting with chatty colleagues who are always gossiping or complaining.
Concentrate on the tasks and activities that actually "move the needle" of the business and reduce or eliminate those that do not.
5. Take frequent mini-breaks. Even the busiest people need to clear their mind and stretch their legs now and again. Periodically take a five to ten-minute breather away from your desk. Take a brisk walk outside if you can, do some stretching exercises or walk up and down the stairs a few times. Talk to someone you enjoy. Drink water. Eat a healthy snack like fresh fruits and vegetables. Briefly stepping away from your work will relax your body and rejuvenate your mind. In addition, you will be less frazzled when you return home in the evening.
6. Delegate. You don't have to do it all. Really. Other people are quite capable of handling some of the tasks you generally reserve for yourself. Consider which duties you could be sharing with others. Then start slowly parceling out some of these responsibilities. This will allow you to focus on your high priority items while giving your coworkers a chance to grow and shine.
7. Learn to say no. Such a small word, yet so hard to say. When someone asks you to do something that is not your passion or priority, politely but firmly decline.
Remind yourself that saying no to one thing gives you the freedom to say yes to something else that is more fulfilling and more worthy of your time and skills.
8. Stop aiming for perfection. You will seldom reach it, and it is almost always unnecessary. Perfectionism often leads to micro-managing, poor relationships with co-workers, procrastination, low productivity, depression, stress, and anxiety. The most successful people are those who are satisfied when a job is well done and save their need for perfection for the few, truly important things.
9. Know when to ask for help. If you are overwhelmed at work, and it is causing undue stress, don't suffer in silence. Shed the Superwoman/Superman image and explain your situation to your boss or supervisor. Untenable work situations can usually be alleviated, but it will take some assertiveness on your part.
Similarly, if a balanced life continues to elude you, or you are experiencing chronic stress, talk with a professional (a counselor, mental health worker, or clergyperson). Take advantage of the services offered by your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Allowing your life to overwhelm you week after week, month after month, can lead to serious physical, mental, and social problems. Be positive, and know that there are solutions to your problems, but you will need to seek help.