Do you struggle to get things done at work? An article published in the muse finds the average worker wastes three hours per eight-hour workday. That’s over 700 billion dollars salary cost to employers in a year. Those statistics make devising a time-management strategy imperative for both employees and managers. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to navigate tight schedules unshaken, reduce stress, and improve productivity at work.
Identify How You Spend Your Time and Energy
The first step toward increasing your productivity at work is by determining how you spend your time. Do you spend too much time replying to emails? Does the bulk of your time go to “water cooler chatting?” Failure to identify where your time goes increases your likelihood of focusing disproportionately on minor things. Boosting your productivity in the workplace means devising a goal-setting strategy, which implies a clear inventory of your current situation. So, your first task after reading this is to keep tabs on how you spend every minute in the office.
Prioritizing means determining which activities to complete in order of importance. What are three tasks you must finish before leaving the office? In my case, when I have to turn in my sales forecast to my manager, everything else is secondary.
To avoid getting bogged down in unimportant tasks, create a must-do list with your most important tasks at the top. Never wait for a task to be urgent to make it a priority. Decide proactively what is urgent and get them done. We often blame our unproductiveness on demanding bosses or high workloads without realizing that if we had prioritized effectively, we would have reached our goals without having to work overtime.
Create a Daily Schedule around Your Einstein Window—and Stick with It
The Einstein Window refers to those times of the day when you are most likely to experience a state of flow. Learn about yourself and schedule your most important and challenging work during those times. Like most people, our energy varies throughout the day. The best strategy is to identify these patterns and schedule your work accordingly.
They say one never arranges enough to beat changes, therefore you must give yourself some buffer time in case you run into uncertainties. I usually advise my clients not to fill their entire days with activities. Always spare at least 10 percent of your time for unexpected events. See that time as an emergency fund in case of a rainy day.
Assign Time Limit to Tasks
Yes, it is important to create a schedule. But how much time should you spend on each activity? That’s where the importance of a time budget comes in handy. A time budget helps you decide in advance the amount of time to allocate to a task. Your time should only be used as a monitoring tool that you adjust as you go.
With the best intentions at heart, you plan your day; you create a well-structured must-do list, but somehow, you seem to never accomplish much. You carry the same must-do list you wrote a month ago with the same tasks only partially completed. The problem may be because you have been multitasking.
Multitasking is one of the low-hanging fruits to be aware of. You may get things done in the short term, but your productivity will suffer in the long term. The human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is like trying to write with your left hand while playing the piano with the other. You may hit a few notes and write a couple of sentences, but you won’t accomplish much. So, get this task done before moving to the next one.
Smart devices, despite their benefits, have become a major time-waster for many employees. Aristotle argued that too much—or too little—of a good thing is bad. I am not trying to make a case against smart devices, rather I just want to remind you to use them in moderation. So, if you are serious about increasing your productivity, you must start forming the habit of muting or completely shutting off electronics and concentrating on your tasks for a set period.
Learn to Say No
Some of us have goals. But somehow, because of our work, we see ourselves stuck responding to an influx of never-ending tasks competing for our attention. The solution—control your inputs. Set a time that people can reach you. If you have no control over what gets your attention, you will end up firefighting throughout the day without ever accomplishing anything.
Give Yourself a Break
Stress has long been a major issue in the workplace, with detrimental effects on employees, managers, and organizations. Constant concentration could lead to a higher risk of heart disease, anxiety, depression, and obesity. Breaks can help reset your mood by the release of dopamine, promoting well-being, reducing stress and anxiety.
Major tech companies such as Evernote, Netflix, and LinkedIn are offering employees either flexible or discretionary paid time off because they know the benefits of taking breaks far outweigh its costs.
I believe these simple yet powerful time hacks will help you increase your productivity at work while accounting for your well-being.