Increase your efficiency (Part 1)

Recently I was given more responsibility on the project team that I’m on at work. I was excited about this, but also overwhelmed by the workload I would have. The person that did these tasks before work very long hours and I was not interested in doing that. So, I began looking at things I could do to increase my efficiency during my normal 8-5 hours, so I could get more done in the same amount of time.

Most of these are tips I have collected over the years from sites like, and books like Getting Things Done by David Allen and The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.

Here’s Part 1 of my list:

Block Distractions – When you are working on a task, make sure that you complete that task before responding to any distractions. If you have a coworker who is always talking, wear headphones, even if you aren’t really listening to anything. They’ll get the hint. If someone comes to you for help, kindly tell them that you are in the middle of something and you’ll come by in a couple of minutes. Finish your task and then go help them. While helping them, make it obvious that you are not being distracted by anything else and helping them is the most important task at the time.

Limit Email – The biggest distraction to someone who spends most of their day in front of a computer is incoming email. If you are working on a task and see that email is coming in, complete the task you are working on first before checking the email. If it’s something critical that you must address right ahead, the sender needs to realize that they should call you or come in person. Email is not intended to be an instantaneous communication mechanism anyway. Ignore it while you are working on something else. Once you are to a stopping point, read the email and address the new ones. Once an email has been addressed move it off to a folder so it won’t distract you any more. Your InBox should only be items that still need to be addressed. And don’t waste time organizing old email into folders. I prefer to have a separate “Sent” and “InBox” folder for each month. Windows Desktop Search is great at indexing and searching past email — You’ll find things much faster this way then going through lots of “organized” folders. And you’ll save all the time you would spend determining what folder to put the email in.

No Multitasking – Face it, you can’t multitask. If you are trying to do multiple things at the same time you aren’t going to do a good job with any of them and it will take you more time. Try an experiment. Do your normal multitasking and see how much you get done in an hour. Next, do the same work load a single task at a time. I guarantee you will be more get more done faster and with a higher quality.

To-Do List – Write down all of the tasks that you need to do as soon as you realized that this is something that will need to be taken care of. This works with the no multitasking. If you are immediately recording that something needs to be done, you can take it off your mind to completely focus on the task that you are working on.

First things First – before going home, list your tasks for the next day with the most important thing first. When you get to the office the next day, do that task first before checking email, voice mail, or anything else that could cause a distraction.