Unless you hate your job and/or don’t care, you probably want to be more proficient and productive at work. It’s an admirable goal – and certainly attainable – but it requires you to change your approach.
Say good-bye to multi-tasking
For years, people believed that multi-tasking was a positive trait worth pursuing; the ability to successfully juggle multiple assignments seemed to represent significant progress on the employee evolutionary scale. Research, though, has proven that human beings can really only focus on one task at a time. Sure, you may be able to complete several projects concurrently, but the quality of work inevitably suffers. Efficiency experts strongly advise against multi-tasking.
Often, employees in busy environments are frequently interrupted – to the point where completing important work is compromised. This isn’t a coincidence. Though interruptions may be par for the course, your mind responds negatively and your concentration suffers. In Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done, author Jocelyn K. Glei says it can take roughly a half-hour to get back on task. If you don’t want to be disturbed, close your door and hang a sign or tell your co-workers to please leave you alone for a while. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself.
The problem with email
Glei’s book, in fact, addresses one of the major issues that prevent us from focusing on work. Incredible as it may seem, the average office worker checks his email an average of 74 times a day! Obsession with email drains your energy and creativity. Mindlessly responding to every beep, buzz and vibration on your laptop or mobile device is an extraordinary waste of time, Glei believes. She offers a sensible battle plan to slay the email beast, beginning with the notion that you should only check your inbox two or three times a day.
Learn to say no
Efficient and productive employees also make generous use of a small but powerful word – “no.” Most of us like to be helpful; cooperation in the workplace is typically encouraged. But sometimes our willingness to take on more work or help out a colleague prevents us from focusing on our own tasks. It’s OK to say no; you won’t be fired and your co-worker won’t be mad at you. You are your number one priority. If you have the time, then by all means lend a hand; if you can’t, don’t feel guilty.
Write things down – make lists. Don’t depend on your memory or verbal exchanges with others. Carefully examine your meeting schedule. If they are a big waste of time, propose ways to make them more efficient – or don’t attend. Try to eat right and exercise regularly. You’ll have more energy.
Being more productive requires strategical change. But you’ll be better for it.