In today’s fast-paced, competitive business world, many professionals are feeling the stress of meeting management expectations. This often translates to heavy workload and hours of work overtime, in the name of getting more done and achieving results.

While being busy is good on a certain level, it is important to ask yourself whether you are being smart and efficient in how you are getting things done. If you are looking to work smarter and not harder while accomplishing more, here are three important tips to remember:

1) Make Your To-Do List Work for You

Start by writing down your tasks on a to-do list. Divide the list into three sections and rank your tasks in order of importance – high, medium, and low priority. This is a simple yet useful act, as it forces you to consider the time you need to complete each task and the deadlines to meet.

The next step is to highlight the first five tasks in the ‘high priority’ section of your to-do list for Monday. These are the tasks that keep you in the office and which you should complete by the end of the workday. You should always schedule to work on these tasks before populating the rest of your day with other tasks.

Once you are done with your to-do list for Monday, you should attempt to plan the rest of the week as much as you can. This will give you an overview of how busy your week is going to be and help you better manage surprise assignments or emergencies.

An effective to-do list can also provide you with the confidence to decline certain meetings you do not need to be part of and other tasks that can be managed by junior staff in the team. Empowering your juniors to take on relevant responsibilities can help them to build their confidence and experience, and reduce your workload, resulting in a win-win situation.

2) Identify Distractions at Work and Eliminate Them

Chatting with your colleagues, browsing e-commerce websites, and scrolling through your timeline or newsfeed on social media — these may seem like harmless leisure activities to break the monotony of the workday; however, if not done in moderation, they add up and could be the reason why you are not getting things done as fast as you should.

If the thought of reducing the amount of time you spend on these pleasures at work seems difficult, consider this: exercising more self-discipline at work and ruthlessly eliminating distractions mean that you get off work on time, and can spend more quality time with your family and friends.

Start tracking everything you do over the next couple of days to identify these distractions. If your smartphone constantly distracts you from work, put it on silent mode and keep it out of sight. Open all the webpages you need for work in your browser, and resist opening new ones that are unrelated to your work.

3) Accept That Multitasking Is a Myth

The ability to multitask is often seen as a desirable trait in working professionals. However, the reality is that our brains are not truly meant to be focusing on multiple tasks at the same time.

What many describe as ‘multitasking’ is actually the ability to quickly switch between different tasks. Anyone who has had to ‘multitask’ in such a manner will tell you that it can be exhausting and even unproductive, as the mind is constantly in a state of stopping and starting on different tasks. While you might be able to juggle several tasks, the amount of mental energy you need for each task becomes higher, and this may cause you to make mistakes.

The best way to manage multiple tasks is to assign a time block for each task (not forgetting to include some rest time between each block). During each time block, try and give the task at hand your full and undivided attention. You will find that this will help you get things done faster, compared to constantly ‘flitting’ from task to task.

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