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Published on December 28, 2020

How To Increase Your Efficiency At Work (14 Simple Ways)

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How To Increase Your Efficiency At Work (14 Simple Ways)

The year has been one for the books. It’s completely changed our way of life, from how we have to do social distancing and mask-wearing to how we work. Twelve months ago, the brick-and-mortar model was going strong. Then, the coronavirus hit, and businesses were forced to shift to the work-from-home model. As we look ahead to the new year, it doesn’t look as if we’re going back to the old ways any time soon, so efficiency at work has taken on a whole new meaning.

It seems like just yesterday that millions of people would wake up every morning, jump in their car, and head off to the office to put in eight hours to pay the bills. Those eight hours would consist of a variety of meetings with potential clients, talking to colleagues, writing and responding to emails, negotiating deals, and organizing events.

What was once commonplace has been replaced with sitting in front of a screen at the dining room table or in our make-shift office at home.

In the bestselling book, The One-Minute Manager, Kenneth Blanchard M.D. explains that we shouldn’t manage every employee the same way because different people are at different stages in their development. The more experienced employees thrive with less supervision while newer employees need constant hand-holding and encouragement as they are unfamiliar with their new surroundings.

Under the work-from-home model, the more experienced employees have thrived as they were able to use their commute time more effectively. Instead of having to attend a bunch of unnecessary meetings, people are now asked to only attend those that are necessary.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the less experienced workers and companies have struggled to address how best to train them so they can acquire all the necessary skills needed for their work.

Having been an entrepreneur for over 20 years and having run three businesses and worked in partnerships, I’ve learned that there’s only so much an employer can teach their employees. The rest is up to us and as we live in such precarious times, we should all go to work on ourselves and figure out how we can increase our efficiency at work, even if that means being at home.

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While certain skills might be career-specific, the following 14 ways can increase our efficiency at work regardless of what industry you are in.

1. Set Achievable Goals

Setting goals is a good thing. It is an effective way to improve our efficiency at work as goals shape our actions and decisions. But not all goals are created equal.

Working with entrepreneurs, I have found that many like to set goals that are merely dreams in disguise. Napoleon Hill best explained the difference between the two when he said, “Goals are dreams with a deadline.”

The key to setting goals is to remember the acronym S.T.A.G., which stands for short-term achievable goals—the keyword being achievable. Unattainable goals, on the other hand, lead to disappointment. A goal also needs to be clear so that everyone involved understands precisely how to go about achieving it.

2. Less Is More

So many of us are obsessed with getting everything done, it’s almost as if we feel compelled to make sure everything is off our plate. Recently, I watched an episode of MasterChef: The Professionals. In it, one chef with 20 years of experience created some incredible plates of food. Just one problem—there was too much stuff on the plate. As a result, the whole dish didn’t come together and it cost him a place in the semi-finals.

The lesson is this—sometimes, we have to know when to stop. By doing less, we’re able to focus more on those things that need our attention and consequently, the quality of those things radically improves.

3. Have a Break, Have a Walk

Our lives have become more and more sedentary, and that’s not a good thing. Many people sit in front of computer screens, glued to their chairs for hours at a time. It’s not healthy.

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So, have a break and short walks from time to time. It’s amazing how much a short walk every 90 minutes or so can improve our efficiency at work. It refreshes our eyes, our mind, and our body all at once.

4. Email Is Our Enemy

Brendon Buchard shared something in a podcast I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Our inbox is nothing but a convenient organizing system for other people’s agendas.” That was a game-changer for me. He went on to explain that if we did nothing else other than not check our email for the first two hours after we wake up, we would improve our productivity by 30%. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

5. Create Your Space

Only have what you need on your desk. Remove all things that are not important. Things tend to pile up over time, which can distract us or create a feeling of being overwhelmed. Keep your desk space clean, and you’ll notice an improvement in your productivity quite quickly.

6. Food Is Fuel

Food is fuel, and you want to run your body on high-quality fuel. I used to get a cold at least once a year and each time, it knocked me out for two to three days. I lived on a steady diet of meat and carbs back in the day. Thankfully, my wife fixed me right up.

It did take time for my body to adjust, but at age 46, I feel healthier than ever. I haven’t caught a cold since I was in my mid-thirties. That’s about a month saved in downtime not to mention my increased performance levels and not having to pump myself full of NyQuil or Tylenol.

Not a chef? No worries, YouTube has you covered. Don’t want to cook? Look for young chefs that are attending culinary schools that need practice.

7. Personal Development

“Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better” are wise words that Jim Rohn used to mention in all his lectures and a quote. It’s something that everyone should take into consideration when thinking of ways to increase efficiency at work. The more experience and knowledge we acquire, the easier tasks become, which is why we should always work on improving our own ability.

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8. Meditation

While most people think the key to building a successful business is all about clever marketing and cool products, what is often overlooked is the impact stress can have on us. I know more than a few millionaires who have more than enough money for the rest of their lives, but it came at a price—their health.

