"Work smarter, not harder"
You've heard that mantra before, I'm sure.
Efficient use of your attention and energy in the workplace can actually help you get more done, in less time. What's not to like? But it does require a more habitual, systemized approach to the tasks at hand- for the potential of the human brain is matched only by its preference for procrastination!
Juggling several tasks at the same time might feel like progress on several fronts, but it is not only inefficient, it often adversely affects the quality of work we manage to do, while flitting from job to job.
“Multitasking is not humanly possible,” said Earl K. Miller, a neuroscience professor at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In fact, your ability to get things done (and work to the best of your ability), depends on how well you can focus on one task at a time. Whether that focus be for five minutes or fifty.
This applies to the more mundane tasks, and doubly so to more innovative thinking. The creativity needed here only arises when we let our brains follow their logical pathways of associated thoughts and ideas- when we let it find its patterns and do its permutations. This is much easier to do from a place of undivided attention on a single mental pathway for an extended period of time.
Mark Twain had quite the way with words. One of his more memorable quotes was:
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
And this was the inspiration for Brian Tracy's influential time management manual, "Eat that Frog".
The theory is this: The usual checklist system doesn't account for our brain's natural tendency to procrastinate. We usually write our to-do's, often piling through the easier work, putting off the larger (often more critical) pieces.
But all this serves to do is kick the can further down the road. The pressure on the larger piece of work builds, and by the time we force ourselves to do it, we are more stressed and have less mental energy at our disposal.
Your 'frog' is that more important task. The one we'll put off as we answer those emails and send those invoices. Or even worse, while we work our way down the Twitter feed...
By dedicating your first block of time in the day to this task, when your physical and mental reserves are at their strongest, you set the conditions for your most efficient and effective work. Allowing yourself the rest of the day to complete the less critical ones, requiring less mental energy.
The key is to build this as a habit. At the end of every day, isolate your biggest 'frog' and tackle that first thing the next day; beginning immediately and persist until completion, before starting on anything else.
Sometimes the prospect of tackling our projects can feel overwhelming. You look at the calendar, see the work in front of you and, again, you can feel that cortisol work its way around your body. It can be a daunting prospect.
But if you break those projects down into their constituent parts, you see it more as a series of little sprints rather than a marathon.
For instance, when writing a blog, instead of writing down "write 2000 word blog on workplace efficiency", you would break it into smaller, more manageable pieces, like:
Choose relevant keywords
Search result research
Now, instead of a daunting Project, with a capital P, you have a series of small tasks, which completed step-by-step, will lead to the completion of the project itself.
Again, what you are doing here is leaning into how the brain reacts to the prospect of significant or taxing work; broken down into those smaller steps, even the most daunting project won't look so bad.
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Not allowing the body and brain the chance to recharge at regular intervals is the recipe for sub-optimal work and, eventually, burn-out.
Punctuate your work periods with several strategic breaks throughout the day.
Your efficiency in the workplace will rest on how you manage your time and energy. Respecting your body and brain's limits and working to maximise the quality, as well as quantity, of your output.
The Pomodoro technique has gained traction in recent years as an effective time management tool. Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, it is a strategy that works with the body's natural capacity for flow and focus, giving it scheduled breaks to recharge before resuming.
It works like this:
Identify the task you need to complete.
Set a timer for one Pomodoro (usually 25 minutes).
Work on the task for that length of time without distraction.
When the timer goes, take a five-minute break (stretch your legs, put the kettle on, but most importantly, give your brain a break from thinking about the task at hand).
Repeat the process three more times before taking a longer 20-30 minute break.
There are a host of tools at our disposal that can help enable the most efficient use of your time at work.
Tools for communicating quickly with fellow workers, regardless of geography.
Tools that let you manage clients and sales via CRM.
Tools that let you co-edit documents in real-time.
Tools that help you launch and track your email marketing efforts.
Tools that help you generate and process leads.
Tools that help you manage employee tasks and track their hours.
Alongside all the productivity tips above, there are a whole host of these time-saving tools on the market. Or you can get them all under one piece of software with Bitrix24. If we don't say so ourselves, that's a real time-saver!
Whatever you choose, we hope this article has been the inspiration and the springboard to a less stressful and more time-efficient workday. Now go eat that frog!