Five Ways to Get Through your Workload Quicker
Heavy workloads are a part of modern life, but how many of us tackle our work as efficiently as we could? When you are snowed under with emails, meetings and deadlines, it can be hard to think straight and make the right decisions – so start today and power through your workload with our top five tips.
1. Plan your time
It’s astonishing how many people have nothing in their calendars except meetings. A complex workload requires a carefully planned diary, with times allocated for emails, meetings and working on different projects. It may take you a bit of time to set up initially, but you’ll easily make that back with your improved efficiency.
Some people go for simple lists, ticking things off as they go. Trello is a great site for this, allowing you to easily move tasks up and down in priority, or shift them from column to column - and Evernote is great if you want to be able to access your lists and documents from all your different devices.
If you want to get more structured you could try a simple spreadsheet, but there are also plenty of clever apps out there that can give you prompts and reminders to help you stick to your plan. 30/30 allows you to plan your day in minute detail, whilst the award-winning Any.do effortlessly combines lists with daily scheduling.
2. Break large tasks down
When you have a couple of big projects on the go, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and waste valuable time worrying about how you’ll get everything done. Lighten the load by breaking down each large task into a series of smaller ones – your to-do list will suddenly look much more manageable, and you’ll enjoy a feeling of success each time you complete a step.
Breaking things down like this will also give you a much clearer picture of how you’re doing on a project, enabling you to accurately plan deadlines. Being able to set realistic deadlines is itself a valuable skill – making promises you can’t keep won’t get the work done quicker, if anything the stress will slow you down, and force you to put other projects on the backburner.
3. Take regular breaks
When you’re snowed under, breaks are probably the last thing on your mind. However, pushing yourself to work for hours on end is not the answer. After about half an hour or so your concentration will start to wane, and from thereon in you won’t be producing your best work. In a worst-case scenario, you could burn out and become too unwell to contribute at all.
Be sure to schedule regular breaks into your day – even if it’s just ten minutes to make a cup of tea or stretch your legs. Tempting as it is, remember that if you work on a computer, browsing the internet or checking your social media isn’t much of a rest. Give your brain the chance to reboot by going for a walk or listening to some music instead.
It’s also important to have a clear end to your day, so that you are able to switch off and relax for at least a few hours at night. If you regularly find your evenings crammed with urgent tasks that simply can’t wait until tomorrow, you need to reassess you workload.
Plan time each day to deal with overspill – this way you can let that presentation wait until tomorrow without piling on the pressure.
4. Limit email time
Email is an integral part of working life, but when you’re really busy it can become a hindrance rather than a help. If you need to concentrate on something, keeping your email application open is a big mistake – every couple of minutes a message will turn up to distract you, and the chances are most of them will be CCs you don’t need to deal with.
Improve your efficiency by checking your email at regular intervals in the day, giving yourself a clear window to deal with it. Get through your messages quicker by setting up folders in your inbox for different projects, urgent issues, and useful things to read later. You can even use rules to direct messages to particular folders automatically.
The famous Pareto Principle states that 80% of a business’ profits come from 20% of its employees’ time. This suggests that only a small portion of your workload is actually vital to the success of your company or the company you work for. It follows that if you prioritise smartly, you can concentrate on the important things without damaging your performance.
There’s plenty of ways to approach this, but the simplest is to categorise your tasks as A, B, or C. A tasks have to be done as soon as possible to avoid significant consequences, B tasks are the day-to-day things, and C tasks are the extras you’ll do if there’s time to spare.
Prioritising like this is a good way to analyse your workload too. If you’re A list is always full, you may need to address your scheduling or workloads, and if you can’t get through all your B tasks you could think about delegating some to a colleague. As for the Cs – you’ll be amazed at how more efficient you are once they’re streamlined out of the way.
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