If you’re looking for some strategies on how to be more efficient with your time , then you’ll love this article. So, let’s begin!
How to Be Efficient:
1. Plan your day, plan your week
Believe it or not, the start of your productive day and week does not begin in that morning, but the day before! When I started out with no plans for what I wanted to do for the week, I found myself procrastinating and leaving things till tomorrow, as such I did not accomplish anything when in fact it takes only a moment to finish them.
Now I would use my Sunday night to think and plan about the things that I need to finish and achieve the following week.
I would also decide on the three main crucial things that I would want to complete that day. By planning out and have a list to clearly visualize, it allows you to focus. If there are more things that pop up in the day, you just need to decide which is more important and try to finish it together.
Remember, any extra work you leave today would mean more work to be done in the days ahead, leaving you less time for yourself. When you are working, it’s easy to for you to lose yourself in all the tasks that need to be completed. Sometimes I end up multi-tasking and frankly it’s not the best way to complete the things.
Having to switch to different tasks every few minutes caused me to lose my focus and often resulted in me having to concentrate on the task all over again, thus increasing inefficiency.
I changed my working style, after finding out how a friend of mine divides his time into blocks and focusing on one task at a time.
By doing one thing at a time, it becomes easier as you will be in the zone, with super focus on your task and this allows you to be more productive. Total time spent on the work would be reduced and quality will be higher, achieving best of both worlds.
Start by planning out what you would like and need to get done in the week. Divide your time into small blocks to make it easily digestible. Time Doctor is a useful tool that I use to keep track of my work and allows me to effectively complete my task in time.
I use a modified version of the Pomodoro technique to divide my time into smaller, more manageable chunks by setting my work time to 35 minutes each and take a 5 minutes break, a total of 40 minutes. After completing about 4 sets of 40 minutes, I will take a longer break of 20 minutes to clear my mind and thoughts.
This methods allows you to complete tasks quickly and makes you more accountable for your tasks. Furthermore, since there is a time limit, it would subconsciously force you to rush your work before the period ends, hence improving work efficiency.
2. Write a rough daily plan and follow it
I cannot stress how important it is to have a plan for your life. There’s a saying that when you fail to plan, you plan to fail and I agree with it wholeheartedly. It is extremely easy to go to work and respond to situations and problems.
By the time you are done with the day, you find out that you did not get anything you need done.
Set a specific time for the tasks that you need to do and force yourself to get it done before time is up.
This allows you to focus better and also get in the zone.
With a list of things that you need to get done allows you to “force” yourself to fit everything. With a list of things being scheduled by you for you no longer makes you confused with what you need to do next as the decision is already made and procrastination is reduced.
3. Set aside a portion of time in the morning
I find myself being most awake and fresh in the early morning hours and the late nights. I am able to concentrate extremely well with clear thoughts during these periods of time and as such I choose to spend most of my energy during these time to get most of my things done.
Distractions come along as the day progresses when there are more people online, such as Facebook, twitter etc., and their presence would definitely affect me when I want to do my work efficiently.
I would usually wake up at 5.am in the morning, finish my breakfast, go for a simple 30 minutes morning run and start on work immediately before most people wake up. During this period of time, I would also block out all forms of contact. A good advice would be to shut off your phone or turn off all forms of communications
4. Write a journal
I started writing journals a year ago and I must say the benefits are many. First, by writing down what you do every day, it allows you to look back at what you have accomplished on any particular day.
It does not have to be comprehensive, bullet points will do as long as it tells you what you have done. You could include your thoughts, daily routines, interesting observations etc.
By reviewing your day, it allows you to think and learn about what you have been doing or whether you have wasted your time doing nothing. It serves as a reminder for you to do better in the days ahead. Your journal is also a venue for you to vent your anger and is a great stress reliever.
I spend about 15 minutes at the end of the day to write down these thoughts on my iPad. You will realize there is great satisfaction when you look back at your old posts. Gradually, writing your daily events would allow you to be more organized and you find that you will become more efficient with your work and life.
5. Spend time reading everyday
I believe that reading is a good form of exercise for the brain. It opens you up to more ideas and concepts, allows you to know more about the world around you and simple expand your intellectual horizon.
I set myself a goal to read a book every week. You may say that you are too busy to read, but it’s not that hard to squeeze out time to read.
I usually read while I have my breakfast in the morning as my mind is clearer and I can focus on what I am reading. If you travel to work by public transport, it is a great time for you to catch up on some reading.