Stress played a big part in that, which is why it’s more important than ever to reset our minds once a day, shut off the noise, and recalibrate our thoughts.

9. Busywork Sucks

Most people aren’t lazy. The problem is they don’t want to do what they should. Instead, they fill much of their day doing activities that give them a sense of accomplishment while never making any real progress on the things they should.

10. Time Tracking

One of the big mistakes people make is they think they are good at managing their time, yet have never taken the time to really analyze just how they are using their time.

With clients, one of the first things I have them do is do a time audit. I want to know just how much time they spend and where. It’s often eye-opening for clients when they do this. No matter how good we think we are at using our time, we can always be better.

11. The Commute

As we have shifted to the work-from-home model, this is less and less of an issue. However, we still spend a lot of time in our cars (or trains depending on where you live) whether we are on a trip, heading to work, meeting a client, or simply heading to the supermarket.

Sometimes, it’s just 10 minutes, but other times it’s an hour. It all adds up. We spend an inordinate amount of time in vehicles which we aren’t using effectively. Commute time is learning time. Forget Taylor Swift and put on Tony Robbins. Turn off Metallica and instead try learning a language or listen to a podcast.

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12. 90-Minute Cram Sessions

Darren hardy is one of the premier productivity experts in the world. He has interviewed hundreds of the most successful entrepreneurs, athletes, and entertainers as the publisher of Success magazine. One secret I learned from him is what I like to call the “sweet spot” of productivity—90 minutes. We need to learn to focus our energy on 90-minute “jam sessions”—as he likes to refer to them—as they give us the greatest return on our energy.

13. Efficiency’s Magic Number Is One

A single-minded focus on a task will transform your productivity like no other. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize just how unaccustomed we are to this and think that multi-tasking is the key to getting things done. Wrong! It’s precisely the opposite. Multitasking prevents us from reaching concentrated focus and our efficiency at work suffers from it.

14. Notifications Are a Dime a Dozen

Please, if you aren’t a surgeon who needs to be on call because it’s a life and death situation, turn off your notifications. We get distracted, on average, every 4 minutes. Those distractions are absolutely productivity killers as they take us away from our train of thought.

The Bottom Line

Increasing your efficiency at work isn’t rock science. In fact, it’s downright simple. It’s the simplicity that trips people up. Too often people look for new shiny toys when the answers are right in front of them. These concepts transformed my life and those of many entrepreneurs the world over and you’d be foolish not to at least give them a fair shake.

Remember, like all concepts, applying them once and expecting big results just won’t happen. But over time, simple concepts done repeatedly can achieve incredible results.

More Tips to Boost Efficiency at Work

Featured photo credit: XPS via unsplash.com

More by this author

Adrian Shepherd

Adrian is a productivity consultant and the CEO of iSucceed

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Last Updated on September 9, 2021

The Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work

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The Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work

Everyone has their favorite habits for boosting productivity. Your desk setup, morning routine, and diet all play a role. But there’s one thing that everyone agrees can make a difference: focus music.

Soothing beats can keep distractions at bay, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Whether you’re trying to drown out mowers or simply get into a groove, put on a pair of headphones. Music can make all the difference in your focus.

With that said, not all music is equally conducive to productivity. You need to be careful about what you listen to. Getting work done calls for very different sounds than getting a workout in.

If you need a little more help to get rid of distractions, check out Lifehack’s free guide End Distraction And Find Your Focus. In this guide you’ll learn the simple techniques to stay focused and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

This article will walk you through selecting the best music for productivity, as well as a list of tunes to help you get started.

How to Pick the Best Focus Music For Yourself

With so many genres and artists out there, there’s a lot of music to choose from. Before you press play, keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. Stick With Instrumental

Songs without words in them make it easier to focus. Lyrics can distract you from what you’re trying to accomplish because you might get the words mixed up with what you’re trying to read. If you’re writing something, you might find yourself typing the lyrics instead.

Intelligence and instrumental music are correlated, perhaps because instrumental music is less intrusive.[1] Instrumental music tends to fade into the background, giving you a rhythm without pulling your mind away from the task at hand.

Stay away from instrumental versions of songs you recognize. It’s easy to fill in the blanks with the lyrics if you’ve already committed them to memory.

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However, some exceptions can be made. Creatives who produce videos or audio might prefer tracks that get their creative juices going, lyrics and all. However, if you find lyrics to be distracting, switch back to instrumental tunes.

2. Take It Easy

Not all instrumental music is calm and relaxing. Focus music should be, however. So, beware of instrumental songs that are too loud and stimulating. High volumes and tempos can work you up when you need to stay calm.

Again, some roles can make exceptions. Physical laborers can use more rambunctious tunes to keep them energized. While calm tunes work best for those in desk-based roles, don’t go too extreme. Something that’s too soothing might make you feel tired, and yawning all day isn’t exactly the path to productivity.

