Saying that 2020 was an eventful year would be an understatement. A global pandemic, financial crisis, political turmoil — all of this had a toll on our personal wellbeing and, as a result, work efficiency.
Now, as the world is slowly recovering from those events, being efficient is more important than ever. Whether a business owner or a regular employee, we all could use some help getting back on track.
So, here are 6 actionable tips to work more efficiently and avoid burnout.
How to work efficiently: 6 productivity tips for every day
There’s a big difference between working hard and being efficient. Simply put, your work is considered efficient if you get the best result at minimum cost (whether monetary or effort-wise).
And that is quite an achievable goal. Being efficient doesn’t require too much effort and investment. It’s a skill anyone can build — both in professional life and outside of it. Here’s how to do that.
- Say “no” to multitasking
Multitasking is often considered an effective way to save time. Yet, Psychology Today finds that juggling different tasks can lead to memory impairment, concentration difficulties, or even lead to chronic stress and depression. This gives a valid reason to focus on one task at a time instead of trying to complete multiple assignments simultaneously.
Always start your day by making a list of the tasks to be completed with the high-priority ones being on top. Try to complete as many important tasks as possible in the morning hours when your concentration of attention is at its highest.
Break large tasks into smaller ones — it will be easier to manage and keep track of your progress. Cross the completed tasks off the list. This will give you a sense of progress and motivate you to work harder.
- Make short, scheduled breaks
No one can stay productive the whole day. In fact, the most productive people tend to work for 52 minutes, and then take a short 17-minute break. So, make time in your schedule for regular breaks to recharge and refresh your mind.
It’s also better to spend those breaks outside of your workplace and without gadgets. Changing the scenery helps you stimulate your brain activity, avoid problems caused by a sedentary lifestyle, and prevent burnout.
You could use these breaks to go for a walk, do a quick exercise, meditate, or grab a healthy snack. Such a routine will help you recharge, both mentally and physically, and sharpen your focus.
- Communicate with your team
As the number of remote workers is growing, many people struggle to stay motivated without personal communication and support. To stay connected and maintain high work efficiency, it’s vital to have regular check-ins with your co-workers using the video conferencing app of choice, e.g. Zoom, Join.me, FreeConference, BlueJeans, etc.
Yet, many of us find video meetings — especially unplanned ones — distractive and wasteful. To avoid turning a quick sync-up into lengthy discussion or idle chatter, make sure to time-box your meetings.
It also helps to have a clear agenda for each call and stick to the subject, i.e. reporting on progress, asking for help when it is needed, sharing ideas and receiving feedback on your work, etc. Let your everyday communication become your ally, not a distraction.
- Prepare for meetings
Another factor that might hinder your communication efficiency is the stress associated with video calls. Not everyone is given to be an outstanding speaker by nature. But this doesn’t mean that you should remain silent at work meetings or one-on-one calls.
If improvisation is not your strong suit (and even if it is), always prepare for the meeting in advance. Think about what you will say, write down the theses, questions that interest you, what you expect to get from the call, and so on. This will help you make your calls meaningful and efficient.
Make sure to sum up everything you’ve agreed on before you jump off the call to avoid misunderstandings. You can also have a shared note to record all the insights and to-do actions to keep all the participants on the same page.
- Know your KPIs
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are quantitative markers that help you measure your progress in achieving your goals and work efficiency in general. These depend greatly on the department you’re working in, e.g., the sales team’s objectives would be to make 70 sales calls every day or increase the average order size by 5% in Q1.
Use them to keep track of your performance over time: record and compare your everyday results with the help of dedicated tools that might be specific to your role (e.g. Salesforce for sales department) or used by the whole organization (e.g. Asana).
Review the results regularly and adjust your KPIs if needed along the way. It’s okay if the results are not immediately visible. Keep working toward your goals if you’re sure that you’re doing your best, or try to understand what prevents you from doing better.
- Back up and double-check
Remember those files you lost due to a power outage or a computer system malfunction? How many important files have you closed without saving? We’ve all had such unfortunate accidents. To avoid wasting your effort in the future, use the backup tools (EaseUS, Cobian Backup, Paragon Backup & Recovery, etc.), and don’t forget to hit the “Save” button every now and then, just in case!
Another useful habit is to always double-check the completed task before turning it in. Check your work immediately after the finish then set it aside for a while and take a fresh look at it later. It is better to spend a couple of minutes double-checking your work than to be embarrassed about mistakes.
Efficiency vs. Stress: How to avoid burnout in 2021?
According to the Social Market Foundation, happy employees tend to be up to 20 % more productive at work. Of course, happiness is more of a philosophical issue and involves many factors that are not related to work. But since we spend ⅓ of our lives working, it is important that we do so in a positive and enabling environment.
But how do you do that while working remotely?
Working longer hours, unable to unplug, and isolated, remote workers are more likely to experience burnout. The good news is that many employers have started offering extra mental health benefits to support their employees working from home.
Here’s what you can do to avoid burnout while working remotely:
- establish a healthy routine, i.e. enough sleep, physical activity, healthy food;
- set boundaries between work and personal life;
- limit the distractions, e.g., digital devices, during your working hours;
- use mental health or wellness apps like Moodfit, Happify, Sanvello, etc.;
- make time for personal activities — hobbies, education outside your professional interests, etc.;
- socialize with friends (at least virtually).
Managers and business owners often think of work efficiency as something abstract. Everyone needs a result that can be measured (preferably in $ amount), no matter how you achieve it. Therefore, efficiency often gets overlooked or ignored as a secondary task.
In this respect, the challenges of the past year have turned out to be a blessing in disguise, making businesses re-evaluate the importance of keeping their employees happy and productive. And the trends shaping the workplace in 2021 — mental health support and increased flexibility — clearly demonstrate the shift in the right direction.