The answer is that to rethink the way that we view our workload. I've compiled a list of five different ways that you can increase your output without overwhelming yourself each day.
#1: Focus on One Thing at a Time -
Because we've somehow replaced being productive with being busy, we think that we accomplish more throughout our day. Social convention now dictates that multitasking is the key to being productive, that working on two or three projects at once while also keeping up on email and reports means that you'll finish more at the end of your day. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but multiple studies have been conducted by major research institutions that repeatedly tear down the myth of multitasking. In fact, researchers at Stanford have found that people who multitask have difficulties "paying attention, recalling information, and switching from one job to another" (Forbes, 2014).
Instead, make a conscious effort to set aside different tasks as you focus on one thing at a time. If your email inbox has become atrociously full, stop working on everything else for 10-15 minutes and burn through a few dozens emails. If you boss has a stack of "to-do" files for you, put a spreadsheet on hold until lunch and work on the files instead. Small breaks like this can help alleviate stress, and you'll find that you accomplish more each day.
#2: Use Your Commute Time -
The average commute time in America is 25-30 minutes, which means that we spend an hour driving/riding a bus/taking a taxi each day travelling to and from work. This travel time is a great opportunity that many people are not using effectively, but I don't want you to use it on work-related tasks. You have 8-10 hours of work each day. Don't take another hour before and after work on email.
Instead, use your commute time to absorb new ideas. If you take a taxi or public transportation, you can read or listen to podcasts during your commute. It's a great way to expose yourself to new material while using otherwise lackluster time to your advantage. If you're driving, stream the podcasts or an audio book through the Bluetooth in your car radio. With enough discipline to not dive into work, you could also create a "To-do" list for your day, that way you're ready to hit the ground running when you arrive at work instead of spending 10-15 minutes prepping yourself for the tasks ahead.
#3: Wake Early/Stay Up Late -
I've been a believer in the idea of using mornings to become more productive for some time now, but I also understand that some people simply enjoy the nighttime more than they do the morning. Regardless of your preference, the principle remains the same. Spending just an hour each day, either in the morning or the evening, can dramatically increase the work you produce.
The key here is to remain focused, which means putting the phone down, shutting off the television, and working solely on whatever project it is that you've chosen to tackle. It can be as simple as reading a book you've had on your "To-Be-Read" pile for months or it can be something more ambitious. Whatever your tasks is, use that time solely for that purpose, and you'll be amazed at how much you finish in a week's time.
#4: Ask for Help -
For anyone who has an internal drive for success, it's easy to become the person who does everything. You want to impress your boss or show how capable you are of completing tasks in a timely manner, so you volunteer for five or six projects at once. In your mind, you've got everything under control, but in reality deadlines are quickly approaching and each day seems like a black hole where time disappears and you accomplish nothing.
Simply put, nobody can do everything, and sometimes the best course of action is to ask for help. Reach out to a colleague and offer to switch them workloads for the week. Not only is this a great team-building habit, but it will mix up your tasks and allow you to cross-train for a few days. You gain a better understanding of your coworkers job, and possibly even learn new things about your field.
#5: Have a Clear Vision
All the work you put in during a week's time will amount to absolutely nothing if you don't have a deep, clear understanding of what you are working for and where you plan on going in the future. This is the trap that millions of people fall into during their adult lives: They show up to work, put in 40-50 hours each week, and then go home, all the while complaining about how hard they work or how much they have to get done on Monday morning, and what they fail to realize is that they have no vision for their work. They're simply working to be working. This type of mindset creates no purpose and no drive.
So I challenge you to take time during your weekend and build a vision for what you'd like to accomplish with your work. And write it down! Write down physical, tangible goals that you want to accomplish in the future, and then set a timeline for those goals. Create a plan of action regarding how you will accomplish those goals. Once you do this, you'll find that the time you spend working has a purpose. There's a reason you do the things that you do, and your vision then becomes your motivation. It's an exhilarating sensation, and its one that I hope you enjoy to the fullest.
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