Your level of work performance is vital for your success and the success of your organization.
If your performance is low, your future progress will suffer, if it’s the performance of the organization as a whole, it’s likely to fail.
When you improve work performance:
- It accelerates and aids you in your career growth.
- You are likely to have less stress and more time at home.
- You leave each (or at least most) day knowing you did a job well done.
- Your company grows and meets its purpose and mission faster (and it stops wasting so much time and money).
In this article, we dive into 50 effective ways to improve work performance that you can apply immediately as an individual. If you are a leader of a team (or company), share this with your team (and check out our article about improving the work performance and productivity of your organization).
Table of Contents
Follow the Two Keys of Time Management
The two keys of time management are simple – but often hard to do. And everything rests on these two keys.
If you follow them, you are well on your way to being productive, even without the other strategies (though the other tips and strategies definitely will help).
Without the two keys, it doesn’t matter what other strategies you use – your work performance and productivity will be low.
What are the two keys to time management?
- Know What Is Important
- Do What Is Important
Simple, right? But let’s dive deeper into it.
1. Know What’s Important
Too often people spend months and years of their life without really knowing what they were hired to accomplish and what is most important for them to do.
This often happens because:
- The job description is vague
- Their boss is unclear (or doesn’t know themselves)
- They never asked.
Don’t let this be you. If you don’t know what is important, check your job description. See what you were hired to accomplish and do.
If it’s vague and unclear, talk to your boss. Make sure you both are on the same page of what is important (and what isn’t).
Also, check your company’s goals and priorities. Know what is important to your company and how your job helps your company reach its goals.
2. Do What’s Important
Once you know what is important, make sure you are actually doing what is important.
That sounds basic, but it is so easy (and happens so often) to waste hours and days on unimportant work.
We get off track because we:
- Don’t plan and prioritize.
- Don’t pay attention to what is important.
- Procrastinate on the harder tasks and focus on easier tasks.
- Have bad time management skills.
- Get distracted by other people’s problems (or just by other distractions).
- Get trapped in the urgent.
To stay focused on doing our most important work, we should:
Plan ahead and prioritize our most important tasks.
Planning is HUGE! When you plan, it helps you see the big picture and helps you make sure the tasks you are working on are important.
When we decide at the moment what to do, it’s harder to see the big picture, and it becomes easier to just do the easier tasks.
Try to plan the day or night before, and if you can, get an overall plan for the week and the most important tasks you need to get done that week.
When you plan for the next day, make sure you know what your most important tasks are so that, when you get to work, you can start working on those immediately.
Do your most important tasks first.
When you start your day, start with your most important tasks first.
It’s easy to want to piddle around, check emails, or start with an easier task, but that just wastes time.
When you start with the most important tasks first, you get what is important, done. Then, if something else crazy comes your way during the day, you can leave knowing you still finished what was important.
If you delay it, you may never get to it, and that task (or those tasks) could hang over you all day.
Learn to say “no” to other people.
Sometimes we just need to say “no”.
Sometimes we are so busy that we end up doing everyone else’s work instead of our own!
It’s not wrong to help people, but make sure you aren’t just solving their problems for them. Make sure it doesn’t take away from you doing what is really important for you to do.
Follow the 80/20 rule.
The 80/20 rule states that 20% of your work makes up 80% of your results.
If that’s the case, you should spend as much of your time on your 20%, because if you do that, then you could potentially multiply your productivity exponentially.
Continuously grow and learn
This one simple suggestion can have one of the largest impacts on your work performance.
If you want to be and stay at the top of your game and be the most productive you can, always be learning. Make it a habit and a part of your daily routine.
You are either getting ahead or falling behind. Technology changes and other people are learning. If you stop, you’ll fall behind on technology and advances, and you’ll be beaten by those who make learning a priority.
Find what works for you – blogs, articles, books, seminars, videos, coaching, masterminds, mentorship, podcasts, audiobooks, online courses, etc.
It doesn’t matter what you choose – as long as you are making learning a habit.
Grow in your core areas and bottlenecks
As you are learning, it’s important to grow in the areas that are most important.
