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13 Simple Ways to Increase Efficiency at Work

Written by Adrian Shepherd
Adrian is a productivity consultant and the CEO of iSucceed
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Displaying high efficiency shows your employer that you are dedicated to your role and eager to grow your skill. But what does efficiency actually entail?

Efficiency is the ability to complete a task with little to no waste, effort, or energy.[1]

Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of a person. We often assume that productivity means getting more things done each day—wrong. Productivity is getting important things done consistently.

No matter what you are working on, there are only a few things that are truly important. Being productive is about maintaining a steady, average speed on a few things, not maximum speed on everything.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

While certain skills might be career-specific, the following 13 ways can increase our efficiency at work regardless of what industry we are in.

13 Ways to Improve Work Efficiency

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. However, 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. 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.

Long hours of sitting have been associated with several health issues, according to research. They include obesity and the metabolic syndrome, a group of ailments marked by elevated blood pressure, excessive blood sugar, extra body fat around the waist, and dangerous cholesterol levels. Overall, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer appears to be increased by excessive sitting and by sitting for extended periods.[2]


So, have a break and have 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 minds, 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 woke 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.

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information. This is why keeping your work environment well-ordered, and clutter-free is important.

How to be more efficient at work? Keep your desk space clean.

Read more: How to Become Clutter-Free for Greater Happiness and Productivity

6. Notifications Are a Dime a Dozen

According to a Gallup poll, over 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times every hour.[3]


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.

According to a scientific study done by Harvard, people spend 47% of their waking hours distracted.[4]

Another good tip is to log out from your social media accounts. Therefore, when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

7. Personal Development

Personal development refers to activities that aim to improve one’s talents, potential, employability, and even wealth.

Jim Rohn used to mention these wise words in all his lectures:

“Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better”

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 abilities.

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 comes at a price—their health.

Stress plays 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. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and carve out some personal time.


9. Use Eisenhower Matrix

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.

The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool to help you prioritize tasks in terms of urgency and importance.

Here’s how the matrix breaks down:

  • Urgent and Important: Tasks that you yourself have to do right now or conversations and decisions that you must quarterback quickly.
  • Not Urgent and Important: Projects requiring planning and strategy, but can be delayed for a bit. You’ll still need to set a deadline for these and carve out time on your calendar to work specifically on them, but you might not need to tackle them today.
  • Urgent and Not Important: Tasks that must be completed, but which you should delegate to someone else. Think files, documents, or processes that need updating—jobs that need to get done fast, but that don’t require you or your best engineer.
  • Not Important and Not Urgent: Ideas that are best eliminated from your to-do list altogether. Or, at the least, tasks that should be postponed until all other important items have been checked off. These might be “nice-to-haves”––they’re not urgent or mission-critical.

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 using the best time-tracking apps. 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

We 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.

The average commute time (to and from work) in the US is 52.2 minutes per day, but in many regions of the nation, conditions are significantly worse. That amounts to 4.35 hours per week spent commuting in only one week.[5]


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 that 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 listening to a podcast.

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. Multitasking prevents us from reaching concentrated focus and our efficiency at work suffers from it.

Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of a person’s time. That’s because your focus and concentration are constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.[6]

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way, you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.


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 in 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 won’t happen. But over time, simple concepts done repeatedly can achieve incredible results.


Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

13 Simple Ways to Increase Efficiency at Work

Efficiency is the ability to complete a task with little to no waste, effort, or energy. Displaying high efficiency shows your employer that you are dedicated to your role and eager to grow your skill.

Productivity entails getting important things done consistently and is best achieved by looking at your current way of working; identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances; and then finding ways to improve.

Setting goals is an effective way to improve our efficiency at work as goals shape our actions and decisions. Unachievable goals lead to disappointment, so you should always set goals that are attainable.

The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool to help you prioritize tasks in terms of urgency and importance.

Research has shown that multitasking takes a toll on productivity. Stay focused on the task at hand and try a 90-minute cram session.

Featured photo credit: XPS via unsplash.com


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