We all want to be more efficient, right? Yet research shows that many of us are going about it the wrong way. Here are some ways that research suggests can help us be more efficient at work.
Focus on one thing at a time. You may think that multi-tasking will make you more productive, but it rarely does. The research is clear: Our brains simply weren’t designed for effectively doing more than one task at a time. Focusing on one task — giving it your full attention — can produce better results than trying to get more than one thing done at a time.
Studies also show that you can be more productive by minimizing distractions while you’re focusing on one task. If you can, schedule blocks of time for concentrated work at a time of the day when you’re most productive. If it’s feasible, limit or turn off phone, e-mail and other online alerts. Limit interruptions by people to only what’s absolutely necessary.
Ask for help. You don’t have to personally do so much — and you shouldn’t. If you can delegate at work and home, do so. Delegating can be a powerful way to relieve stress and get more done each day, to focus on what matters most and to empower those around you. For many people, though, delegating doesn’t come naturally.
Communicate clearly. Make sure your texts, emails and documents are clear. Before you hit send, print or copy, reread what you wrote to make sure it is clear in directions and sets the right tone. Think of any unanswered questions that you can proactively answer as well. Also, make sure that others feel comfortable letting you know when they don’t understand something.
Develop routines. Routines are powerful tools for everyone from babies and children to business owners and CEOs. Scientific studies show that following a general routine each day can help people be happier, healthier and more efficient and productive.
Take breaks. You can’t be on the go continually. You need downtime to allow yourself to enjoy something else, and you need mental and physical breaks, including real vacations. You need something to look forward to other than work. Research shows that more Americans are skipping vacations or doing some work during vacation time — but that this can lead to burnout, less focus and productivity. Take a vacation — even if it’s at home — and resist the urge to check e-mails.