In #1, we discussed the importance in knowing what you were hired to accomplish and do. When you know this, you can then examine your level of strength in each of these.
If you are weak in a core area, that area will bottleneck you. Take the time to grow in that area to break that bottleneck.
Make it a cycle. Keep growing the weakest area of your core areas.
(Of course, it’s good to grow in all your core areas – but if you ignore the area that you are weak in, that is a bottleneck, it will hold you back).Identify your weakness and work on it. Do not use your weakness against yourself or humanity. ~ Deede Dumka Deede Click To Tweet
Focus on building your strengths, not moderating your weaknesses
With that being said, you generally should focus on your areas of strengths, not weaknesses.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. If we focus on growing the areas we are strong in or naturally good at, then we will multiple our productivity and work performance.
If all we do is try to “round out our weaknesses”, it will have a lot less impact on our performance.
Try to focus on your strengths and delegate or trade tasks for the areas you are weak in.
Of course, if it is a core area or one that you need to grow for your career, do it (and what is a “weakness” now, could be a strength – you just may not have learned it yet).
Just don’t let your whole focus be on rounding out and fixing your weaknesses – focus on growing your strengths as much as you can.
It’s important that you know yourself. Self-awareness is a key part of emotional intelligence, but knowing yourself dives deeper than that.
You need to know:
- Your strengths and weaknesses
- Your energy cycle (when are you most focused, when you are most distracted)
- When you do your best work
- What are your temptations are
- What distracts you
- What gives you energy and motivation
- What do you enjoy doing
- What do you dislike doing
- Your emotional state
- What drains you
When you know these, you then can maximize them. When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can focus on your strengths and delegate (as much as you can) your weaknesses.
You also may know areas you need to work on and grow in.
If you know your energy cycle, what motivates you and drains you, and what you enjoy doing and dislike doing, it can help you plan your day and time better to maximize it.
(For example, doing a task that drains you at the beginning of the day just sets you up for failure for that day).
If you know what your temptations and distractions are, you then can set boundaries and safeguards to protect yourself from those.
Set yourself up to succeed
This comes in multiple parts.
First, when you know yourself (above), you can set yourself up for success.
If you know what distracts you, you can put yourself where those distractions aren’t there (as much). If your phone is a distraction – move it to another room or somewhere else.
Same thing with your time, energy levels, etc. Set yourself up for success by planning accordingly to maximize your time, giving the most energy to the most important tasks, and avoiding draining tasks (if possible) till the end of the day.
Second, little things can also help you succeed.
If you think of waking up on time – move your alarm where you must get up to turn it off. With exercise, get your clothes out and have everything ready to go when you get up (or get home).
At work, plan ahead and have things ready for the next day so you can jump right on your tasks.
Think about what you might struggle with or what might help you succeed better, and see how to set yourself up for success.
Know your routines and habits – and adjust them as necessary
Examine yourself and know your routines and habits.
What do you do when you get to work? What do you do after lunch? What do you do when you are switching tasks?
Do you have any habits related to any tasks or that you do to delay tasks?
Are they all helpful? Are some hurtful? Could some be better?
Sometimes we do things (such as eating) out of habit instead of out of need. If you find something you think you might want to change, work on replacing that habit with a better one.You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine. – John C. Maxwell Click To Tweet
Create effective habits and systems
Related to #7, one way to improve work performance is to create good habits and good systems.
Habits and systems help you save time, brainpower, and willpower by having automatic routines you do in different situations.
You don’t have to think about what to do next as it’s part of your routine.
For example, a good habit is to plan your day the day before, and, when you get to work, the first thing you do before anything else is get that first most important task done.
It may be hard at first, but if you make that a habit, that itself will increase your work performance dramatically.
Systems are similar. That are set ways and processes of doing things.
For example, you may label emails in certain ways so people know exactly what they are getting and what the next action step may be, and when.
You may have a system for the reports your write – what do you focus on first, who does the report go to next, how is it formatted, what is important for it and what isn’t, etc.
Having systems setup can save you time and save your brain power for more important tasks.
Organize yourself and your work areas
We all have different levels of organization, and that’s okay.
