There are professionals equipped to get more done with less time and effort.
Their output is impressive. At first, you might think they’re superhuman or possess a rare trait. But after watching them in action, you realize they're disciplined and methodical.
They overcome the temptation to procrastinate, accomplishing tasks both small and large. Every day they're motivated and energized to generate value. And meanwhile, they manage their email inbox and handle trivial tasks.
Anyone can attain these abilities.
Continue reading to be more efficient at work.
The Truth About Productivity
To be productive at work, you must be effective and efficient.
Here's the truth: improving work results starts with learning how to be effective. An effective person is clear on what matters most, and they prioritize tasks that actualize these goals. But you also need efficiency to carry out each task and optimize your time.
Efficiency involves organizing your day and executing around what matters most. It means using the least amount of inputs (effort, time, and resources) to achieve the greatest results.
Effectiveness is leaning the ladder against the right wall, and efficiency means climbing that ladder fast without wasting time. You need both to be productive at work.
Once we know which tasks are most impactful, how can we minimize the effort and friction necessary to maximize results?
Here are some strategies to get you started.
How to be more efficient at work
Start your day with your most challenging task
Take care of the most difficult tasks of the day while you still have the energy.
This starts your day on the right foot by creating impact and momentum. You'll be knocking over the first domino, triggering a chain reaction of productivity.
Before starting work, take a moment and ask yourself questions to identify your most challenging task. Below are two suggestions from entrepreneur Tim Ferriss:
- “What are the top 3-5 things making me the most anxious or uncomfortable?” This helps you identify tasks that are your biggest hurdles, or things you may be putting off.
- Then ask yourself: “Which of these tasks, if completed, makes the rest easier or irrelevant?”
There is usually one item on the list that stands out. For the first few hours of your day, focus on this one thing.
Make time for deep work
Efficient professionals invest their time in uninterrupted, focused work sessions.
Cal Newport calls this “deep work.” He defines it as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push our cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
Deep work empowers you to enter the flow state. And professionals who are efficient at work know how to tap into this, enhancing their work output.
Here's how you can incorporate deep work into your schedule:
- Schedule time for deep work. As with anything you value, you’ll want to proactively make time for it. Choose time slots in your calendar when you won't be interrupted.
- Create a distraction-free environment. Design your ideal workspace to minimize distractions. This step is important since interruptions take you out of flow state and ruin your deep work session. Social media, multiple computer tabs, email and app notifications, people wandering into your workspace—these quickly disrupt your focus.
- Treat deep work like a muscle. Deep work becomes more efficient through consistent practice. Aim for 1-2 hours of deep work. And don't forget to take breaks.
- Start small. If you find it difficult to concentrate for a few hours, try the Pomodoro technique. Here's the protocol: work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, and repeat. You can gradually build up to 1 - 2 hours of focused work.
An efficient professional does deep work, while an inefficient one does shallow work.
Delegate or batch low-impact tasks
In a perfect world, you’d invest all your time on high-impact tasks that lead to your goals.
However, there are low-impact tasks that need to get done. Depending on your role and job, this includes emails, calls, or administrative tasks.
But you can still complete these activities without wasting significant time. Here are two ways:
- Delegate low-impact tasks to someone else.
- Batch low-impact tasks together.
This frees you to focus on important activities, engage in deep work, and manage trivial tasks.
Remove back-and-forth emails from your workflow
Efficient professionals don't waste time on back-and-forth emails.
Have you ever tried scheduling a meeting, sent more than three emails to coordinate it, and then waited forever to hear back? It's a headache—especially if you have a busy calendar.
Back-and-forth emails are time-consuming and drain your energy. Removing this wasteful chore will save you time and maximize your efficiency.
You can use Undock's in email scheduling to eliminate the endless back-and-forth exchanges. Instantly propose the best meeting times, share your availability, and schedule meetings without needing to check your calendar.
Scheduling becomes effortless, your inbox is cleared quicker, and your efficiency increases.
Take advantage of Parkinson’s Law
Your work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This is known as Parkinson’s Law.
Recall a time you procrastinated. You had a tight deadline and were under pressure. Though it was stressful, maybe you were surprised by how quickly you completed the task.
Time constraints foster clarity of purpose, deeper focus, and creativity.
Efficient professionals leverage this to their advantage without procrastinating. Using Parkinson's Law, they ensure that work is completed on time and to a high standard. If you give yourself a two-hour time limit for a task, instead of a week, you'll be more efficient at work.
You can apply Parkinson's Law by time-boxing your work tasks.
Timeboxing involves blocking off a specific time on your calendar to work on an upcoming task. For example, if you need to write marketing copy for your business, you'd schedule time between 9:00 am - 10:00 am to work on it (or whenever you're available).
Utilize Parkinson's Law and timeboxing to increase your efficiency at work.
All of us want to manage our time better. Once you’ve become effective by identifying what matters most, it’s time to focus on efficiency – doing those things right. Everyone can improve their work efficiency with the right strategies and a bit of practice.
Want to learn how to be effective and prioritize high-impact work? Read our article on the 3 Simple Steps For Being More Effective At Work.
And if you want a more efficient way to schedule meetings with others, join Undock. It's free!