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5 ways to be more productive at work

Work productivity tips

Ever feel like the workday has flown by and you still have a mountain of paperwork and scores of unread email messages to deal with? You’re not alone in your frustration: A 2012 survey by Good Technology found that 80 percent of people continue to work after leaving the office — amounting to an average of seven extra hours each week. 

“You have to try a pattern that works for you,” says Eileen M. Coughlin, who holds a Master of Public Administration degree and is an instructor in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix® Bay Area Campus. “Get things you don’t want to do out of the way first,” she suggests.

Here are five ways to be more efficient at work:

Plan every minute.

Trying to complete work without a strategy is an ineffective way to manage your time, says Gwendolyn Jones, MA, area chair of organizational behavior and development and an instructor in the human resource management program at the University’s Cincinnati Campus.

“You have to have good time-management skills,” says Jones, a recruiting consultant for a health care provider. “I plan every minute. Use a [daily planner] to help keep you organized. Look at everything you have to do and plug it into different time frames in your planner.”

Focus on one thing.

Juggling a variety of tasks can leave you with a lot of balls in the air and nothing accomplished, notes Coughlin, who has more than 10 years of experience in training and staff development.

“My No. 1 tip is do not multitask,” she emphasizes. “We tend to do three things at once, but in reality, we can’t. You have to choose to be more focused and complete one thing at a time. That is the most important thing for efficiency. Sit down, set a deadline and take the time to do one thing at a time.”

Find the best time of day for you.

Studies have shown that most adults’ peak work performance occurs in late morning. But whether you’re a morning or afternoon person, plan to do most of your work during your optimal time.

“It depends on the individual,” Jones notes. “I’m a morning person, so if I come in early, I can knock out emails, listen to my voice mails and return phone calls. I like to do that on the front end, while others can get more done on the back end.”

Use technology.

Taking advantage of technology can make your day go much smoother. “A lot of people don’t realize the technology they have available,” Coughlin points out. “For example, I use two [computer] monitors, and that way I can keep doing work on my main monitor while referencing the second monitor. You don’t have to switch back and forth, which is really quicker.”

Take a break.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, another way to increase work efficiency is by stepping away from your duties for a brief spell to re-energize your mind and body. Take a 10-minute break to get some fresh air, chat with co-workers or check your personal email.

“You have to build in personal time to take a breather from everything,” Jones emphasizes. “It really does help alleviate stress, and when you come back to your work, you are energized.”