Let's face it: We're not all efficient workers by nature. Some of us are easily distracted, while others are frequent victims of procrastination. But the fact of the matter is that the more efficiently you work, the more productive you'll be -- which, in turn, will impact your performance and help set the stage for solid career growth. With that in mind, here are a few things you can do to make the most of your time.
1. Stop multitasking
It's ironic: Companies often seek out employees who are strong multitaskers, and consider the ability to do multiple things at once a positive thing. Yet studies have shown that multitasking can actually impede productivity. Specifically, Stanford University researchers report that multitaskers have more trouble organizing their thoughts and identifying relevant information. They're also apparently slower at switching from one task to another.
Though you might think that multitasking will make you a more efficient employee, it's time to accept the reality that generally speaking, our brains are designed to only focus on one task at a time. So try doing just that. Set a list of priorities and tackle them in order, but don't move on to a new task until the item you're working on is done. This includes checking email, answering phone calls, or any of the other things that tend to distract us on a daily basis.
2. Get better about scheduling meetings
Have you ever fallen into the following trap? You sit down at your desk to knock out a task, but then realize you have a meeting 30 minutes later. You do what you can, attend that meeting, come back to your desk for another 30 minutes of work, and then pick yourself up for -- you guessed it -- another meeting. It happens to the best of us. But if you don't do a better job of scheduling meetings (or a better job of saying no to meetings), your productivity is bound to suffer.
The problem with not leaving yourself ample time to complete tasks is that when you lose momentum, it can take longer to recover. Say you need an hour to compile a report. By the time you reach the 30-minute mark, you might achieve a pretty good flow. But if you're then forced to stop to attend a meeting, you'll lose your train of thought -- so when you sit back down to continue, you'll need more than just another 30 minutes to finish.
A better bet? Make sure your meetings leave you with enough opportunity to sit down at your desk and get things done. Otherwise, you'll end up wasting precious time during the workday.
3. Create the right environment
It's hard to get things done efficiently when you're constantly derailed by distractions. If you find that you're struggling to power through tasks, then your physical environment could be to blame. And if that's the case, then it's time to sit down with your boss and discuss a change. This might mean moving to a less populated corner of the office, or even working from home a few days a week to ensure the utmost peace and quiet.
4. Delegate and ask for help when needed
Maybe you're an expert copywriter, but you lack the skill of putting together charts and graphics. No matter the specifics, there comes a point when it actually doesn't pay to spend hours doing something a colleague of yours can accomplish in 30 minutes. So before you invest too much of your own time, explore your options for delegating certain tasks, or simply enlisting some help from your peers. If your graphics-whiz coworker is willing to create the occasional slideshow for you in exchange for your assistance on the writing front, you both stand to come out ahead timewise.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't also work on growing your skills in areas where they're clearly lacking. But when you're up against deadlines and need to work efficiently, spend your time doing what you're good at, and avoid wasting time on things you're notably bad at when other solutions exist.
Becoming more efficient at work not only makes you look good as an employee, but can be a huge stress-reliever. Follow these tips, and you should soon start to see an uptick in your personal productivity.