Finding ways to improve performance at work is crucial. However, if you are unorganized, you waste time. If you must dig through papers and files on your computer to find what you need every time you have a new task, it may not seem like much now, but over time, you end up wasting hours.
It can be worth it to find a system (that fits you) to help you easily organize your files (digital and offline) for easy access and to find what you need.
(This, by the way, is one of the areas I need to work on more.)
Ask for (seek) and welcome feedback
Too often, we as people don’t want feedback. We take it personally. We see feedback as an attack on us, our worth, our abilities, or our character, so we don’t want it.
We may have a fixed mindset, and that mindset doesn’t want anything that tells us we may not be good at something.
It may be a pride issue.
Whatever it is, we need to get past it.
Feedback is an amazing way to grow. When you not only accept and welcome feedback but seek it out, you will learn much about yourself and ways to grow.
Don’t look at feedback as an attack on you, but as a way to get even better.
Even when people give it unsolicited, and even if they are mostly wrong, see if you can find any nuggets from what they say that you can take to grow and be better in.
When people give it to you, don’t get defensive, argue, or fight against it – instead, just say “thank you”.
Doing so will open the door to more feedback and you learning how to be an even better you.
See mistakes and failures as good and as opportunities to learn (growth mindset)
For many of us, we equate mistakes and failures that we make as us being a failure.
We may think that if we are good at something, or if we want to be successful, then we shouldn’t make mistakes.
That’s completely twisted and wrong.
Mistakes are good. The most successful people make the most mistakes. They try, make mistakes, learn from them, get better, try again, make more mistakes, learn from it, and so on.
Those who hold back because they may make a mistake or may fail don’t learn, don’t get better, and fall behind those who do.
Have a growth mindset. See mistakes and failures as good and as opportunities to learn and grow.
Be willing to take risks, try new things and ideas, and make mistakes.It’s always helpful to learn from your mistakes because then your mistakes seem worthwhile. – Gary Marshall Click To Tweet
Be a great communicator
One of the biggest time and money wasters in companies is poor communication.
Have you experienced that before?
A project is juggled back and forth and done and redone because it never was communicated well.
If you want to increase your productivity and those around you, communicate well, whether verbally or electronically.
Make sure you are clear on assumptions and expectations.
If you are assigning work, make sure you are clear on what is to be done, by when, and by whom. If there are certain expectations, make sure those are stated clearly.
Examine the assumptions about what you think they know – and make sure.
When meeting or talking with people, you can always ask, “Do you mind repeating back to me what I said? I just want to make sure I came across clearly”, or something to that nature.
If nothing else, it saves you time from having to go back, reclarifying, going back, reclarifying – and having others redo or fix things that wouldn’t need to be redone if things had been communicated clearly in the first place.
Deal with your insecurities and/or your ego
Ego and insecurities can make us not-so-smart things.
We may get defensive, hire people who won’t make us look bad, focus on ourselves versus the good of others and the company, and more.
When we feel insecure, we may feel we need to prove ourselves, or we may be afraid of others overshadowing us. We may allow others to take advantage of us.
When we have an overly high ego, we may try to “prove” how awesome we are, not listen to the advice of others, and treat others poorly.
Be aware of yourself. Do you feel insecure in certain areas? How can you deal with it? What steps can you take to overcome it?
Do you have a high ego? How is it affecting you and others? What steps can you take to be more humble? What steps can you take to be a better listener and considerate of others’ opinions?The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity. — Erich Fromm Click To Tweet
Be a great team player
We are made to work together. We accomplish so much more as a team than by ourselves.
Our strengths complement others’ weaknesses, and vice versa. Others have different ideas and viewpoints, that, when brought together, make even better ideas.
It’s not that you never should or that you won’t ever work by yourself, but you definitely should be open to collaboration and work well as a team member.
Show trust in others. Share ideas. Communicate openly. Share resources. Don’t hide or think mine vs theirs.
When you do this, others will be much more likely to do the same with you. And, when that happens, everyone’s performance goes up.
Measure everything important
There’s a saying you may have heard: “What gets measured gets done.”
There’s a lot of truth to that – and you can apply it in your own work as well.
What are your most important tasks? What are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish? What steps do you need to take to accomplish those?
