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How to Be More Efficient at Work in 3 Steps

How to Be More Efficient at Work in 3 Steps

Since the Great Recession, many professionals have been facing more challenging schedules and more daunting to-do lists. This makes it all the more important for professionals to be able to get their work done quickly and effectively. Here are the three steps that I consider most critical to be efficient at work.

1. Establish your priorities

The first step might be the most important. You should take some time to literally write down a ranking of your major goals and tasks—for the next year and for the next week. As I have written previously, don’t just think about the supply side: what you’re good at and what you like to do. Also consider the demand side: what the world, your organization, or your boss needs most from you.

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(Here’s a great Lifehack article that can help you set your goals).

2. Clear away your low priorities

When you write down your goals, you’re likely to find a multitude of small tasks that need to get done, but really aren’t that important. Tasks like these might include writing a status report, attending a routine meeting, or responding to a slew of emails. If you’re not careful, these low-priority assignments can take up your entire day—leaving you with no time to deal with your higher-priority goals.

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The best way to clear your docket of low-priority tasks is to avoid having to do them at all. If you can graciously bow out of attending a boring meeting, do it! If you can decline an assignment by explaining your impending deadlines, great! One less unimportant task for you to do.

Of course, you can’t decline every small task. However, you should recognize that very few of these small tasks need to be perfect. You don’t have to agonize about the phrasing of every email. You don’t have to spend hours perfecting the formatting of every internal report. For a lot of your low-priority tasks, “B+” is good enough.

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Along the same lines, you should be quick to delegate tasks like these to any employees that you manage—even if there’s a chance that the result won’t be “perfect.” You still need to put in the hard work of establishing goals and metrics for the project, occasionally checking in, and offering feedback. But you can avoid the time-consuming process of actually doing the entire project yourself—giving you more time to spend on your higher-priority goals.

3. Start at the end

For your higher priority goals, you obviously need to make a strong effort to create top-notch results. However, in my experience, many professionals could still achieve these results more efficiently.

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As a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, I sometimes assign complex research projects to students or research assistants. Quite often, their first step is to spend days or weeks gathering facts about everything and anything related to the topic. After these days or weeks, they sit down, look at the information that they have gathered, and try to make sense of it all. Although they’ve certainly learned quite a lot of information, how much of it is relevant to the underlying research question? Not much.

Here’s a better approach. After a day (at most!) of basic research, try to establish some tentative conclusions for the project. That way, you have to quickly think about the issues most central to the project—allowing you to focus the rest of your research.

Of course, your tentative conclusions may turn out to be wrong. And if you don’t realize the error of your ways until the end of your project, you will have wasted a lot of time. So I advocate making a “mid-flight check”: around halfway of your project, take another close look at the evidence that you’ve discovered to see whether your conclusions need to be revised or even scrapped completely.

Featured photo credit: Abstract green clock via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on August 20, 2018

What Highly Successful People Do Every Day To Perform At Their Best

What Highly Successful People Do Every Day To Perform At Their Best

What separates highly successful people from the “average crowd?” This is a topic that is widely discussed.

If you want to be successful, you have to watch carefully what other successful people do and imitate them. While every successful person has his or her own unique approach, there are a couple thoughts and actions they have in common.

Here are 7 habits many successful people have!

1. They make a difference

If you have an idea, that idea has to change peoples life’s. As long as you’re not helping other people, it’s useless. Don’t start with an activity or business primarily to make money, it won’t work. When you create fans by offering your expertise, they are willing to pay for it. The problem with today’s entrepreneurial mindset is that’s all about “quick” money and not necessarily about making a difference.

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein

2. They focus on productivity instead of on being busy

Do you know those people who always say they can’t meet up with you or help with a certain thing because they’re always busy? I do, and to be honest I was one of them.

When I look back, I don’t actually know with what I was being busy. I thought I was being busy, but now I realize I could have done many things in a much more productive way.

Is 8 hours of work actually 8 hours when you’re checking your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram updates every 30 minutes? It’s necessary to take a rest once a while, but don’t get lost in hundreds of status updates that make you forget about your priorities.

Looking for some tips? Check out this infographic: How to be productive by doing more and working less

3. They keep setting S.M.A.R.T. goals

You can never reach the success you want if you’re not setting goals. The trick is to set up a couple small, achievable goals and a couple of bigger ones. If you only set up huge, unachievable goals, you’ll get unmotivated and fall back into your old mindset. The small goals keep you motivated and give you the feeling you’re being productive once you achieve them.

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Try setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, which is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. These goals are concrete and well-defined measures of your progress.

A while ago, I asked a friend of mine what his goal was this year. He told me he wanted a sports car. I told him he will have much trouble reaching that goal because it isn’t specific. He needs to know the brand, the model, the color, what kind of rims etc. Only then he can define how long it’s going to take and what he needs to do in order to buy that car.

4. They take action

There is a big difference between talking or actually taking action. I’m pretty sure you have people around you who’ve said, “This year, I’m going to lose weight, become fit, and look like I’ve never looked before!” Or, “I’ve got such a good idea, I’m planning to start a new business, but first I’m going to do some research,” which probably results in never taking any action.

Many of those people do take action, but the majority do not. It could be many things that keep them from taking action, like fear, no money, or no motivation. The trick is to make a plan and take action right from the start—choose to put in the effort to overcome those obstacles.

5. They exercise and eat right

The better you treat your body, the better you will feel, which results in better results. Successful people take time to prepare healthy meals and work out for at least 30 minutes a day.

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Not having time to work out or prepare a healthy meal is nonsense. If you have time to watch TV or check your social media profile, you also have time to care about your body.

You don’t necessarily need to lose weight or gain muscle, but try to stay in shape and watch your junk food intake.

6. They always step out of their comfort-zone

Successful people are willing to do everything they have to succeed. If they fail, they try it again and learn from it. The vast majority of people think differently and want to stay in their comfort zone.

You can’t expect magic is going to happen when you always do the same things over and over again. You need to step up and start doing new things. The fear of failure is usually the reason that keeps people from acting.

Think about something you’ve done in the past. Something that was so scary that it made you sweat, feel nauseous, or become overly nervous. That could be giving a speech in front of a big crowd or asking someone on a date. In the end, it wasn’t as scary and difficult as you thought, right? And you’ve learned from it.

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Approach everything in your life this way. If you really want to become successful, you need to step out of your comfort zone.

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” — Brian Tracy

7. They lead

Successful people are also incredibly good leaders. How can you stand out of the crowd if you follow the herd like anyone else does? The main thing successful people do differently is that they think and act differently from the rest. But they do it in a way that creates fans who follow and support them.

You don’t have to be a born leader, but you can learn to be one. An example of a great leader and entrepreneur is Elon Musk. He is the founder of SpaceX and co-founder of Zip2, PayPal, and Tesla Motors. By following his example, you just might find the great leader inside you.

Have these tips helped you? Share them!

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Featured photo credit: Steve Jurvetson via flickr.com

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