Do you find yourself consistently working late at the office, or even on the weekends? Achieve better work-life balance with these six steps — and you might find that you’re more productive, too.
You shouldn’t have to slave your life away to be considered a good employee.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where less work is often associated with laziness. It seems that only when you work hard can you play hard, but working hard shouldn’t always suggest overtime. There are ways to achieve quality work in shorter intervals.
The key is a concentrated mind and a calculated set of goals. Commitment, time-management skills and the freedom of a flexible schedule will send you on your way. Once these habits are instinctual, you will find that less really is more.
If you desire to work less and be more productive, here are six ways to use your time more effectively — and still get everything on your to-do list done.
Step One: Categorize your work
Divide your work into two categories: “Thoughtful” projects and “Mindless” projects. The content of a more mindless project will obviously vary depending upon your job and company.
For example, in an administrative setting, mindless work might include mailing, printing, copying, creating labels and other tasks that don’t require much critical or creative attention.
Step Two: Optimize time management
To complete both types of work quickly, decide what time of day your brain is most active. Be sure to fill this operational timeframe with your most thought-provoking tasks, ones that require ample motivation. If you choose to get Mindless projects out of the way early, brainstorm future assignments at the same time.
This way, you can make the most of your downtime. Don’t begin a Thoughtful project without a clear plan. You’ll waste valuable minutes staring blankly at your computer screen if you’re not already prepared.
The key to time management is becoming aware of where your attention goes and for how long. Keep track how long a particular task takes each day. Then, going forward, allow yourself this shorter span of time for that particular project. Set a timer if necessary.
Step 3: Use your commute
Do you notice that you tend to zone out during the morning commute? There may even be days you don’t even remember driving at all. However, this could be a great time to mentally prepare for the day ahead. As long as you don’t become too distracted, your commute can be a great time to spark ideas and creativity.
Getting into this mindset will not only get you ready for the day, but it will also encourage a positive outlook. Your workload will seem more manageable and you’ll have an outline for how and when to tackle each project. You’ll likely even more efficient and less stressed.
Step 4: Stop work when you leave
Working less means shutting down when the day is done. Your commute home should be for unwinding, not worrying about what you didn’t finish or what you still have to do. Nothing will be accomplished when you have clocked out mentally. Don’t drain yourself — instead, relax and remember tomorrow is another day.
Step 5: Avoid interruptions
Focus completely on one project at a time and don’t be tempted by distractions. We are the generation of multi-tasking: we text while we drive (even though we shouldn’t!), we use the phone while we email and we check Facebook every five seconds. But doing two things at once doesn’t make us good at any one thing. Every time we switch tasks our productivity suffers — and the quality of our work suffers, too.
You’ll be amazed how much more quickly you can complete tasks without interruptions. You’ll make fewer mistakes as well.
Step 6: Prioritize with lists
Create to-do lists: one for weekly goals and one for daily goals. Each morning, prioritize a few things on your weekly goal list to accomplish that day. (Click here to tweet this advice.)
This exercise allows you to control short-term and long-term objectives. It also helps you grasp of all your responsibilities and what should get done first.
If you finish your daily goals early, stop working. If you’re on a roll, check off a few more items from the week’s list. If you stick with this motivation, you could find the time to take a longer lunch, an extra coffee break or maybe even the freedom to ask for a three-day weekend.
The pride we take in our accomplishments shouldn’t coincide with the time it took to achieve them. These small steps can produce large results both in and out of the office. You’ll become more calm, collected, organized and direct. You will find yourself working less and still doing a great job. As a bonus, you’ll have more time to do what you love, which will reflect positively on your career.
Sarah Williams is a Berlin based motivational coach and self- development writer, whose biggest passion is observing people. She shares her thoughts on Wingman Magazine.