How can I be more efficient at work?

n On Quora, I was asked to answer the question: How Can I be more efficient at work?
Here is my response.

Every individual has the potential to work smarter but first they must put in the time and effort to know themselves and their productivity frames. There are no cookie cutter answers for increasing efficiency because everyone has different work habits and needs. While there are apps that can help you to maximize time, and adaptable knowledge that one can acquire from reading experts such as Tim Ferris, Stephen Covey; in the end you have to try them out and see what works for you.

In my work, I have the opportunity to consult with diverse groups of people on increasing productivity and effectiveness, from young college aged people to seasoned executives. What separates my most productive clients from the wannabees are those that practice high levels of self awareness and self-care.

The Most successful people are the ones that incorporate self-care and mindfulness breaks into their work schedules. Self-care is not a luxury for them and they don’t compromise their bodies or minds in their work lives or private lives. They strictly take their lunch breaks and they plug activities like walks, mindfulness practice, etc. directly into their work calendars.

I work with software developers and students that have to sit and work for hours at a time. The individuals that take breaks while they work and use time management apps like Pomodoro, complete more tasks well than individuals that try to work for hours at a time. Taking conscious active breaks have been shown to increase productivity and creativity. The brain is an organ that works like a muscle.

The same way that when a person is weight training, they need rest days and protein for the muscle to develop, the brain needs time to rest and sort information. A resting brain also allows for new synaptic activity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning overloading your day with breaks . We have a word for that in the English language: procrastination. No friends, know yourself.

What to do: Complete a self- analysis:

  1. Assess: Study the amount of time that you are able to actively work and still be productive.
    1. Is that a 20 minutes, 30 minutes or 45 minutes time frame?
    2. How long of a break do you need in order to feel rejuvenated but not fall into the procrastination trap?
    3. Try different time periods and see what feels right to you.

2. Figure out what makes you happy and how you can incorporate those activities into your daily work life.

3. Find ways to be active even if that means taking the longer route to the bathroom that is farther away from your office space. Take that walk for your office poop with intention. Try not to read reddit on your phone, scroll social media or talk to coworkers. Just walk, mindfully walk. Put headphones in your ears to discourage interaction (NYer trick). Notice things around you, like the particularly ugly wall art and laugh about it.

4. Download a time management app that works for you if you are still navigating how to manage your time.

5. Remind yourself to take your lunch breaks. They are not luxuries. They are owed to you and your body needs food to function.

6. Get comfortable saying NO! Babies are so good at it, look how happy and productive they are.

7. Get a good night’s sleep! Research shows that work quality diminishes in relation to sleep quality. The project will still be there in the morning.

Finally, keep getting to know yourself. Be conscious of the changes in your body, mind and work space. You are growing and changing everyday so your habits should be growing and changing over time as well.

Cut yourselves some slack, you rock!

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