Ways To Avoid Falling Behind At Work

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz

Professional Human Resources (PHR) Certified

Do you often find yourself playing catch-up with work? Are you still at work in the office when you should be on your way home? You already know you work hard during the day but there are ways that you can work smart and get more done. You might even be able to get your job done in less time and have some time to relax before you leave for the day.

Plan Your Work Days

Do you come into work, open your email and just react to the first item of business? If so, stop! Take 5-10 minutes at the end of every work day to plan your tasks for the following day. Use whatever tools or mechanisms are ideal for you.

For many people, that’s a simple “to-do” list. Don’t spend the time complicating what the list looks like – it’s for your eyes only. Focus on the items that absolutely need to get done and keep non-essential items off of your list. Otherwise, our lists would never be completed, and people tend to find it harder to leave the office if they still have tasks staring back up at them from their to-do list.

Planning and prioritizing your work instead of reacting to what’s happening ensures that the most important items are completed. By allowing ourselves to be distracted by incoming tasks and requests, we’re taking our focus away from what truly needs to get done for us to feel good about walking out the door.

Set Alarms

Alarms aren’t just for waking up in the morning. Utilize the technology you have around you and set yourself alarms for tasks. Becoming more conscious of the time you’re spending on tasks will assist you with your daily planning.

If you happen to be someone who spends just a little too much time getting one task complete, setting an alarm will make you rethink how wisely you’re using your time. Sometimes three or four edits to a document aren’t necessary. If you don’t know when to stop, have an alarm do it for you.

Communicate With Your Colleagues

Do you openly communicate your attempts at improving your productivity with your co-workers? If the answer is no, you’re preventing those attempts from succeeding.

Use the tools you have around you to clearly state what your goals are for the day and when you are and are not available. If you have an office, shut your door when focusing on an important task. Leave a polite note on the door instructing co-workers not to disturb unless it’s an emergency. Believe it or not, a closed door isn’t always enough to avoid interruption.

If you work in an open office setting, invest in some noise cancelling headphones and a whiteboard. Use your headphones to block out noise and remain focused on tasks, and use your whiteboard to communicate with your co-workers. If your open office setting makes it impossible to not be interrupted, consider if there is available space in conference rooms or other areas that will provide some peace and quiet.

Many workplaces have that one co-worker who strikes up small talk with whoever is available. Sometimes it’s a quick “hello” but other times it’s an attempt at a lengthier conversation that isn’t work related. Don’t feel compelled to always engage in these conversations. You should let your co-worker know, that while you’d love to chat, you’re really trying to tackle your list before the weekend.

Email Is A Distraction

There aren’t many distractions quite as big as email. Incoming emails often take our attention away from the task at hand. Depending on your email service, you might even see a small pop up on the bottom of your screen that makes it almost impossible to ignore.

If you’ve properly planned your work day the night before, constantly viewing your email will almost definitely lay that plan to waste. The best option is to limit your email presence so you can spend the time you need to completing your work.

Map out times during the day when you check and respond to email. For most, that would include checking email upon arriving at your desk to ensure nothing urgent came through at the start of business. Spend no more than an hour reviewing and answering emails before you close down the email application for a few hours. Don’t tempt yourself by leaving the email window up in the background. That little notification box is sure to distract you away from achieving the productivity you’re aiming for.

Ask For Help

No one can do it all – no matter how hard they try. Many employees will continue to take on tasks and responsibilities even if they don’t have the time to devote to them. Or, the time comes at the expense of an employee’s beautiful Saturday.

Speak up if you feel overwhelmed. Don’t complain, but have a productive conversation with your boss or other team members. If others are feeling the same way, maybe it’s time for the company to open a new position or look into getting an intern.

If hiring a new team member isn’t possible, you might be able to delegate some of your workload. Your co-workers might need additional work or who are hoping for new experiences. Don’t be afraid to let people know you might need a hand.

Whether you put into place some or all of these productive behaviors, make sure they’ll stick! The idea is to never have to bring our work home with us so there isn’t burnout from an unmanageable schedule. Regularly review how these behaviors are working (or not working) so you can continue to show productivity in 40 hours or less.

About The Author

Robin Schwartz
LinkedIn

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz is a PHR certified HR professional with a broad range of expertise including recruitment, performance management, employee relations and talent management. She leverages her years of experience in HR to bring functional change to organizational leadership and direction to management structures and employees. Robin aims to empower the employees and managers she works with by providing coaching and counseling services.

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