Never mistake motion for action -Ernest Hemingway
Have you ever worked with one of those people who is always frantically busy, works late every evening and always seems stressed? But yet they never seem to get a whole lot done? Or maybe you've had a boss who suggested it would "make you look good" if you were the last person to leave every evening, despite not having work to do.
Not only is that constant state of stress and over-extension bad for you, but when you stop to think about it, does it really make you look good? To me that screams inefficiency.
Our culture is obsessed with staying busy, and we wear our stress like a badge of honor. "You think that's bad!? Last week I pulled 3 all-nighters in the office. I may not even go home this weekend!" (Alright, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.)
Don't get me wrong. There will be times in your life when you need to push yourself, work the extra hours and take on extra stress. And it will (hopefully) be very rewarding. That's not a sustainable lifestyle, however. As working hours increase, sleep, healthy eating and exercise tend to get pushed aside. When you're not taking care of your body (and mind) your work will start to suffer, and that will send you into an even worse cycle.
With that said, here are a few tips to stay productive and efficient so you can lower your stress and stop extending your work days.
4 ways to increase productivity + efficiency
1. Get enough sleep Seriously. You need adequate sleep to keep your immune system strong and your hormones regulated. It's been said that people getting under 7 hours of sleep make more errors during the day than those who get more. People wearing "little sleep" as a badge of honor could be a whole post on it's own.
2. Eat better This one is pretty simple, and seems obvious, but it can be challenging to put in the effort when you're stressed and crunched for time. Increase fresh fruits and vegetables. I won't tell you to never eat junk food again, but try to crowd out the bad food with good food. When you get the proper nutrients, your body and mind will thank you by working with more clarity and energy. Junk food slows your body down because its trying to digest foreign chemicals, fighting to balance sugar levels and protect your body from damage all at the same time. How much could you accomplish if you weren't fighting brain fog and an afternoon slump?
3. Remove distractions Limit social media throughout the day. There are plenty of computer apps that will actually block designated websites for a certain period of time. Try setting specific breaks to check and respond to email. You'll get on more of a roll if you're not interrupted every few minutes by a new "urgent" incoming request.
If you find your mind starting to wander, get up and take a short walk instead of checking Facebook. The walk will increase energy, get blood moving and give you a chance to rest your eyes, among other benefits. You can play on Facebook later with the extra time you have from finishing your work.
4. Get organized This may look different depending on your personality style. I'm a very Type-A list-lover, so I like to start my day by making a to-do list. I break this list into sections of importance. What do I need to finish today? What do I need to keep in mind, but doesn't need to be completed immediately?
Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Consider batching similar tasks together. Designate an hour for admin work, 3 hours for client meetings, two hours for up-keeping your online presence (responding to comments and questions on your blog, social media channels, etc.) and so on.
- Make a list of 3-5 things you must accomplish today. Work hardest to easiest. You'll free up mental space when you finally call that client you've been avoiding.
- If you're visual, spend a little time color coding your notes and files. This will save time when you're looking for papers you need.
- Sarah over at XOSarah has created this efficiency worksheet to help you figure out how much time you're wasting throughout the day. I highly recommend using this, even if it's just a test for one day!
Our culture is literally killing itself from stress and over-working. Here's an eye opener:
75% of health care in this country is stress related and preventable. -Arianna Huffington
As I've said before, you'll do better work when you feel better. So if you're stuck in the chaotic, overworking trap, slowly start to rethink what it's helping you to achieve. How is it serving your body, mind, and life in general?
Eulogies never talk about what's on our resumes. They're about what really matters. How we made people feel... -Arianna Huffington
How do you stay focused and efficient?