10 Ways to Kick Inefficient Work Habits ASAP

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!

Still stuck with bad work habits that cost you good results and better profits? Are you unable to use technology to your advantage? Not living up to your full potential because of endless distractions? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Working hard is not always working smart, and as top managers and executives will tell you, it’s the latter that gets work done right. Check out our list of ten things you can start doing today to manage your time and increase your efficiency.

1. Stop multitasking; do things in batches instead. It may seem odd that the first entry in an article about getting more things done is telling you to stop doing more than one thing at a time, but it’s true. Studies show that far from making you more efficient, multitasking actually slows you down. According to psychologist Dr. Guy Winch, “What you call multitasking is really task-switching.” Your brain has a limited threshold for processing information and doing multiple activities at once lowers your concentration and consequently, your quality of work. A better way is to do similar activities in batches. This way, you retain your mindset for that activity and achieve a higher productivity rate. 

2. Take strategic breaks. Try working in twenty-minute chunks, followed by a few minutes of physical activity like stretching and walking to the break room or bathroom. This way, you use your small breaks to refresh your mind and ease anxiety and tension, making you able to tackle tasks more efficiently afterward. There’s no hard and fast rule for this, so try out different time intervals to see which one works best for you.

3. Schedule meetings around 3 pm in the afternoon. According to Keith Harris of the online scheduling service When Is Good, “It’s psychological – 3 pm is coffee break time. People can see themselves talking over a coffee,” mornings are usually reserved for employees’ own tasks such as reading their e-mails and setting their goals for the day. Scheduling meetings in the afternoon gives them enough time to mentally prepare for it. Don’t set it directly after lunch though! Many are sluggish right after eating as digestion affects blood flow to the brain. Additionally, Mondays and Fridays are not ideal days to hold meetings because of the “weekend mindset” that some employees or team members may have. Harris says that the best date and time is actually 3 pm on a Tuesday.

4.Don’t make exaggerated to-do lists. Be realistic about the amount of work you can do in a day. Writing down an impossible number of tasks will only overwhelm you and make you less productive. Focus on the tasks that really need to be accomplished and don’t burden your mind with others that can wait until later. Keep yourself calm and steady to reach your goals faster.

5. Listen to music while working, but pick songs that won’t distract you. A University of Illinois study found that listening to music in “all types of work” increased work output 6.3% over a control group. Some types of music many have found useful are classical compositions, ambient music, songs in other languages, and video game soundtracks. Classical music has long been considered to stimulate the mind and many swear by Mozart, Vivaldi, and Bach. Compositions from the Baroque period are excellent for starters, but if you want a more updated version, you can try modern covers like those of Vitamin String Quartet. Ambient music on the other hand is designed to keep your brain engaged at a low, subconscious level. They are ideal because they are made precisely not to distract, and you can get them from many online streaming sites for free. Third, opting for songs in foreign languages means that you can drown out the noise around you, but because you don’t understand them, you won’t be distracted by trying to work out the meanings in their lyrics. Finally, Christofer Karltorp, founder of the talent platform Zerply, suggests listening to video game soundtracks because, “If you listen to it over and over again, it never gets boring, it continues to pulse.”

6. Invest in speed reading lessons. If you hold a regular office job, it is more than likely that you spend a huge portion of your work day reading e-mails, reports, correspondences, and letter requests. Learning how to speed read is a great investment because it’s not about increasing your speed per se, it’s about using techniques like “chunking” and scanning to increase the rate at which your brain can process and retain information. Take a sample speed reading quiz online to see how you fare against others in your profession or age range. If you don’t think you’re doing well enough, buy a dependable guide book, do the online exercises, or look up speed reading lesson providers in your area.

7. Don’t spend too much time on your inbox. According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute and International Data Corporation, 28% of the average worker’s day is spent reading and answering e-mails. That’s 13 hours per work week on e-mails alone! Up your efficiency by reorganizing your inbox, updating your spam filters, and unsubscribing from mailing lists you don’t really need. If you’re handling client e-mails, it might be a good idea to transfer some of these functions to social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. For internal communications, it’s also a good idea to keep everything as short as possible. Dmitri Leonov of the email management tool SaneBox notes, “If you can fit an email message into a subject line, that is very helpful.”

8. Keep your desk clutter-free. A clutter-free desk means that you’ll be able to find everything you need faster. Make small but permanent changes to how you organize items around you. Here are five useful suggestions for an immaculate workspace:

  •  Use different sizes of binder clips to hold USB, ethernet, or audio cords out of the way but still completely within arm’s reach. Simply insert the end of cords into the clip’s silver loop structure. You can also use these to hold pens.
  • Use a piece of clear tape or the adhesive strip of an old sticky note to clean the spaces between the keys on your office keyboard.
  • Designate a charging station for your phone or other media to ensure that they don’t get in the way. You can use plastic tubs, small boxes, or any suitable item you have lying around.
  • Use old CDs as coasters to avoid leaving unsightly coffee or tea rings on your desk. You can pad one side of the CD with vinyl or rubber to make it steadier.
  • If you have more office supplies than you know what to do with, get a transparent hanging shoe rack to organize them.

9. Learn basic keyboard and smartphone shortcuts. There are many keyboard and smartphone shortcuts designed to increase productivity, but which, sadly, not every professional knows. Here are some technology hacks we’ve found to be very useful:

  • Use the space bar to scroll down a page, then hold the shift key and the space bar at the same time to scroll back up again.
  • Use Tab to navigate between boxes on online forms instead of clicking them one by one with your mouse.
  • To make web text larger, Windows users can use “Control +” while Mac users, can use “Command +.”
  • When typing a website into the URL bar, don’t bother with the www. and the .com. Just press Ctrl + Enter to surround the typed text with them.
  • Ctrl + C allows you to copy text, Ctrl + X allows you to cut it, Ctrl + V allows you to paste it, and Ctrl + Z allows you to undo the most recent changes you made.
  • To type a new website without clicking on the address bar, press Ctrl + L.
  • To rename files, Windows users can click on the file and press F2 while Mac users can use Enter/Return.
  • To highlight a single word, simply double click it instead of dragging your mouse across.
  • When giving presentations, press “b” to black out a slide or “w” to white it out.
  • Don’t go into your smartphone’s contacts to redial the number of the last person you talked to, just hit the call button. 

10. Stop consulting a traditional dictionary for unfamiliar words. Put your smartphone to optimal use and download a simple dictionary app like Merriam-Webster’s Free Dictionary to save you from leafing through dictionary pages. If you don’t want to install an app, a good alternative is to use Google’s infinite resources. Simply type “define” before the unfamiliar word into the engine’s search box and you’ll have your answer within seconds.

These are only ten of the many ways to allocate your time and resources at the office more efficiently. Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself and make changes in your everyday routine. Try these suggestions on for size and discover hacks of your own. You’ll achieve more, do more, and be more in no time!

Written by:

Roseann Ramirez

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