Find ways to put measurements on what you are trying to accomplish or do.
You can measure the time you take on certain tasks and see what you can do to improve that time.
You can measure how much of something you get done every week.
You can measure if you took the actions toward certain goals every day.
Know what is important and take steps to measure and display those tasks. Having these measurements visible can help motivate you to keep doing the task (or do it better).
It also lets you know how well you are progressing and how you can improve.
Use the right tools
Are you using the best software for what you need to do – or are you just making something work?
Is your computer up-to-date, or do you waste hours of the year waiting for it to boot up or chug along?
Is your software intuitive and up-to-date or is it clunky, hard to understand, and takes a long time to figure out and use?
Do you have the right tools accessible to you to accomplish what you need with good speed?
Or are you trying to use a screwdriver to hammer a nail?
Though it may not always be in your control, do what you can to have the most effective and efficient tools at your disposal to do your work.
Otherwise, it’s time wasted.
Avoid gossip, drama, idle chat, and getting involved in others’ conflict
Drama, gossip, idle chat – all are a waste of time that hurts your productivity and work performance.
Avoid it. Not only is it time wasted listening or “dealing” with it, but it also can affect your mood and motivation.
Avoid getting into other’s conflict as well (which is often brought about through gossip, etc.). It’s not that you should never listen to others and their needs, but if someone has an issue, they need to try to take it to that other person first, not you.
If you are not in any way involved in the issue, there’s no reason for you to be involved. It just creates more issues and wastes your time.Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas. – Marie Curie Click To Tweet
Reward yourself: Celebrate successes and wins (and failures)
If you succeed toward your goals or reach a milestone, reward yourself!
If you are doing better managing your time or getting your most important tasks done, reward yourself!
This can help motivate you to keep going (and if you set the reward beforehand, it can help motivate you to get there).
Also, if you took a risk, tried something, and it failed, but you learned from it – consider rewarding yourself for that process as well (especially if putting yourself out there and taking risks is hard for you).
Automate where you can
Automation can be a major time-saver at work and in life.
Think about some of the tasks you do every day.
What are you doing manually that can be automated by an app? (For example, Zapier connects many applications).
Can you automate your email sequences?
Can you auto-categorize some of the emails that come into your inbox?
Can you put triggers in some of your software for when a certain situation happens, certain emails are sent or requests are made?
Look at the tasks you and your company do daily, especially tasks that may have to be done but aren’t that important and take up time, and see if there is software or other ways to automate those tasks.
Watch your smartphone use
Your phone can easily be one of the biggest distractions at work. It’s so easy to waste time or delay what is important to check your texts, your socials, and so on.
What’s worse about smartphones is the notifications.
When it dings, we want to check it – and it distracts us, causes us to lose focus, and elongates the amount of time it takes to do that task (sometimes by a lot).
And, usually (probably 99% of the time), what was sent is not really that important.
Find a way to break that habit.
Turn off notifications. Hide your phone in a drawer or in an area where you would have to get up and out of your desk to check it.
If need be, turn the phone off completely.
Set specific times when you will check your phone – and stick to it.
Doing this will help keep you from wasting time and from being distracted from your most important tasks.
Plan your day (and week – and possibly more) ahead of time
Planning is huge. You need to plan. It’s hard to be effective without planning.
If you try to figure out what to do in the moment, it’s hard to see the big picture, and it’s easy to focus on tasks that are easier and less important.
This doesn’t mean you aren’t flexible and can’t add or deal with spontaneous things that happen – but when you have a plan, you can then compare to make sure the spontaneous or urgent event is actually important.
There are different ways to do it (such as using your calendar to schedule blocks of time, to-do lists, etc.), but it’s wise to at least plan the day or night before.
It can also be helpful to plan your week ahead (the most important tasks for that week) and even possibly the month (focusing again on your high leverage and most important tasks – what needs to get done that month).
Schedule blocks of uninterrupted time
Set blocks of uninterrupted time throughout your day.
During these times you ask people not to disturb you, you don’t check emails, and you don’t answer the phone.
You just spend that period of time working on your most important task(s).
