In the workplace, people are constantly busy, spinning like tops every day, complaining about the bitterness, exhaustion, and sleeplessness of their jobs.
But upon closer examination, is it really because the workload is too heavy? Is the boss too demanding? Or is it because of our own low efficiency and faulty work methods?
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Perhaps in most cases, it’s because we haven’t learned how to work smart and haven’t mastered the right methods, which makes us exhausted every day.
This article compiles 15 methods to optimize your workflow and improve efficiency, helping you complete your work more effectively and effortlessly.
01- Create Daily/Weekly Work Plans and Review Them Regularly
Whether you prefer using PowerPoint, Excel, or other office software, it’s essential to establish a daily/weekly work plan for yourself, including a review of last week’s progress and this week’s work plan.
For each task or project, be sure to outline specific start and end times, identify deliverables, list the departments and colleagues you need to coordinate with, and specify any relevant KPIs.
This approach makes it easy for you to periodically review the status of your tasks—whether they are pending, in progress, delayed, or canceled—and enables you to take appropriate actions based on different circumstances.
02- Efficient Preparation Before Meetings
When attending meetings, I often see people hastily taking their seats, looking bewildered as they face the host. When asked about project progress, they stumble through their responses, clearly unprepared.
To avoid such awkward situations, it’s essential to prepare in advance by doing the following:
- Review the meeting agenda ahead of time to understand the topics relevant to you.
- Determine if any updates are needed on unfinished tasks from the previous meeting.
- Collect and prepare data, documents, and materials in advance, if required.
- Seek input or opinions from relevant departments before the meeting.
This proactive preparation ensures that you can actively and confidently participate in the meeting, contributing to its effectiveness.
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03- Learn to Prioritize Tasks
With a multitude of tasks at hand each day, including ongoing ones and those delegated by superiors and colleagues, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious without proper prioritization.
Therefore, it’s crucial to learn how to judge the order of tasks based on two dimensions:
- Importance (Important vs. Unimportant)
- Urgency (Urgent vs. Not Urgent)
Using these two dimensions, you can divide your to-do list into four quadrants, allowing you to clearly assess which tasks should take precedence. Tasks that are both urgent and important should be your top priority and require immediate attention.
04- Utilize Multiple Communication Channels, Not Just Email
Email has become an essential tool for internal communication and collaboration within organizations. It’s used for sending files, scheduling meetings, discussing issues, and reporting on work progress.
However, relying solely on email as your communication channel can sometimes lead to issues, especially when dealing with urgent matters. Email is not an instant messaging system, and people are not always online or available to respond promptly, especially during meetings or when they are out of the office.
Therefore, when facing urgent and critical problems or notifications, remember to make phone calls for repeated confirmation to ensure nothing goes wrong.
05- Reminder for Unfinished Tasks
Some people like to use “sticky notes” (also known as “post-it notes”) placed on their desk to jot down to-do lists or items that require special attention. This is indeed an effective method.
These small pieces of paper contain essential information about tasks, such as deadlines, phone numbers, or the responsible parties. They serve as a visual reminder and encouragement to tackle the unfinished tasks promptly. It’s hard to ignore a sticky note that has been sitting there for days without any action.
Once a task is completed, you can confidently tear off the note. Then, replace it with a new sticky note for the next important task, giving you a sense of accomplishment.
06- Start the Day by Organizing Your Work
To avoid feeling overwhelmed and working blindly throughout the day, take advantage of your clear and focused mind in the morning when you arrive at the office. Open your calendar (or electronic calendar) and review the main tasks you have for the day. Allocate your work time and energy based on priority.
This practice allows you to have a clear understanding of your daily workload, preventing you from missing important tasks and helping you maintain control over your work pace. It boosts your confidence as you embrace a new day fully prepared.
07- The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique involves selecting a task to complete and setting a timer for 25 minutes. During this time, you work on the task with full concentration and avoid any distractions or unrelated activities. Once the timer rings, you mark your progress, take a short break (usually 5 minutes), and then continue with another Pomodoro. After completing four Pomodoro cycles, take a longer break.