Set yourself a goal of reading a fixed number of pages everyday helps to make it more manageable. If a book is about two hundred pages long, you could structure it in a way such that you read 20 pages a day during weekdays and 50 pages on the weekends.
Gradually, you will develop the ability to read faster and eventually you might even be addicted to reading!
6. Set a specific time to process emails
As you would all know, emails take up a large bulk of time especially when you have to deal with so many spam mails and also spend time replying to emails.
Constantly checking and replying to emails is a massive time drain and this reduced my work efficiency immediately. Emails do not need to be replied immediately, therefore set a certain time to process them.
I only check my email twice daily, once in the morning when I start work and in the late afternoon close to the end of the working day. Set a reminder on your phone to check email, and only check them when the notification comes.
Furthermore, limit you’re the amount of time you spend on processing your emails as you might find yourself taking more than you should.
7. Disable Push Notifications
My phone used to vibrate every so often while I am doing my work, only to find out they were unimportant messages from apps that cause me to lose my focus when I do my work.
Many of these notifications are irrelevant to your work and serve as a distraction. They could be friends sending you photos, messages and everything unimportant.
These are notifications that do not need to be responded or addressed immediately. Disable all these unimportant push notifications and only check them when you are free.
I used to think that these notifications took little time to process but it actually caused me to procrastinate and end up spending more time than I intended.
It is much harder to refocus on things (1) that you were doing when you get distracted by multiple notifications. You spend a much longer time trying to finish up the same amount of work, leading you to have less time to do things you want to do originally.
The moral of the story – finish whatever you have quickly and then carry on with your recreational activities.
8. Limit your social media usage
Social media is almost a necessity to everyone nowadays and I must say I do spend my fair bit of time on it. However, I also know that it can end up eating into my workday and efficiency. It is addictive to keep scrolling down your screen and see new updates but you need to control yourself.
If you have trouble controlling your social media usage and tend to spend hours on Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc., consider using apps that set a timer and will prevent you from using them if you exceed that amount of time.
People who find it hard to control themselves from clicking their social media apps on their phone could try deleting them for the time being or use another phone for work and only use it when you are done.
Another useful tool for those addicted to social media while on work could try using the Stay Focused chrome plugin to limit your time that you spend on social media.
Remember, every minute you spend on unnecessary social media sites will lead to more unproductivity, and it can affect your work greatly if you do not control yourself.
9. Leverage technology
We live in a world with many great advanced technologies and it would be unwise if we do not utilize it. Some of these can be used to make your work life easier and definitely should. Dropbox/Google Drive are cloud storage services that allows you to store your work and reports and allow your colleagues, group mates to access.
Google Docs is also great for efficient project collaboration between group members as it enable real time editing and working. This means you and your team can work on the same project at the same time without being physically in the same place.
Slack is the latest work office collaboration tool that is gaining popularity among the office workers for its ease of use and ability to do many things such as having all team communications in one place, integration with popular service that we are already using and accessibility. Most of all it is free to use unless you require the more advanced features.
There are many great tools and software out there other than the ones that I listed that can help with your productivity and as long as they appeal to you, you should definitely use them.
10. Keep meetings short and sweet
The problems with meetings is that people always come unprepared and clueless about the agenda. Furthermore, most of the time spend are used to brainstorm or getting stuck in a discussion. Many meetings can be shorten or avoided if you come prepared.
You could use office productivity apps such as Slack to carry out your work such as simple group discussions and updates or notifications to colleagues. Some meetings are unavoidable but definitely could be shortened.
Provide an agenda and make sure all members are prepared for the meeting. Set a fixed amount of time for each issue. If you are not close to concluding your issues 15 minutes before the set time, go into overdrive mode and rush for that agenda so that you do not eat into the next agenda.
This can help you to be on task and not drag the meeting on and on forever. An example below would be ideal for team members to know what they are focusing on.
11. Keep workspace clean and organized
A messy person has a messy mind. Productivity and efficiency can be compromised if you do not keep your workspace organized. More time will be spent finding files and documents if your table is cluttered and you have no idea where your things are.
Keep your documents filed up in an organized manner such that it takes little time for your colleagues to find the things when they need it. Throw away things that are irrelevant or no longer in need.
Same goes for your computer desktop, keep it clean such that you do not fill up the desktop with full of icons that even you have trouble locating.
