How to Work Efficiently and Effectively

Tips to get work done, write that book, and do the things

N. K. Carlson
Dec 3 · 4 min read
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

“There are not enough hours in the day.”

You’ve heard those words before. You’ve said those words before. Many times, we feel like we are drowning in tasks and to-dos. It’s like being on a treadmill, trying harder and harder to get ahead but being pulled back with every step. So how do you break the cycle?

Write Your Things Down

The first step is write down all of your responsibilities and tasks. Include things like eating, sleep, exercise, and free time. Once you have your list, write down when each thing is due or how often you have to do it. Next to sleep, write “nightly.” Got a monthly report? Write “monthly” next to that.

Once you have everything written down and when they need to be done, you can begin to prioritize based on importance. Chances are, your schedule is filled with non-essential things. And yes, sleep, eating, and exercise all count as essential!

Multitask When Possible

A few years ago, I realized that I was not reading as much as I wanted. I love reading and it is one of my free time activities of choice. But between school and work, I could not find the time to squeeze it into my day. So I began to multitask. Back then, I had a fifteen minute commute to work. I had been listening to music during it up to that point. I decided I would try out audiobooks. I had only ever listened to audiobooks on long road trips, but I made the decision to listen to audiobooks fifteen minutes at a time, twice a day. That’s thirty minutes of reading time that I added to my day without skipping anything else! I combined something I had to do (drive to work) with something I wanted to do (read more).

Say No

It is a good thing to say no to others. Not every opportunity or responsibility has to be your opportunity or responsibility. One time at work, I was asked to take on a last minute responsibility that should have been taken care of further in advance. Because my boss wasn’t on top of it, he passed it off to me during the busiest week of the year. I said yes without thinking. The project caused me great anxiety and I ended up not finishing it. He was mad at me for not finishing and I was mad that he made me do it on such short notice. What I realize now is that I could have told him no. It was not possible to finish it that week and it was inconsiderate for him to ask me to rearrange my whole schedule to try and accommodate it.

Break it All Down

We have all been told to break the big projects down into manageable chunks. What we haven’t been told is that the same process can work for smaller projects. If I am writing, I use the timer on my phone to write in sprints, anywhere from five minutes at a time to twenty minutes. These small windows allow me to be hyper-focused and super-efficient. The goal is to work really hard for small blocks of time and then take a short break. However small your project at hand, break it down into small time blocks or smaller tasks.

The same principle works for goals as well as tasks. If you want to lose fifty pounds, that sounds daunting. Break it down. How much weight can you reasonably lose in a month? How can you manage your time and eating to get to your monthly goal? Your weekly goal?

Say your goal is to read thirty books this year. Don’t look at your pile of books and get overwhelmed. Break it down. Thirty books a year is a book every twelve days. Figure out how many pages to read each day based on that.

Take Time For You

The best way to work more efficiently and effectively is to take the time you need for you. You need sleep and probably more than you are getting now. You need to eat. You need to exercise. You need to have free time. You need to have time to be with friends and family. Block off these activities in your calendar and keep them sacred. If you don’t treat your time as sacred, your boss won’t either. Don’t answer work emails after hours. Turn off work email notifications when you are out of the office. Don’t be reachable 24/7 and soon people will stop trying to reach you at all hours. If you don’t make time for yourself, no one else will.

What keeps you from working efficiently and effectively? How can you rearrange your day to get all the things done and still have time for yourself?

N. K. Carlson

Written by

Writer. I write fiction and poetry + articles on productivity, creativity, business, leadership, and writing. Creator of The Storyteller. Living in TX, from IL.

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