This technique encourages focused work and minimizes distractions, as interruptions can significantly disrupt your workflow. When your attention is interrupted, it often takes longer to regain the same level of concentration.
08- Send Meeting Invitations for the Current or Next Week in Advance
Many people have the habit of scheduling meetings on short notice, which is often not very effective because attendees may already be traveling or have other commitments during that time.
Therefore, for non-urgent meetings, it’s best to send out meeting invitations at least one week in advance. This allows you to secure the availability of the invited participants and helps them plan their schedules accordingly.
Additionally, sending out the meeting invitation is not the end of the process. You should also send a reminder email one or two days before the meeting to ensure that everyone is aware of the meeting and hasn’t forgotten or encountered any scheduling conflicts.
09- Improve Typing Speed
This point is often overlooked but can significantly impact your productivity. Sometimes, it feels like writing reports or emails takes too much time, and it may be due to slow typing speed.
Learning touch typing, rather than looking at the keyboard while typing, whether using Pinyin or Wubi input methods, can greatly enhance your text input efficiency and save you a lot of time.
If necessary, invest some time in specific typing speed improvement exercises. It’s a one-time effort that pays off in the long run and is well worth the time spent practicing.
10- Keep Your Office Desk Neat and Organized
Maintaining a neat and organized workspace can help you quickly find the documents or files you need when you require them, instead of aimlessly searching for them when the need arises.
Working in a cluttered environment can also lead to increased anxiety and restlessness, which can negatively affect both efficiency and quality of work.
11- Socialize During Lunch Breaks
Modern professionals value their personal time and may not want to engage in social activities during evenings or weekends. Therefore, making the most of your lunch break to connect with colleagues becomes important and convenient.
Try to have lunch with colleagues from other departments or teams, engage in light conversations, and discuss project progress or how to cooperate more effectively. It’s a natural way to build rapport.
Having lunch alone or with only a few close colleagues, on the other hand, merely fulfills the task of eating and lacks any meaningful social interaction. This can be seen as a missed opportunity.
12- Learn by Observing Others
In a workplace, there is no obligation for colleagues to teach you how to work or how to work better. Therefore, it’s essential to have an observant eye and a keen mind to learn from others.
When you see someone being recognized and praised, take the time to analyze and observe what they did well and how they did it. You can dissect their reports or documents to learn about their framing, key points, material organization, and conclusion derivation.
13- Set Aside Time to Reply to Emails
If you reply to every email as soon as it arrives, you will constantly divide your attention and struggle to focus on one task. Not all emails require immediate responses, and if something is genuinely urgent, people will usually call or contact you directly.
Instead, consider dedicating specific time slots for processing and replying to emails. This approach boosts efficiency and prevents constant interruptions from new incoming emails while you’re trying to concentrate on other tasks.
14- Communicate with Your Superiors to Confirm Requirements
In a company, your immediate supervisor is the person to whom you report, and the recognition of your work largely depends on them. Therefore, it’s crucial to clarify your supervisor’s expectations, requirements, and desired outcomes for your tasks.
Understanding your supervisor’s demands provides direction to your work and prevents situations where your efforts don’t align with their expectations, resulting in frustration and wasted effort.
15- Express Gratitude to Colleagues Frequently
Although colleagues may assist you with tasks that are part of their job, expressing gratitude promptly, whether through email or face-to-face, is essential. It helps create a positive impression, making your colleagues more inclined to help you in the future.
Additionally, expressing gratitude in front of your colleagues’ superiors further strengthens your professional relationships and can be beneficial for future collaborations.
These work methods have been refined and summarized by the author through practical experience. They are highly efficient and practical. If you haven’t mastered or applied them yet, consider starting with the easier ones.
George Bernard Shaw once said:
“There are two kinds of people in the world, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.”
Let’s strive to be efficient individuals who get things done.