If only we had more hours in the day, how much more could we get done? Check out the following 7 suggestions for improving your work efficiency and making the most of the work hours you do have.
1. Track your time
No matter what the tasks ahead may be, you can only plan ahead if you know how much time to allow for them. Time tracking can help you avoid sacrificing other important jobs because the first one “took longer than I thought it would.”
Do you know how long a particular task should take? How long does it actually take? Once you know that, it may help you decide whether the result is worth that much time.
Time tracking will also help you to see where you may be wasting time. How many times did you interrupt yourself to check email, or a notification on your phone?
Tracking your time this way will also be more motivating. It’s like auditing your own actions because there’s a sort of self-accountability at the end.
You could do this effectively just by watching the clock and writing down how long things take. Or there are dozens of time tracking apps available to help. Entrepreneur Asia Pacific gives a shortlist apps that can improve your work efficiency.
2. Zone out every 90 minutes
City life has most of us racing to keep up with an insane pace. Stop! OK, you can start again. And that’s the point: regular pauses will help you reset and ultimately get more done.
Our brains are not designed to continue with razor-sharp focus indefinitely. Researchers have found a cycle of 90-120 minutes of work, followed by a break, then more work, produces the best results. Drake Baer, writing for Fast Company, says, “If you understand [these cycles]–and work with them–you can do better work, the same way that knowing the mechanics of a truck’s engine enhances performances.
3. Work in natural light
A study at Chicago’s Northwestern University reports that the detrimental impact of working in a windowless environment is universal. They concluded that there is a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep, activity and quality of life.
The study revealed that workers without windows reported lower quality of life scores than their counterparts on measurements of physical problems and vitality. They had worse overall sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances and daytime dysfunction.
So keep those blinds open, and let the light pour in! If possible, place all your workers somewhere near a source of natural light.
4. Upgrade your internet speed
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it seems to be supported by the evidence. The Washington Post reported on a study by a Boston Analysis Group which claimed that US cities with an internet speed of 1G or higher reported significantly higher per-capita GDP than cities without such speeds.
You can test the speed of the internet service you currently use with an internet speed estimate tool. Then you just may have the excuse you need to upgrade.
5. Connect with the outside
A walk in the park can be a great stress reliever for anyone. It can also provide definite cognitive benefits. Some in the business world now try to take at least some of their work outside by having walking meetings whenever possible.
Otherwise, you can take your lunch break outside instead of in the lunchroom, or even worse, in your office. Stroll through a garden or the park, not just to unwind, but as a boost to your cognitive abilities.
If it’s not possible to get outside every day, the next best thing is to bring plants into your workplace. They will also improve the air quality in the office.
6. Plan your day before it starts
You’re much more likely to be happy, and therefore more productive, if you know what your next step is. If you never think about the day’s first task before you sit down to do it, you will inevitably lose time getting organised. Or you may start wondering if something else should be done before it.
Creating a plan for the day at the end of the previous day can relieve anxiety and give you clear mental space.
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports that when you create a specific plan, your behaviour is likely to follow the plan.
In a very material world, we’re always surrounded with stuff. Much of that stuff is completely irrelevant to what we are trying to accomplish at any one time. We spend so much time sitting in one spot in our offices, that we make it a second home, comfortable with stuff piling up all around us.
Physical clutter in the workplace is usually chaotic and confused. It will restrict your ability to focus and process information. Clutter also increases distraction.
According to Growth Business UK, “Some studies reveal the average person wastes up to 4.3 hours a week looking for papers, which adds stress and frustration to the workplace while reducing concentration and creative thinking.”
Decluttering your workplace is not a simple task. For some people, this will require a change in their office lifestyle. The effort will be worth it, if it helps clear thinking and produces better results.
Greater efficiency at the office need not mean that we all work like machines. Adjusting the physical environment and not being afraid to mentally reset every so often will help you get more done. Balancing the needs of workers with the needs of the office can produce a happy and optimally productive team.