How to Be More Efficient at Work

It’s not how much time you spend working that matters; it’s what you do in that time. Research shows that in an eight-hour workday, the average worker is productive for only two hours and 53 minutes. Regardless of the occupation in which you work, though, there are steps you can take to improve your productivity and efficiency on the job.

The Ivy Lee Method

Creating a list of tasks you need to accomplish is a simple way to become more efficient at work. When you complete a task, you can cross it off your list and move on to the next; thus, eliminating the possibility that you’ll forget certain tasks. The Ivy Lee method, however, goes one step further to improve the effectiveness of a conventional to-do list.

Pioneered by public relations expert Ivy Ledbetter Lee in the early 1900s, the Ivy Lee method involves creating a list of the six most important things you need to accomplish at work tomorrow. Instead of a long list of tasks with varying levels of importance, you’ll have a clean and concise list of just half-a-dozen of your most important tasks.

Work 40 or Fewer Hours

While 40 hours is the de-facto standard workweek in the United States, roughly half of all U.S. workers clock 50 or more hours. The allure of overtime pay may seem enticing, but it could backfire by hurting your productivity levels.

Research shows that workers who clock 50 or more working hours per week experience reduced productivity. Once they reach the 50-hour mark, workers’ productivity begins to drop sharply. By limiting your workweek to 40 or fewer hours, you can focus on completing tasks in the most efficient and productive manner possible.


Maintaining a physically active lifestyle is essential in preventing chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and more. However, it can also make you more efficient at work.

After examining more than 200 employees, researchers from the Leeds Beckett University in England found that employees who visited the gym the same day on which they worked were more productive, efficient and had better interactions with their coworkers than their counterparts who did not visit the gym. Exercise improves blood flow to the brain, fights fatigue and promotes healthy metabolic function. So, make sure exercise a part of your daily lifestyle, including your work days.


Don’t underestimate the impact sleep — or lack thereof — has on your ability to work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 70 million U.S. adults suffer from a sleep disorder. Lack of sleep increases reaction times, slows cognitive thinking and ultimately hurts workers’ productivity levels.

Consider the following tips to improve your quality of sleep:

  • Avoid caffeinated foods and beverages prior to lying down
  • Turn off the TV
  • Pull the blinds shut and close the curtains
  • Choose a supportive pillow that’s designed for how you sleep
  • Follow a sleep schedule
  • Avoid staying up late on weekends (or other non-working days)

Beware of Distractions

Distractions can interfere with your ability to work by diverting your attention away from the task at hand. It’s nearly impossible to avoid all distractions in the workplace, as many are out of your control. However, there are some distractions that you can control, such as email.

The average U.S. worker spends approximately 28% of his or her time at work checking and responding to emails. Email is an integral part of business for many companies, but it shouldn’t consume a quarter of your time on the job. Instead of checking your email every time you receive a notification, try checking it once every hour.

Snack breaks are another common workplace distraction that you can control. By taking fewer breaks, you’ll have more time to focus on your tasks.

These are just a few ways to become more productive and efficient at work.

Adam Richards

About Adam Richards

Adam Richards is a semi-retired business professional originally from Bangor, Maine. He spent the majority of his career in sales and marketing where he rose to the marketing lead of a Fortune 1000 company. He then moved on to helping people as a career counselor that specifically helped bring families to self-sufficiency through finding them rewarding careers. He has now returned to Bangor for his retirement and spends his free time writing. This blog will be about everything he learned throughout his career. He'll write on career, workplace, education and technology issues as well as on trends, changes, and advice for the Maine job market and its employers.