I got my first real job at a car wash during my freshman year of high school. I still remember eyeing the place for years, seeing similar-aged kids working there, all wearing this super cool red sweatshirt. Of course the reality of working there was something less dreamy. There were lessons learned there and at other stops along my career that revealed one truth to me: efficiency in the workplace is important.
But knowing that is only half the battle. How can we be efficient?
I think efficiency in the workplace is accomplished with 3 keys: setting goals, making plans, and establishing a routine. As full as my schedule became, these habits never let me down.
My simple definition of goal setting is to identify something that you would like to accomplish.
Setting goals is best done each morning. You might run a report or organize your to-do list. The key is to do this early. At one of my prior jobs I would run a report first thing in the morning that informed me of the new inpatients in the hospital. Then my goal for the rest of the day was clear and simple: visit all of the new inpatients before lunch.
You might be thinking spending time time setting up goals in the morning like this is a waste. You could just get to work. Setting goals to increase efficiency works because it helps you focus, and depending on your personality it can trigger your competitive nature or provide comfort in there being a “plan”. Your goals do not have to be complicated- they do not have to extend over the next few months or years. In fact, to get started, try setting a short term goal- get a task done in a few hours, or even minutes.
Once you start setting goals, you’ll run into the inevitable first road block. What to do when more than one goal is required? That is where the next key to efficiency comes in. Make a plan. I set up a calendar system to keep me on track. I input task details, meetings, and important deadlines. When I have a project to complete, I block out times of the day to specifically focus on that. Planning time in this way keeps us focused on the goals we set, and become efficient, regardless of what gets thrown our way.
Benjamin Franklin imparted these words of wisdom unto us long ago: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
I could not agree more. If efficiency at work is important to you, you need to learn how to make a plan.
When it comes to efficiency, planning is key. Planning suggests that you are coordinating your time with the tasks that must be done. A plan, much like a goal, can be short or long-term, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. I recommend starting with something as simple as a calendar, or perhaps a tool that can be incorporated into your communication channels at work. However you choose to do it, remember to always plan. Your efficiency depends on it.
Establishing a Routine
Setting goals and making plans are only effective if they become a habit. A habit is formed when a behavior is performed regularly, or routinely, and that makes establishing a routine the final key to being efficient. As per science, once a habit has formed, your brain works less strenuously because it can now devote its mental activity to new behaviors. While it seems boring and kind of lame to establish a routine at work, I can tell you that it is worth it because it produces high efficiency in task completion.
Going back to my time as a Patient Advocate, I can recall my morning routine exactly:
When I stayed within this routine, I found that not only did I accomplish tasks more quickly over time, but also, I had ample time in the afternoon for anything that presented itself and required immediate attention.
I recommend starting a routine. Maybe it doesn’t look anything like this example, but I guarantee that you can structure at least a portion of your day into a routine. Your brain will thank you by allowing more room to think creatively and productively, and your efficiency levels will increase.
Goal setting, planning, and establishing a routine are vital to your success in workplace efficiency. You don’t need some special skill or inherited trait to get good at setting goals, making plans, or even establishing a routine, all you need is practice, and the desire to be efficient.