Start your day with the tasks that are usually at the bottom of your list, says Anne Watson, author of How to Succeed with NLP: Go from Good to Great at Work. “Usually these will be jobs that someone else wants you to do and that person is probably your boss. They may be things that you are not confident you are able to do well. They may well be some tedious or mundane tasks or it might be doing something you worry about, such as speaking to someone you just don’t want to get in touch with. Whatever it is, face your demons and get on and do it.”
2. ALLOCATE QUALITY TIME
Kate Burton, author of Live Life, Love Work, also says that the way you start your day is vital, because that is when you can get things done. “You should set power slots early in your day for really important activities before they become urgent, like planning an event, writing a report, doing some budgeting,” she says. “Allocate 50 minutes when you can sit and work without any distractions, switch off the email, phone and other interruptions. Shift the work that takes low energy to later in the day, like meetings and admin bits and pieces.”
3. HAVE A ONE-TOUCH POLICY
Sharon Wheatley, a business processes expert and lecturer in operations management at BPP Business School in the City adds that you should adopt a one-touch policy. Don’t keep paperwork or emails that you’ve already actioned sitting on your desktop. “The more files you have, the longer it will take to search for important documents and less time will be spent getting to important work,” she advises.
4. EMBRACE THE WATER-COOLER
Efficiency isn’t just about what you do when you are at your desk: don’t disregard the water cooler moment. “Talking to others in the company and building relationships will help you to understand who the ‘go to’ person is for something,” says Sharon Wheatley. “It’s not always the person listed on the internal directory or the out-of-date organisational chart who really gets things done.”
5. TALK TO PEOPLE
Related to this is getting to know more people in your organisation. “Efficient people know who to turn to when they have problems at work so this week break out of your usual social circles at work and find someone new to talk to,” says Anne Watson. “Successful people have broad and well functioning networks. Make sure you keep growing yours so you can help other people as much as they help you.”
6. AVOID THE NEGATIVE
However, you should pick and choose who you spend time with. “Detach yourself from any negative people and office gossips that can be emotionally draining and a real time waster, says Kate Burton. “Instead build supportive relationships with those who want to do a good job and have skills that complement yours.” And if you work for a bully, she says, “get out fast.”
7. ONLY EMAIL WHEN YOU NEED TO
This brings us on to the time-draining business of emails. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of time spent on these is a boon. “If you’re only cc’ed into an email then really think if you need to reply,” says Sharon Wheatley. “You could save hours every week from not feeling the need to comment incessantly on other people’s business.”
8. CHECK THEN RESPOND
One of the reasons that emails can make you inefficient is that they always seem urgent, even when they are not, and they suck time out of your day. “They’re just emails, not the Holy Grail,” says Sharon Wheatley. “Avoid looking at your email for half a day. Only check them when you’re intending to answer them – and then just do it.”
9. KNOW YOUR ROLE
Efficiency isn’t all about managing your workload, though: it’s about knowing what is important. Kate Burton says that you should “get clarity on your job role, your objectives, priorities and measures so you can stay on track.” Ideally you should ensure that you have a clear job description, and written goals. Then you know where the boundaries are between your job and your colleagues’, which makes it easier to concentrate on your important tasks and to say no to extra requests that divert your attention.
10. DO WHAT YOU ARE GOOD AT
Finally, Kate Burton adds, “do only the things that only you can do”. When you focus on what you’re good at, that nobody else can do as well, you’re a real asset to any organisation – plus you find it much easier to be efficient. If something is hard to do and you have to push yourself to be good at it, then it is not part of your natural skill set. Find a way to avoid it so you can concentrate on the things that make you shine. “Delegate anything you can that you don’t need or like to do,” says Burton.