3. Pick Music You Enjoy

At the end of the day, the best focus music is what you enjoy. If you hate classical music, don’t put together a classical playlist just because you stumbled on a study about its benefits.[2] Your dislike of the music will take away the productivity you’d otherwise get out of listening to it.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’ve never worked while listening to jazz before, why not? Save songs you like for later listening. Over time, you’ll build a playlist of tried-and-true focus music.

4. Update Your Setup

Before jamming out to your productivity tunes, make sure you have the right equipment. Invest in a music streaming service so you don’t have to listen to ads. Purchase noise-canceling headphones to avoid distracting your co-workers.

Focus music is all about ambience. Anything that interrupts your flow—whether that’s poor sound quality or glitchy streaming—needs to go.

Expect to spend at least $100 on headphones or speakers. For the streaming service itself, Spotify Premium is the standard at $9.99 per month. Slacker, Apple Music, and YouTube Music are also popular.

Building Your Perfect Playlist of Focus Music (With Recommendations)

Now that you know what to look for in focus music and how to listen, it’s time to build your playlist. Get started with these smooth, instrumental genres, artists, and songs.

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1. Chillhop Music

This YouTube channel has almost 3 million subscribers. Its music videos run 24/7 and feature driving yet relaxing beats.

Most songs on this channel fall into a category called “lofi hip hop,” a type of electronic R&B. Unlike traditional hip hop, lofi hip hop songs follow a slow, steady pattern that induces focus and relaxation.

Chillhop playlists can also be streamed on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp. Popular artists include nymano, No Signal, and Sleepy Fish.

2. Andy McKee

Andy McKee is an acoustic guitarist who became famous after “Drifting,” one of his early songs, went viral on YouTube. “Drifting” exemplifies the creative, quiet guitar techniques found in the rest of McKee’s music.

Today, McKee has six albums of primarily acoustic guitar. One of McKee’s most popular pieces, “Rylynn,” is a perfect example of his soothing yet upbeat sound.

3. John Butler Trio

The band John Butler Trio became popular after releasing “Ocean,” a 2012 hit with more than 50 million listens on YouTube.[3] Heavy on acoustic guitar, “Ocean” is an intricate ballad that ebbs and flows like the ocean itself.

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Known for flowing changes in key and mood, the John Butler Trio proves that fast songs can stand in as great focus music. The group’s long songs—“Ocean” is 12 minutes long—are less disruptive for long projects. Two other favorites by John Butler Trio are “Betterman” and “Spring to Come.”

4. Classical Radio on Pandora

Classical music has long been a staple for music lovers looking to get work done. Pandora’s classical station features a great mix, from Beethoven to modern artists like Maria Callas and Jorge Bolet.

Pandora has radio stations for every genre imaginable. You can generate playlists based on genre, artist, or even a specific song.

Other music apps offer similar playlists and radio stations you can turn to for your classical music fix. From piano-heavy tunes to violin concertos, you’ll find plenty to perk up your ears.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack

Movie soundtracks are full of amazing focus music. One of my favorites is the Pirates of the Caribbean series, which is lively and adventurous but not in your face.

If you like what you hear, Hans Zimmer, the mastermind behind the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, has worked on a huge array of films. Zimmer also put together the soundtracks for The Dark Knight, Interstellar, and Inception.

One thing to watch out for with cinematic music is associations. As iconic as the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack is, if you’re thinking about Jack Sparrow instead of balancing spreadsheets, you should probably switch to a new song.

6. Legend of Zelda Soundtrack

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Another hotspot for instrumental music is video games. If you’re not sure where to start, check out selections from The Legend of Zelda.

Anyone who’s played The Legend of Zelda games will immediately recognize what they hear. The soundtrack is light, airy, and full of awe. Keyboards, harps, and flutes feature prominently.

Although you could spend hours listening to The Legend of Zelda music, don’t forget about fan-produced songs in this genre. The video-gaming community is robust, and instrumental re-creations of your favorite games’ soundtracks can be found all over the internet.

7. Nature Sounds and White Noise

This genre may be too relaxing for some, but others prefer less structured focus music. Sounds like thunder, wind, and rushing water can transport you to a quiet, idyllic place to get work done.

One type of white noise to avoid is city-related sounds. Even without lyrics, honking horns or chattering crowds can be distracting.

An advantage of this type of focus music is that it can be set on a loop. If you find a track you like, go ahead and put it on repeat. When it starts over, you won’t even notice.

Ready, Set, Play

The best part about focus music is that nothing is off-limits. Some people work better listening to Tom Petty tunes than instrumental music, and that’s okay. What’s important is that it’s motivating without being distracting.

To unlock your next tier of productivity, spend a couple of hours clicking around on your favorite streaming music site. You’ll get more done, and best of all, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

More Tips to Improve Your Focus

Featured photo credit: Lala Azizli via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] New York Post: Smarter people listen to instrumental music: study
[2] Forbes: Does Classical Music Help Our Productivity?
[3] YouTube: Ocean – John Butler – 2012 Studio Version

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