Everyone wants a more productive workweek, but not everyone is sure how to get it. Engineers are typically busy folks, but busy doesn’t always mean efficient. And efficient doesn’t mean packing as much work as you can into your day.
Efficiency and productivity mean working well or working smart. It’s about getting the most out of your workday without running at a breakneck pace toward 5:00.
If you’re looking for a way to work smarter than you do, here are 4 tips recommended by electrical engineer, Pat Sweet, who writes for Engineering.com.
#1: Cut Down on Work Distractions
One of the biggest attackers of a good day’s work is distraction. Some distractions are hard to avoid, such as other people working nearby and the things that they happen to do. But many distractions, such as email or a quick peek at social media, are your own. And you have the power to wipe them away.
Pat Sweet says that in a Cornell University study, distractions used up about 23 minutes and 15 seconds each time the participants tried to get back on track. That’s not even counting the time spend attending to the distraction itself. Just two distractions uses nearly an hour of your work day. It’s bad enough when they come in unwelcome. So curb the ones that you bring in yourself.
#2: Don’t be Afraid to Take a Break
Sometimes the longer you work a problem the harder it becomes. And if you can switch gears to something else, the solution comes around crystal clear a bit later. That’s a phenomenon that affects most people.
Taking regular breaks, even just for 5 minutes, can keep your head in the game. And breaking when you’re trying much too hard can help you find that elusive answer. Don’t look at breaks as slacking off. FastCompany stresses that breaks help you stay focused throughout the day.
#3: Subscribe to the 80-20 Rule
Have you ever noticed that some people who seem to work the hardest don’t really get more done than anybody else? There’s a reason for that, and it can be traced back to the 80-20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle.
The Pareto Principle asserts that for any chunk of effort, 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the work. Sweet says that as it applies to your workday, after you’ve spent about 12 minutes on a task, you’ve got about 80 percent of your results. And that might be enough. You don’t have to strive for ultimate perfection in every single thing that you do.
#4: Forget Everything that You Know About Multitasking
Know what one of the biggest, destructive myths of the modern age is? It’s multitasking. The human brain just isn’t capable of focusing equally on more than one thing at a time. NPR explained back in 2008 that it was a great big myth, but it lingers still. Maybe it’s because the word sounds so great on job applications.
When you try to multitask, you’re really just switching gears and doing a bad job of it. The result is that all of your multitasking jobs have the same recovery time effect as distractions, and nothing is done well. Sweet recommends batching instead. Clear out all of your email at once, return phone calls, and do other tasks that you can handle in bulk.
Exhaustion has become a badge of honor, but it’s not really the most honorable thing to do to yourself. That’s especially true if you could accomplish as much in less time with less effort, and do a better job along the way.
A more productive workweek doesn’t mean coming in early, skipping lunch and trying to do 10 things at once. If fact, it’s the opposite of all that. Productivity takes doing each task the best way. And that might not be the way that you handle them now.
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