I understand it may not be possible in every job and in every situation, but as much as possible, try to have set blocks of time where you can focus solely on your most important tasks without distractions.
Focus on the most important tasks first
This is a key step to higher work performance.
It’s very easy to waste the beginning of your day piddling, talking to others, checking emails, and figuring out “what to do” for that day – it just wastes time. And it happens so often.
You should first plan ahead and know what your most important tasks are.
Then, when you get to work, before checking emails or anything else (if possible), focus on getting your most important tasks done.
Sometimes we wait or delay those tasks because they seem formidable, onerous, big, or hard. Don’t let that keep you from doing it.
Often when we put it off and do an easier task first that is not as important, we never get to them, or when we get to them, we don’t do them as well.
Urgent fires come along that we have to deal with, and the most important tasks end up being left out to dry.
When you get to work, do your most important tasks first. That way, no matter what happens the rest of the day, you accomplished the most important action you needed to accomplish for that day.It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less. – Nathan W. Morris Click To Tweet
Avoid the morning (and all-day) time-suckers
For many, the mornings are their most productive time. As we mentioned before, we should spend the first part of our morning (as much as possible) on our most important tasks.
Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to get caught up in time suckers. Chatting at the water cooler. Checking emails. Going to pointless meetings.
Piddling. Checking socials. Figuring out what to do. Getting a fourth cup of coffee. Doing easy tasks just to scratch them off the list.
It can be easy for us to spend our morning accomplishing nothing.
Check yourself and how you use your time. What do you fill your morning with? If it isn’t a productive activity, work to change it.
Adjust your open-door policy
Open-door policies seem good in theory, but they can also have a lot of drawbacks.
One of those drawbacks is this: when people can come into your office anytime to talk about anything – it keeps you from focusing on your most important tasks.
When we have blocks of uninterrupted time, we can get into a zone and focus on the task. When we are constantly interrupted, it can be hard to get back into that zone.
Yes, you want to listen to what your people have to say but have set times where you can work focused and have a set time where they can schedule or stop by and see you.
Focus on one task at a time (Avoid Multitasking)
In some jobs, it’s hard not to multitask, and in some ways, it seems productive.
But it’s not.
It has been shown that focusing on one task at a time is much more effective than trying to do it all at once.
When you are working on a task – focus on that task. If possible (depending on the type of task) and time allows, focus on it till it’s done.
Then move to the next task.
Not only will you have that sense of completion and more items off your plate, but you get more done faster that way.
Be a completer
Some people have a problem – maybe you – they are good at starting tasks, but they aren’t good at finishing them.
They have a burst of motivation in the beginning and get started, but it fizzles out and they jump to another idea or task with another burst of motivation for that task.
Sometimes it’s because of busyness – there are so many tasks that you jump from one to the next to the next and never really finish one.
The problem with that is, first, you never finish tasks!
The second is that it wears on you mentally and stress-wise. When you have a lot of unfinished tasks on your mind and on your plate that you must do, it easily becomes a weight, creates stress, and creates overwhelm.
However, when you finish tasks, it reduces that overwhelm and stress.
Take time to think, reflect and examine
Sometimes it can be easy to get stuck in the everyday grind and work that we do. We jump from task to task to project without taking the time to really reflect on the big picture.
We don’t take time to reflect on what is working, and what isn’t.
Try to set time at least once a week to just reflect on your work and what you are doing.
Think big picture – is the work you are doing align with your goals and what is important?
Is what you are doing effective? How can it be done better? What would make you more efficient and effective?
What isn’t working? What can you do to change that?
What action steps do you need to take? Is there anybody you need to talk to?
Take time to reflect and act on it. Doing so can dramatically multiply your productivity.Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard. – Caterina Fake Click To Tweet
Have great relationships with your team and others around you
It kind of goes without saying: you should be kind to everyone, no matter their position or rank. Period.
We should do it because it’s the right thing to do, but if nothing else, note that being kind and building good relationships has a lot of other benefits.
When you are kind to others, they are more likely to be kind and helpful to you. When you need help, they are more likely to give it.
If you are kind to your suppliers and those external to your business who work with you, and there are issues, they are more likely to be understanding and work with you.
