How to do your job better without working harder

Everyone seems relieved to see the back of January! It always feels like a very long slog. The festive season is rapidly becoming a distant memory, the weather is cold and dark, and there is far too much month left at the end of the money! And, to cap it all, any New Year resolutions you did make seem to evaporate within days.

But the good news is that you can make change happen at any point of the year. For example, you may well have started 2023 determined to not get so bogged down in work, and achieve a better work-life balance. If that is beginning to feel like an unachievable goal, Munzee can help! 

In this article we share ten tips that can help you to change your approach to work. Even if you only manage to try a couple of them, these small changes to your daily working life can start to make a difference.

Let’s take a look . . . . 

Set yourself goals every day

There’s an old saying along the lines of if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there. You may often end your working day frustrated because you feel you haven’t achieved anything. But if you are not clear what it is you are trying to do, it’s very easy to end up going round in circles.

So at the beginning of each day, set goals for that day. Research indicates that most people can only hold around four things at once in their working memory. So when making goals it makes sense to focus on four main things that you want to achieve during the day. You can always add more later if you get everything done! But it’s best to start off by being realistic and you stand more chance of success.

list, which you can move onto if you have time. But if you focus on four key priorities you are more likely to make progress.

Don’t get sidetracked

This is a tricky one. On the one hand, if you are part of a team and/or are customer-facing then you do need to be able to react quickly when needed, and to “muck in” with everyone else. On the other hand, many interruptions during a typical working day are not urgent or essential. It’s more a case of someone trying to offload their priorities or stress onto you. And, if you work from home, you may also get well-meaning interruptions from family or friends who don’t get that you’re supposed to be working.

Three things that may help deal with an interruption are

  • Block out one or two periods in the day when you make it very clear there are to be no interruptions at all, unless it is a genuine emergency. 
  • Do your best to hide away during your uninterrupted time, so that people can’t even find you to interrupt.
  • Flip the interruption round by fixing a later time to talk to the person who is interrupting you, making it clear that you are willing to help but now is simply not convenient.

Plan your time

If you have a degree of freedom over the hours you work, it’s a really good idea to decide each day the time you will finish. Then make sure you start winding work down and tidying away etc in time to meet that deadline. This applies just as much – if not more so – to working from home. There needs to be a cutoff point beyond which work is finished.

If you don’t discipline yourself to do this, it is all too easy to keep going and “just finish this”, or to keep checking your emails late into the evening. So be as strict as you can about this to protect your time.

Also consider how you are going to break up your work day. It’s good to understand yourself, and learn how you work best. Then you can tackle the most difficult or complex task at the time you are most productive. You can also recognise whether you achieve more by getting your head down and working on something until it’s finished, or by rotating tasks around to keep your mind fresh.

There are no rights or wrongs here. Everyone is different, and you just need to find the most effective working pattern for you.

Don’t be afraid to take a break

Many of us feel guilty if we take a break at work. But even a short break can refresh you and help you to work more efficiently. 

So if you’re in an office, at least get up, walk around, and stretch your legs. Maybe nip out for a coffee or to make a quick phone call. Anything to break up the routine. And if you’re at home, take 5-10 minutes to do something completely different, such as have a coffee, do a small domestic task, or have a go at a crossword or Sudoku. 

And always take a lunch break. Ever since Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko said that lunch is for wimps, there has been a bit of a stigma about taking a proper lunch break. But stuffing a sandwich at your desk or – even worse – skipping lunch altogether is not good for you. Even if you can only grab 15-20 minutes, at the very least get a breath of fresh air and a healthy snack somewhere away from your desk. Taking a few minutes out to care for yourself is more important than being chained to your desk.

Be clever about meetings

One of the few positive aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic was that it brought the value of online meetings into the general consciousness. And now that is often the default mode for a meeting, which makes sense in all kinds of ways, for example reducing travelling time and costs.

But whether a meeting is face to face or online, it can still be a waste of time. Time that could often be better spent by getting on with the work that needs doing rather than talking about it.

So if you are either setting up a meeting or are invited to one, ask yourself whether it is really the most effective way of getting things done. If so, everyone needs to be briefed and prepared as fully as possible in advance to minimise the information that needs to be repeated in the meeting. 

Also make sure there is a clear agenda and time limit agreed for the meeting so that there is no opportunity for things to drag on unnecessarily.

Always take notes

It’s amazing what we think we are going to remember during a work conversation, then realise afterwards that we have forgotten most of it. One thing that helps here is to always take notes. Whether this is in a notebook or on a device is completely up to you, but you will find it valuable to refer back to after any kind of conversation or meeting.

Note taking is also helpful if you need to research a bit of background information, or write down an explanation of something that you don’t understand very well. It’s also invaluable to note down step by step any kind of technical task that you don’t have to do very often. Otherwise it will be just like starting from scratch next time.

Keep things tidy

This can sound very dull, but you really can save a lot of time and hassle at work if you tidy things away as you go. Many of us have an in-tray full of paperwork that doesn’t really need to be there. And/or an email inbox full of all kinds of messages.

But ideally, your in-tray and inbox should be empty apart from anything you are actively working on right now. So rather than letting them mount up then having to have a massive clearout – and possibly find all kinds of important things you have forgotten – why not sort things out as you go.

From now on, as soon as anyone gives or sends you anything, decide whether you need to:

  • Do something with it. If so, when? There’s no time like the present.
  • File it away.
  • Pass it on to someone else to deal with.
  • Throw it away / delete it.

And just do it.

Don’t struggle

A lot of work time can be wasted trying to do something you either have not done before or can’t remember how to do. And it can all get a bit stressful. But you can usually shortcut all this just by asking a colleague for help.

Some of us find it difficult to ask for help, feeling as if it’s somehow a sign of weakness or will cast a question mark on our competence. But none of this is true, and it is actually a more sensible and professional decision to get help with something rather than waste precious time trying to work it out for yourself.

Work collaboratively

Just as you should be prepared to ask colleagues for help, others may well need your help too. So be proactive about offering your time and advice when it’s convenient to do so. This can also help to boost the social side of working life if you are working from home. 

Another idea is to trade work tasks with a trusted colleague. For example if they are really good at putting together presentations and love doing it, whilst you are a bit of a spreadsheet whizz, you could potentially help each other with these aspects of your work and both get things done more efficiently.

Never stop learning

When you are bogged down in the day to day grind, learning something new can be the last thing on your mind. But improving your existing skills and learning new ones is good for your mind, and could also help you to develop in your career. So always be looking out for opportunities to learn and develop, and also take time to network with other professionals in your field and learn from them. 

Just as important is to learn for fun. Whether it’s a new language, a musical instrument, a sport or game . . . why not? Life is not just about work, and also learning something new that we enjoy can keep our minds active and lift our spirits, which will feed into our overall satisfaction of life and work.

We hope that this article helps you to start making small changes to your working life and, in time, to find a better work-life balance.

Good luck! And do check back here soon for more lifestyle and financial tips from direct lender Munzee Loans.