A survey from AtTask found that employees at medium and large-sized companies spend only 45% of their time on their core responsibilities. The remaining of their days are spent on admin work, meetings, emails, and other miscellaneous tasks that don’t contribute to their success.
This is a huge loss of productivity that holds people back from achieving their goals.
To have more time for higher-value activities, you need to dramatically improve your work efficiency - particularly on non-core tasks. This article explains five practical ways to do that.
1) Communicate More Efficiently
Research has found that in-office employees spend the majority of their time communicating. Much of this time is wasted in unproductive meetings, dealing with miscommunications, and engaging in useless conversations.
To improve your work efficiency, you need to be highly intentional about how and when you communicate so that every conversation you have is productive. Here are a few practical ways to do that:
- Turn off notifications when you’re working on strategic projects. Emails, phone calls, and chat messages are extremely distracting when you’re working on tasks that require intense focus. To complete them more efficiently, give yourself time blocks that are free of interruptions.
- Use an inbox management system. Doing so will reduce the amount of time you spend on email while helping you focus on the most relevant messages.
- Stop wasting time in meetings. If you’re a leader, make your team’s meetings more efficient. You can do this by only inviting people to meetings who are critical participants in the discussion, requiring all meetings to follow an agenda that’s sent out in advance, and reserving meetings for brainstorming and problem-solving topics - anything logistical can be handled via email.
- Use clear, concise language when sharing information and instructions. It’s time-consuming to clear up people’s ideas and fix their mistakes after miscommunications. To avoid them, take a couple of extra minutes to ensure you’re delivering the right message the first time.
Keep in mind that the secret to communicating efficiently is deciding to solely engage in relevant conversations via the most productive mediums and using the right language so that other people understand your message.
2) Proactively Prevent Burnout
Burnout is arguably the most powerful detractor of work efficiency among highly successful people. It can set in slowly but, once it fully takes hold, work becomes miserable and life loses its excitement.
To prevent burnout from hijacking your life, you need to be as proactive about preventing it as you are about taking steps to achieve your goals.
Here are proven actions you can take while living a high-achieving lifestyle:
- Develop close friendships at work. You spend more time with your coworkers than you do with your friends and family combined. To live a fulfilling life, you need to satisfy some of your natural need for human connection with the people you work with. Gallup research has found that people who have a best friend at work, are happier, more productive, and more engaged.
- Say “no” to requests that don’t support your goals or values. Part of the reason why many people are stressed out and overworked is that they take on tons of unnecessary responsibilities. To prevent this from happening, only agree to do things that push your goals forward, preserve a healthy relationship, or help you fulfill personal values (ex. Volunteering or participating in spiritual activities). Doing this will free up your time and ensure that you’re entirely focused on meaningful work.
- Take brief breaks throughout the day and longer ones periodically. Many over-achievers burn themselves out by spending all of their waking moments being busy. In one experiment, Harvard researchers had professionals from Boston Consulting Group spend one evening a week relaxing or engaging in personal activities. Initially, the employees were resistant because they were used to working from home in the evenings, however, after a couple of months, they were more satisfied and engaged with their jobs and felt like they were accomplishing more.
Ultimately, to sustain a highly efficient lifestyle, you need to be intentional about only taking on meaningful work and reserving time on your calendar for meaningful personal activities.
3) Stop Wasting Time on Admin Work
A global workforce study found that the average professional wastes 69 workdays per year on administrative and repetitive work that’s below their pay grade and capabilities. This includes simple tasks such as:
- Entering and cleaning data
- Formatting routine documents
- Scheduling meetings and travel
- Doing basic research
- And other activities that don’t require the expertise of highly paid professional
To maximize your work efficiency, offload non-strategic tasks to a subordinate or the administrative professionals in your organization.
If your company doesn’t have in-house admin support or those support professionals are already overworked, consider hiring a virtual assistant.
You can offload all of your repetitive work to a VA who will complete it efficiently. With the time you save, you will improve your work efficiency and make substantially more progress on the core projects that drive your success.
4) Track What You Accomplish Every Day
The key to sustaining work efficiency is having the motivation to push forward every day and strive for your goals. According to Harvard Researchers, the number one factor that motivates us to perform well is making progress.
This may seem surprising, however, we have an innate need to feel successful, and one of the easiest ways to feel that way is to see proof that we’ve accomplished something or are making progress toward achieving a large goal.
Ironically, it’s the people who are the most efficient who often feel like they haven’t accomplished anything at the end of the day. They’re often so busy running from task to task that they don’t pause to appreciate their work and they suffer from brief burnout stints as a result.
To ensure you stay motivated and happy, track what you accomplish every day so that you can find satisfaction in your progress.
Here are a couple of ways to do it:
- Use a time-tracking tool such as Toggl to record what you do each day
- Note everything you complete in a task management tool
- Write about your day’s activities in a journal. This option is great since it also gives you an opportunity to reflect on the work you do every day.
In addition to helping you stay motivated, tracking what you achieve every day also helps hold you accountable for working on tasks that tie to your goals.
At least once a month, review all of the tasks you completed and assess how many of them directly contribute to your goals. If less than 80% do, then you need to evaluate how you’re spending your time and create an action plan to reduce the amount of irrelevant tasks you work on.
5) Schedule Time to Deal with Unexpected Tasks
No matter carefully we plan out our days, unexpected events and requests will inevitably come up. Rather than let those tasks pull you away from your work and derail your work efficiency, set aside time on your calendar to complete them.
Depending on how frequent and urgent the unexpected tasks you receive are, put aside time once a day, twice a week, or once a week along with enough time to complete the accumulated tasks.
Once you have this system in place, start telling people that you’ll complete unexpected tasks during your scheduled times. At first, they may be taken off guard if they’re used to you completing requests quickly. If that happens, explain that your calendar is already blocked off for other activities.
The key to maximizing your work efficiency is to take actions that improve your ability to focus and stay motivated to continue working hard. This means constantly evaluating how you’re spending your time and making sure that the majority of the things you do push you toward your goals and help you have a fulfilling personal life.
If you’re too weighed down with tedious tasks to be able to focus on the activities that drive your success and happiness, consider hiring a virtual assistant. They can tackle a wide variety of tasks including:
- Making all of your meeting and travel arrangements
- Completing tedious tasks such as formatting documents, inputting and cleaning data, and updating your databases
- Helping you manage your professional network by setting reminders to follow-up with various contacts, finding new networking opportunities, adding business cards to your contacts, etc
- Plus handling other necessary tasks that pull you away from higher-value work.
To learn more about what it’s like to work with a Prialto virtual assistant, download our free guide or get in touch to schedule a call with an account executive who can answer all your questions.
About the author: Emily formerly led Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.