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Published on December 28, 2020

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

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

11 Ways to Naturally Increase Your Focus How To Increase Focus At Work: 12 Brain Hacks Why Can’t I Focus? 8 Reasons and Possible Solutions How To Increase Your Efficiency At Work (14 Simple Ways)

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Published on April 8, 2021

10 Simple Ways To Refocus a Wandering Mind

10 Simple Ways To Refocus a Wandering Mind

Want to know what Steve Jobs thought was the ultimate key in achieving success?

“Focus and simplicity… once you get there, you can move mountains.”—Steve Jobs

And this belief is even more important today than it was years ago. At your fingertips is a literal world of information and entertainment. So, it’s no wonder we all have such wandering minds nowadays.

Thanks to the internet and smartphones, attention is practically a currency we should be more budget-minded about. In fact, a person who can stay focused is not only more likely to get more done but also be more satisfied at the end of the day because of it.

Going further, a person who’s focused will more easily achieve their goals—anything from losing 20 pounds to getting a promotion at work is within the reach of this type of person.

So, in the spirit of that idea, here are 10 ways to tame that wandering mind of yours and turn it into a laser-focused brain that gets things done.

1. Find Your Totem

Remember the totem in the movie, Inception? It’s an item that reminded people they weren’t in a dream when they touched it, and it was able to keep them grounded in reality.

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You can replicate this idea when it comes to staying focused as well. All you’ve to got to do is find something to be your “focus totem,” and it’ll remind you that you should stop daydreaming and get back to work. Ideally, it’s something you can see and touch.

In the movie, a chess piece and a spinning top were used—both are good ideas. You could also use a picture of your family, a mini trophy, or even wear a ring to focus your mind as well. (In fact, a green lantern ring might be kind of cool for this.)

2. Promise a Reward

Incentives are an obvious way to go. Having gold at the end of any journey makes you want to press forward just for the sweet results. In general, rewards should correlate to the difficulty/length of the work.

For example:

  • Finish a quick house chore = a piece of chocolate
  • Complete an annoying administrative task = 10 minutes of Youtube
  • A successful day of work = a whole movie on Netflix

Pretty simple stuff, right? But you’d be surprised how often you forget to reward yourself for doing solid work on the regular.

3. Make It Stupid Easy for Your Wandering Mind

I don’t know about you, but if I perceive my work to require more effort than I care to use, I’m instantly turned off. This then leads to distraction and procrastination. But you can offset this by breaking a difficult task into a bite-sized piece.

Case in point, what seems easier: 30 pushups or 3 pushups?

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It’s obvious, but sometimes our brains need to be “convinced” we’re only doing a small amount of work to get things going.

But here’s something cool about this tactic: You can (and most likely will) keep going past your stupid easy benchmark. You don’t have to, but my experience tells me once you get going like this, it’s easy to go beyond your bare minimum goal.

4. Empty Your Mind With Journaling

Sometimes, there’s too much stuff floating around in your brain that is making your mind wander. In that case, it can help to spill everything in your head onto a journal to free up some space. You can use a pen and pad for this or something digital like Evernote.

There are two basic ways to go about it:

  1. Freestyle – where you just write whatever randomly flows through your brain without thinking or pausing. This is great if you’ve got a million different ideas racing through your brain.
  2. Focused – where you create prompts or an outline to streamline your thinking and you just respond to the questions or format. This is best when you want to grasp a certain topic.

5. Use the “Just 5 Minutes” Method

Try telling yourself that you’ll work for “just 5 minutes” and then you can stop. You’ll find that the task feels far easier to handle. And like the “stupid easy” method, this tricks your brain into thinking the task is lower effort than it really is. After all, 5 minutes for even the worst task is psychologically manageable for any person out there.

The key is to honestly allow yourself to stop at 5 minutes—no matter what. That’s what allows your brain to accept the method as legit and also lets it overcome the mental hurdle that makes your brain want to wander around and focus on anything but your task.

6. Recite a Focus Mantra

I like to think of mantras as a totem you can take with you anywhere you go. They serve the same purpose—reminding you to stay focused—but can be done anywhere and anytime.

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I find the most powerful type of mantra to be based on reality. I learned this approach from Dr. Jon Fader—a performance coach who was on “Good Morning America”—and his book Life as Sport: What Top Athletes Can Teach You about How to Win in Life. He calls this “objective optimism.”

Basically, you create a mantra that’s based on personal success in your life. That way, the mantra isn’t just a fluffy positivity statement, there’s also the weight of real-life success giving it power

Some examples:

  • If you’re struggling to make yourself go to the gym but have technically been there many times already, you could say, “just another day of heading to the gym—easy.”
  • If you’re suffering from impostor-syndrome after accepting a promotion, just say, “I’m here for a reason” to remind yourself that your efforts were recognized by others and are the real deal.
  • If you’re nervous about an upcoming sports competition but have trained diligently for it, you could say, “I’ve done all the work possible” to remind yourself that your earlier efforts have created the best version of you for the event.

As you can see, the most powerful mantras are evidence-based and positive. So, just find proof of relevant success in your life and transform it into a motivating mantra.

7. Use the “Multi-Yawn” Approach

One of the best ways to be distracted is to be tired. And sometimes, you’ll be tired in such a way that you’re “sort of” working but not realize that you’re actually constantly distracted.

If you can notice when you do this, one thing I like to do is crank out as many big, satisfying yawns as possible. Olympic athletes sometimes do this before their big events. It calms them down and helps them perform better in the process. And it works just as well for us regular folks. I find it has a similar effect to taking a good nap (and actually works best in unison), so you can imagine how effective this can be.

8. Find an Easy Win

Nothing feels good like winning. So, it can help to find a few simple tasks you can do with little effort and just get them done immediately. This will create momentum and propel your productivity forward. The feeling of success will lock your focus in on the task at hand and refocus your wandering mind. Use this when you feel “resistance” to getting your work started.

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9. Create a “Wins” List

Feeling like a capable person who can win at life is motivating in and of itself. In light of this fact, it can help to have an ongoing “wins” list to prove you’re an able person.

Just keep track of all your daily wins—big and small. And whenever your focus starts to wane, give that list a peek and remind yourself that you’re more capable than you realize.

10. Add Stakes to the Mix

If you were to lose $20 if you failed to complete a task, would you be more focused on completing it? Of course!

Try and find ways to put something on the line when it comes to completing your tasks, and you’ll find your focus, motivation, and ability to things done to be higher than ever before.

For example, if you’re at work, you could involve a co-worker by saying you’ll buy their food if you don’t complete a task before lunchtime rolls around. At home, you could say you’ll also mow the lawn if you don’t remember to wash the dishes before the day is over. Or you could just use something like Beeminder or TaskRatchet, which actually charges you cash for failing to complete a task or goal on time. (It’s scary but effective)

All are viable methods, so just give one of them a shot.

Who Else Wants More Success?

Of the many methods of winning at life out there, focusing is definitely a top-three contender. You can’t get anything you want in life if you don’t buckle down and get your work done—a wandering mind won’t create success.

But with these 10 focus tips, you’ll be ahead of the competition and be closer to a fitter body, higher income, and a flat-out better life than before.

More Tips on Sharpening Your Focus

Featured photo credit: Clay Banks via unsplash.com

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