When you are kind to your coworkers, subordinates, supervisors, and team, you have better relationships, better teamwork, better communication, and greater overall productivity.
Manage your distractions
Distractions can come in many forms, and they can affect each person differently.
Take a look and see what distracts you:
- Noises in the workplace
- Your phone (cell or work)
- Notifications on the computer
- People stopping by
- Instant messaging
- Social media
When you know what distracts you, then take steps to overcome those distractions to improve your work performance.
If you get hungry frequently, have healthy snacks nearby.
If your desk is cluttered and you need help organizing, find a coworker who is good at it and ask them to help you set up a system.
If noise distracts you, you could wear headphones (this can also keep people from stopping by to talk to you).
Turn off notifications on your phone and computer (and hide your cell phone out of view).
Have set “do not interrupt” times and times for people to come by for questions.
Whatever your distractions are, work to overcome them, and you could dramatically improve your work performance.One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us. – Daniel Goleman Click To Tweet
Only have what you need for the task at hand on your desk (and have everything ready)
When you start a task, make sure your desk is clear of everything that is not related to the task. This reduces distractions and makes it easier to find what you need.
Then, make sure you have everything you need to complete that task ready, on your desk, or ready to go.
This will save you time by not having to search or sort through items to find them as you go, and it helps keep you from breaking your flow.
Start your day working
We’ve mentioned this a couple of times in other tips, but it’s worth repeating.
Many people waste the beginning of their day by having idle chats with coworkers, checking Facebook or TikTok, or catching up on the latest sports or news.
Don’t do that.
When you get to work, start off working. Don’t even check your email (if possible). Jump straight to your most important task and get it done.
This will set you apart from many of your coworkers and it is an incredibly effective way to improve your work performance.
Work while you are at work
This strategy may seem obvious, but it’s something many fail at.
Many waste time piddling, checking the news or social media, or chatting with coworkers throughout the day, and they end up wasting hours of their time on pointless tasks.
In fact, one study found that in the U.S., employees waste, on average, 2.9 hours a day doing non-work related activities (per 8-hour day).
Don’t be like that.
If you want to set yourself apart, work while you are at work.
Save socials, chats with co-workers, and internet browsing during your breaks or when you are at home.Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you. – Mark Cuban Click To Tweet
If you have a hard time focusing on your most important tasks because of distractions or the busy work that pops up, this could be a strategy that helps you.
If you arrive early before anyone else gets there, then you can likely work distraction-free on whatever tasks you need to get done.
By the time other workers arrive and start grabbing their coffee, you’ve already completed some of your important tasks.
You may even ask your supervisor if you can adjust your work time to those new hours. If you can show how productive you will be (and how it will benefit them) for you to start earlier, there is a much higher chance they may be willing to accommodate.
While it’s important to work while we work, it’s also important to take breaks along the way.
The Draugiem Group installed time tracking software on their computers and found that their top 10% of producers didn’t work more but took more breaks. On average they worked 52 minutes then took a 17-minute break.
When you work straight through and don’t let your mind rest, you become less productive, not more productive.
Especially if you are stuck, taking a break can help give you insight into what you are working on.
Work while you work, but make sure to take breaks for better productivity.
(One popular technique is the Pomodoro Technique.)
Group and batch similar tasks together
Group similar tasks and batch them.
For example, set specific times to answer emails instead of sporadically throughout the day (you could do the same thing with returning phone calls).
If you sign reports, try to do them all at once versus some now, some later, some later, etc.
Doing this saves time because every time you switch between types of tasks, there is a switch cost in time. By grouping and batching tasks, you reduce that switch cost (and the time it takes for you to refocus on the new type of task).
Set self-imposed deadlines
Parkinson’s law says that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”.
While you don’t want to set unrealistic deadlines, by setting deadlines for your tasks, you can often complete your tasks faster than you would have otherwise.
Try to set deadlines for your tasks and challenge yourself. See if you can shave time off how long it takes you.
If you aren’t sure how much time you take, start measuring!
A good app to use is Toggl. It has a free version that will work just fine for this purpose (we just started using it in our company).
