We all know how easily the 8-hour work day can morph into the 9- or 10-hour day. It's as inevitable as an exhausted toddler having a meltdown. It happens.
But if those longer days are happening with regular frequency, it may be time to reevaluate and consider how you may be unwittingly contributing to them.
Many people would like to be more efficient, but they're just not hard-wired for it. They may have tried different time management techniques that have helped, but still need more help. Even those for whom efficiency comes pretty naturally can get distracted like everybody else. Those who are most adept, however, know how to take advantage of every moment. Getting a mastery of (or at least a handle on) how to use your time efficiently will afford you more time to do the things you enjoy.
Furthermore, having more time to enjoy yourself will leave you happier and more fulfilled – all of which will lend itself to your performing better at your job. So it's really a win-win. Here are some techniques that those who are not efficiency-challenged use to make the most of their 8-hour work day -
Studies show that we function better when we take periodic breaks away from work to refresh. It should be obvious, but this is because we are human beings and not droids.
For most of us taking a break, the internet is the obvious go-to. There are so many things to see – the news, last night's sports footage, hang-gliding monkeys, chain-smoking three-year-olds, the list goes on. And this is where those who are efficient with their time recognize that the internet is the ultimate efficiency vacuum if not used wisely.
The good news is that just on the other side of that frat boys playing practical jokes video lies the opportunity to glean something of value. An efficient person will take advantage of this and use those periodic breaks to learn something of use, such as acquiring a new language or skill that will benefit her in her job. Or research software that helps her be more efficient.
Still, another member of the efficiency tribe may instead pick up some new knowledge that will enhance his interests or hobbies. For instance, if he likes cooking, he could search for a new recipe or read about classes in the area that he could attend.
Whatever the case, efficient people return to their tasks fully charged and refreshed from their brains being engaged and active rather than numbed by countless cute baby animals pics.
Efficient people are able to ease up on the ego a bit and stop trying to be everything to everyone. In other words, the super efficient know they aren't super heroes. They know how to delegate.
First of all, those in the business of high efficiency ditched the myth of multi-tasking years ago when it was revealed that the vast majority of people are far less efficient when trying to multi-task than when focusing on one thing.
Thus, efficient people are able to break down a job into tasks, then delegate tasks to the individuals who they know will give the best performance on that particular task. Once that is done, she can then tackle the tasks best suited to her and the job gets done. Maybe even with time to spare.
We all deal with junk mail. There's the physical kind that shows up in your actual mailbox. And what do you do with it? Chances are, you toss it right in the garbage.
Getting rid of your junk email is just as easy. Easier, in fact, because you don't even have to walk to the garbage can. You already know that your email software has spam filters and junk folders. If only your real mailbox (the one outside your dwelling) had the same software.
With so much bombardment of information and stimuli from all directions these days, there now exists the phenomenon of FOMO. Fear of missing out. And while it's impossible to say if efficient people experience this, they don't let it get the better of them.
Reading through your junk email is just another tactic to waste time and avoid doing activities with more value. We're all cognizant of what's important email and what isn't. Just as you know the difference in your physical mailbox. (i.e., that official document that says there's 8 million dollars waiting for you in a private account.)
So ditch it. Clear that trash folder every day so you're not tempted to revisit it. And don't worry. Efficient people will tell you, you're not missing out on anything.
It's mind-blowing how many people will carry on full-blown conversations on social media rather than just pick up a phone and talk to one another. Equally fascinating, in a weird sociological sort of way, is how social media has become a source for narcissism to run rampant, largely unchecked. Let's not even get into how much misinformation is out there representing itself as truth.
Much like the trappings of the internet, supremely efficient people understand the dangerously time consuming pull of social media. This is not to say that they don't use it. Like the internet, it has value. But the key to efficiency in this case is recognizing the tool and knowing how to use it. Those who are unwilling to limit their social media postings/rantings every day will find as much success in being efficient as they would in using a hammer to cut a log.
Efficient people will remind you that real life awaits.
If there were support groups for people who were too efficient, the first thing they'd need to learn is how to become less organized.
That way, they could start wasting a tremendous amount of time frantically searching for things like keys, pens, documents, their pet bird, etc. and begin their frustrating and distracted descent into inefficiency.
Seriously though, without organization, there is no efficiency. Inefficient people will become more efficient once they commit to being organized. Efficient people, both the natural born and those who have learned it, have a place for all of their stuff. (A dresser drawer packed with a vast selection of unrelated items does not count, by the way.)
While the aforementioned support group for overly efficient might seem a strange notion, the meeting itself would start and end on time and be highly productive.
Here's another thing efficient people understand. They know that if they keep track of things like work conversations and activities for an average week, and then set specific times for these same activities in the next week, there will be a reduction in the time spent on those same activities.
As such, efficient people will go out of their way to set a time for each of their tasks or jobs, and then work diligently to keep the schedule. They know that the time saved is time for them.
Masters of efficiency give thought to what they will say in a phone conversation or what they will write in an email.
What they do not do is shoot off an email while in a rush or just wing it when on an important phone call. They consider what the objective of the communication is and then take extra time to think it through in the beginning. Their emails are crafted with purpose and utilize the language necessary to achieve the desired effect. Sure, it's more time consuming at the onset. But done consistently it has the long term potential to shave days from a project.
So you can see that becoming an efficient person doesn't mean learning how to move with lightning fast speed to get as much done in as short a time as possible. Nor does it mean accomplishing super human feats or filing every item in your life into a neatly labeled box.
But with a few lifestyle changes and some organization, you can become more efficient, get back to those 8-hour work days and have more time for yourself.