We’ve all met someone who always appears to be on top of things. This is the person who, whether a friend or a colleague, always gets their work finished on time and who can complete hour-long tasks in 20 minutes.
It’s all too easy to dismiss highly efficient people as robots (or magicians). However, by learning how they function effectively and solve the problems common to everyone, you can improve your own efficiency.
It’s impossible to become more effective immediately. You’ll be well on your way to being more successful if you make minor improvements and adopt some of these behaviors.
1. Stay Nourished and Get Sleep
Taking care of your body is the first step to having enough energy to be productive at work. Poor nutrition can affect your motivation levels during the day, making work more difficult than it has to be. A well-balanced diet supports your body by supplying much-needed nutrients and vitamins along with giving you the energy to meet the challenges of the day.
Take time to cook homemade meals in the evening that include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein. Taking leftovers or making a quick, nutritious lunch for work will keep you fueled up during the day. Be sure to fill any dietary deficiencies with an appropriate multivitamin or quality vitamin D supplement.
Sleep is necessary to recharge your body. Those who get inadequate sleep tend to be less productive, more stressed, and tired at work. To help you sleep better, restrict screen time before bed, take a warm shower or bath, and make sure your room temperature isn’t too hot.
2. Prioritize Your Tasks
“Most Important Tasks” is based on the idea that certain tasks are more important than others on any given to-do list. If you just concentrate on ticking things off your to-do list, you’ll complete a combination of important and less important activities.
It also exposes you to the risk of procrastination — it’s all too tempting to spend the whole day checking off easy, less important to-dos rather than getting down to business on the important stuff.
Instead, take a few minutes at the start of each day to pick 1–3 MITs — tasks that you must complete by the end of the day, no matter what. It’s easier to make a meaningful to-do list with a renewed emphasis on what’s important. It will help make sure the important things get done.
3. Keep a Distraction List
When you’re trying to be efficient, it’s easy to get distracted by emails, social media, and a thousand little to-dos.
Distractions are the bane of success, whether you’re trying to concentrate on deep work or only coping with smaller tasks. It’s difficult to sustain productive work habits when there are too many distractions.
Making a “distraction list” is one effective way to reduce distractions. When you’re working, keep this list nearby, whether it’s a Google Doc or a physical piece of paper. Whenever a distracting thought enters your mind, jot it down on the list and return to your job.
This method, which is one of the Pomodoro Technique’s secrets, is effective because many of your distractions legitimately need your attention, just not now.
4. Use the 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 theory is another way to prioritize activities. The 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle) was discovered by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto and noted that in any endeavor, 80% of the outcomes would come from 20% of the efforts.
Highly efficient people identify the most critical 20% of their jobs to optimize productivity. Then they search for ways to trim the remaining 80% of their schedule in order to devote more time to the activities that have the greatest effect.
5. Don’t Skip Breaks
Nobody, not even the most productive individuals, can concentrate for more than eight hours at a time. It’s just not possible. You can’t sustain distraction-free concentration for that long, no matter how many productive habits you develop.
That is why it is important to take breaks (and research shows it makes people more productive). Also, short breaks of a few minutes will help you refresh and generate new ideas.
Make it a point to take breaks on a regular basis. It’s important to plan and deliberate your breaks. Distractions are simple to justify as “taking a break.” However, if you don’t arrange your break time, it’s likely that you’re only getting distracted.
The Pomodoro Technique, for example, may be beneficial. The Pomodoro Technique recommends working in 25-minute blocks with 5-minute breaks in between. You work hard for a set period of time, then deliberately stop working for a shorter period of time.
Staying focused and on task at work can be challenging but implementing these tips will have you back on track soon.