Stop “got a minute” meetings
“Got a minute” meetings can often waste a lot of time, and they often last longer than a “minute”.
You want to be there for your team and coworkers, but there are other possible solutions you can follow.
For one, set times when people can stop by to ask questions or come to you with a problem.
When they come, make sure they aren’t trying to get you to solve their problem for them. If they are coming up with basic problems, you could ask them to also come up with a solution.
(Of course, if it’s a major issue that could affect the company or major project, you want to know, even if they don’t have a “solution.)
You can also set a time limit on those meetings (depending on what they are).
Or, unless it’s an emergency, tell them to put it on the agenda for the next meeting.
And, if you are okay with people stopping by anytime, make sure they understand the importance of your (and their) time.
Ask yourself the right questions
As you go through your day, it can be easy to get distracted by the craziness and “urgent” requests that may come your way.
When you are about to decide on what to do next, ask yourself, “What is the most valuable use of my time right now?”
Then do that task.
If you find yourself caught in the whirlwind of your day, ask “Is what I am doing moving me toward my goals?” or “Is this part of my 20%?” If it’s not, drop it (if possible) and move to something that is better.The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself. ― Ursula K. Le Guin Click To Tweet
Schedule when you will check emails and answer phone calls (when possible)
When possible, have set times when you will check your email and answer your phone. You may have time in the morning and the afternoon, or 3-4 times during the day if that is what you need.
This saves you from wasting time constantly checking it, and it helps keep you from getting distracted by tasks that aren’t as important as what you should be working on.
Use emails and subject lines effectively
Using emails effectively can save yourself (and others) a lot of time.
When an email chain changes the topic, change the subject line. This keeps you and the other person from having to remember what the subject line was for the email you are looking for when searching for it.
Also, use acronyms in the subject line to help people know what the email is about or to even save them from having to open it up.
Though it’s not possible in every situation, when you can, make sure to keep your emails short and sweet. 3-5 sentences are perfect. No one wants to read an essay in an email (and usually, they won’t).
And email is not for dealing with person-to-person issues. So much miscommunication and misjudged intent occurs with emails.
If it’s an issue you need to talk about with someone (or it has the potential to be misinterpreted negatively), talk to them in person instead (or by phone if you must).
Follow the “touch it once” rule
We can easily waste time checking the same email or looking at the same report or pieces of mail multiple times without ever taking action on them.
Instead, follow the “touch it once” rule.
Don’t touch anything unless you are willing to take the next step for that task, whatever it may be.
The next steps may be contacting someone, answering it, scheduling a task, filling something out, etc.
Don’t look at an email unless you are ready to answer it. Don’t touch your mail unless you are ready to go through it and decide on it.
Touch it once.
Surround yourself with productive people
You may have heard the saying “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.
It applies to work as well.
If you hang around with unproductive and negative people, you are going to be more unproductive and negative. If you hang around with productive people, you are going to be more productive.
Spend time with the productive and positive people at your work, the ones who stand out, the 20%. If they are seen as quality people who get results, be around those people.
Learn to say “no”
One reason you may be overwhelmed, over-stressed, and working on tasks that aren’t important to you is that you have a hard time saying “no”.
Learn to say “no”.
If you want to improve your work performance, learn to say “no” to tasks that aren’t part of your 20% or your most important tasks.
Remember, saying “yes” to one thing is saying “no” to another. By saying yes to unimportant tasks, you are saying “no” to the more important ones.
What about your boss?
If your boss asks you to do something, and your plate is already full, let your boss know what you are working on (though first, you may want to make sure you aren’t “full” because of poor time management).
Tell him or her that you have time to do this task that task or that task. Then ask which one would he or she would prefer you to work on and which one does he or she want you to drop.Focusing is about saying no.― Steve Jobs Click To Tweet
Don’t take other people’s monkeys
According to Ken Blanchard in The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, monkeys are the “next move” for an issue or problem.
You waste your time and make others unproductive when you constantly take on other people’s monkeys.
Instead, help those around you handle their own monkeys. If they come to you, make sure they come to you with a solution in mind.
It’s okay to help guide them, but don’t take it upon yourself to solve it.