Consider storing away documents that you have left on your desk for more than a month so that you can access it when you need it in the future or just get rid away.
The point is to keep your workspace clean and organized so that you can focus on your task better without getting distracted.
Prioritize types of important tasks
There are two kinds of important tasks, hard ones and easy ones. I would always choose to finish easy tasks quickly while leaving the harder tasks for later. It is psychologically satisfying to tick off your to-do list and see it getting lesser and doing these simple tasks that are quick to complete helps so.
Furthermore, harder tasks tends to require more thinking and this means I need to sit down and focus without other things to distract me. Completing smaller things and then continuing to the larger tasks helps to create momentum that aids you in productivity.
12. Two minute rule & Set Deadlines
This is a useful tool that you can use at work which basically states that when you have a tasks that does not require much time to complete, normally under two minutes, rush and finish immediately.
This is a great productive method as it get rids of the clutter in your mind and at the same time makes you feel good as you completed the task at hand. This can be done between small breaks or small pockets of time. Completing these tasks immediately also takes less time that doing it later. If you have some time to do it, just rush it!
There are always more and more things to do, and if you do not complete them in time, they just pile up and cause you to be overwhelmed in the end. Set a realistic deadline and adhere to it. Things will never get themselves done unless you do it and you need the discipline to do it.
13. Spend a day like Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of United States had extremely productive habits that he adhered to everyday. As a part of his morning routine, he woke up at 5am and by 7 am, he would set his agenda for the day. He would continue working from 8 to 11 am, take a rest and carry on from 2 to 5 pm.
At the end of the day, he would ask himself “What good have I done today.” Benjamin franklin displayed high level of focus and in the evenings, he would review his agenda for the day and see if he had achieved his intended goal.
14. Spend a day like Barack Obama
The President of United States is a disciplined man and he starts off the day by working out. Barack Obama has a structured regular routine which he follows throughout the day.
He starts the day with a workout at 6.45am, and it allows him to stimulate endorphin production, which makes one feel refreshed and ready for the day ahead. He then proceeds to have his breakfast with his family and then goes to the Oval office at 9am.
Obama also very particular about making decisions, and chooses not to make important decisions around food and clothing. He is also a night owl, chooses to read his briefing papers and do paperwork till 11.30pm and takes another hour or so to catch up on some reading.
15. Spend a day like Richard Branson
The super entrepreneur is one heck of a man who runs over 300 companies under the Virgin Brand. He wakes up very early with the sunrise at 5.45 am in the morning, before many of us who are still sleeping like a sloth in our beds. He is also very active man who keeps fit by exercising and swim around his island.
16. Question yourself (Eg. Why am I doing this?)
Productive people know what they are doing and what is the ultimate purpose and goal they are pursuing. By identifying the potential problems and visualizing it, they can then break it down to smaller chunks of sub-problems and then solve it systematically.
Time should not be spend on completing irrelevant tasks. Constantly asking yourself such questions keeps your mind on your goal and serves as a motivation.
At the end of the day, ask yourself again what you have achieved (2) and what you can do to improve yourself if you have not achieved what you have set out to do.
So many people, including my past self live a life without thinking about what we are doing and mindlessly continue slogging away. That should not be the case. Ask yourself questions, find a purpose in what you are doing.
17. They set priorities before working on it
People lose focus on their goals easily if they do not remind themselves, therefore you need to constantly review and plan ahead. These men are prepared for their next day as they plan ahead.
By doing so, you will know what to expect and feel more confident and less stressed. Every minute you spend planning can potentially save a lot of time in execution. Start by waking up early. Doing so will show that you are determined to change yourself to become a more productive person.
Rome was not built in a day. It takes time to transition yourself to new habits that you are not used to. As long as you are focused on your goal, you will eventually achieve it. Determination, willpower, motivation, careful planning is needed if you want to live the way you want.
Nobody is going to help you unless you help yourself first and you can start so by changing yourself today! There is only one kind of success and that is to be able to live your life the way you want. Start striving for success today!
I hope that you have learnt something new about how to become more productive and efficient.
Some of these simple yet effective methods are used not just by me but many other people around the world. While this was a short read, its main purpose is to be comprehensive enough for you to easily and fully absorb the essence within.
As long as you are able to apply some of these above mentioned methods and useful techniques, I am very sure you will find yourself changing to a whole new person in the coming months ahead. I sincerely hope for the best for your future endeavors!