Create a stop-doing list
What are you doing that wastes your time? What are you doing that doesn’t move you toward your goals and priorities? What are you doing that may be “good” but not the “best”?
Write those on your stop-doing list. Then, work on stop doing them.
Overcome resistance to the hard-to-start tasks
Some tasks can be hard to start. They seem so formidable and large that you delay getting to them. You end up wasting time and losing productivity.
Don’t do it. Here are some steps that can help you get started and get them done:
Plan out projects and goals step by step.
- Whether you use paper or a mind map or project management software, plan out the project or goal step-by-step.
Then do one step at a time.
- Once you have it planned out step by step, just focus on doing the first step. Then the next. Then the next. Focus on the small pieces, not the whole piece.
If it still seems formidable, just focus on doing one task and that’s it.
- Just tell yourself you are going to do one part and quit. Once you get going, you often can keep going.
Just work on it for a few minutes.
- You can also set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and plan to work on it for that long only. Then, once you get started, you may have the motivation to keep going.
Run Effective Meetings (And Avoid Those That Don’t Need to Happen)
Meetings can be extremely useful – and they can also be the bane of workplace productivity.
Here are a few tips to help you be more productive with meetings:
First, if the meeting doesn’t need to happen, don’t make it happen.
If it can be handled over an email or phone call, do it. Ask yourself, “Does this really need a meeting, or can it be handled by phone or email or a quick chat?”
Second, don’t attend meetings that you don’t need to be part of.
Why waste your time?
Third, make sure each meeting has an agenda (and that you follow it).
Now, the agenda can be varied depending on what is needed. It could be “have each department talk about needs and directions then decide as a group what we need to talk about”. That in itself is an agenda.
Or you may have set topics that you cover, and that’s it.
It can be wise to have a set time for people to suggest items for the agenda for that meeting (with nothing else added afterward), but use your discretion as well.
Fourth, have a start and stop time (sometimes) for each meeting.
Make sure you start on time, even if everyone is not there. Don’t waste everyone’s time because some are late. That’s disrespectful toward them.
And, if you always wait and start late, people will always be late.
The stop time depends on the type of meeting and need. If you have a set agenda and you often get off focus, this can help keep people on track (and it can be respectful of people’s times).
However, there are times when there is no set time to stop. You may want to stop when the topics have been fully explored and dealt with.
Fifth, don’t allow people to get off track.
When people start getting off track in the conversation, bring it back in and focus.
Sixth, consider a standing or walking meeting.
Standing meetings are generally shorter and to the point.
Seventh, consider a daily huddle.
Having a short daily huddle can save time from having to conduct various meetings during the day and keep everyone on the same page. Here are some ideas on holding a daily huddle.
Take care of yourself – Get enough rest, eat well, and exercise
It makes sense: if you have more energy, you will be more productive and your performance at work will increase.
If you don’t get enough sleep, are always tired, and live off coffee, that is going to affect your work performance.
If you never exercise and eat unhealthily, that will affect your energy levels as well and therefore affect your productivity.
Take care of yourself.
Get enough sleep. Eat well. Find some form of exercise that you enjoy.
The better you take care of yourself personally, the better you will be taking care of yourself in your career and work as well.Take care of yourself first. You cannot pour from an empty cup. ― Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet
Guard your time
#50 sums up most of everything we mentioned before.
Guard your time.
Your time is precious and valuable.
It’s a resource that you can never get back. Money comes and goes, but time doesn’t. Once it’s spent, it’s gone.
Guard how you use your time and what you allow to use your time.
When you look at what takes up your time, ask yourself, “Is this really want I want to use this valuable resource on? Is it really that important?”
Work to make the most of the time you have, whether at home, in life, or at work. Guard it and use it well.
Final Thoughts on 50 Ways to Improve Work Performance
I hope this list was beneficial to you and that you found some strategies to make you even more effective at work.
If the number of strategies seems overwhelming, start with #1 and 2. If you get those down, you are well on your way to being productive.
Then pick another strategy or area and work on it. One by one can improve your work performance dramatically, little by little.
If you need extra help or are struggling with your productivity, let us know and we’ll do our best to help.
Also, if you have any other tips, let us know in the comments below.