Whether you love your job or not, working too hard isn’t any fun. So why bother? If you could work less without losing your productivity, would you?

For some of us, overachieving has been branded into our brains. We worked our tails off to get THE job, but had no idea we’d turn into Percy Weasley. Yeah, that’s right. I just compared you to the most irritating Harry Potter character. And you can’t unsee its truth now, can you?

So how do you let go of this extreme level of effort without losing your work ethic and production? Try these 14 ways to be more productive, without working any harder.

  1. Leave Work at Work

You’ve been working six days a week for two years, and you’ve finally gotten that promotion you wanted. Now that you have the dream job, you feel like you have to maintain the same pace, right? Sure, but not at the expense of your health.

Too much work leads to poor health, stress and anxiety; your risk of heart disease goes up 67% when you do over 11 hours of work a day. Avoid taking work home with you – and avoid the negative baggage it brings with it. There are plenty of other ways to make sure your work gets done without having to do it after hours.

  1. Utilize Your Travel Time

The average person has a 30 minute commute each day. Even if you have a shorter commute, using your travel time to work over ideas can still speed up your workday.

Most of us tend to zone out on the drive, but if you take the time to mentally map out your plan for the day, or even use the time for a bit of meditation, you might solve a few problems or projects before you get to work, even if you’re just planning your weekly office prank.

  1. Don’t Allow Interruptions

I often keep my office door closed at work. Yes, some view this as antisocial, but when you have work to do — as you generally do since you’re at work — it helps block office distractions. When you consider how much of your day it’s taking away – over two hours, on average – closing that door gets a lot more tempting.

Imagine recouping those two hours to use more productively, even if you scatter those two hours over the course of the day into several short breaks. Just imagine, no more interruptions but more breaks!

  1. Sleep More

Getting a good night of sleep increases your ability to be productive, not just your productivity. Plus, when you’re dragging, the entire office knows it. So close your laptop an hour early and catch some ZZZs, instead.

  1. Set Personal Deadlines

When you set a deadline, if you think it will only take you a week to finish a project, tell the people waiting it’ll take up to two. If you finish early, you’ll be a hero. If you don’t, then no harm done.

It’ll also reduce any possible stress if you made an error in your estimate.

Even if you told your boss a project would be finished in a week, set your own timeline. Tell yourself, “I’m going to work on this for two hours” instead of “I’m going to work on this until it’s finished.” The personal deadline will help you stay motivated and focused, which will get the task done sooner.

  1. Stay Organized

You’ll save hours every week just by being able to find things. This includes keeping your email organized. Make some folders and start organizing things to keep unneeded messages from filling your inbox.

Also, if you get an email that will only take a second to answer, answer it. Don’t let messages pile up.

  1. Batch Related Projects

Sometimes switching from one project to another is difficult. You’ve driven a stick-shift before, right? It’s a lot like switching from 4th gear to 2nd.

Instead of a jarring switch, group related tasks together. You’ll find you transition between tasks faster with less interruption in your thought process.

  1. Enjoy Yourself

Work feels less like work if you actually enjoy your job. Take a few minutes every day to take a short walk. Joke around with coworkers, listen to music — if you’re allowed — and relax. Happiness actually boosts productivity too.

If you hit a point where you dread getting out of bed in the morning, it might be time to reevaluate how you do your job — if not your entire career.

Your 9 to 5 shouldn’t make you miserable. Yes, you’re working, but you choose to be there, so why be unhappy?

  1. Just Say “No”

This might seem impossible, but you do have the right to say “no” to new projects. Or at least set reasonable deadlines. You’ll be doing less work but your quality of work will go through the roof.

  1. Don’t Eat at Your Desk

You probably think that you’re more productive when you stay at your desk to eat because you’re not wasting time in the lunchroom. That’s not the case, though.

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t eat at your desk, and the dip in productivity is just one of them.

  1. Stop Multitasking

The best definition of multitasking is the ability to do a lot of things at the same time poorly. That’s not exactly productive, is it?

Prioritize your tasks and work through them one at a time, focusing only on the task at hand. You’ll finish everything much faster.

  1. Keep Learning

You know what speeds up productivity, which, in turn, allows you to work less? Learning new things.

Learning new things keeps your mind sharp and provides a way for you to keep up with current business trends, which keeps you one step ahead of competitors. Honing your skills means you’ll have the potential to work smarter, not harder.

  1. Delegate

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of assignments, but if you have a task that suits another employee who maybe isn’t as busy, don’t be afraid to pass it on. This increases the overall productivity of the company.

  1. Don’t Panic

This swings us right back to managing stress and anxiety. Don’t panic. If you make a mistake, it’s okay. Mistakes don’t necessarily mean that you have to work overtime, they just mean that you’re human. In fact, if you aren’t making occasional mistakes you might not be working hard enough.

Take a deep breath, sort out the problem, and schedule time to correct the issue. It’s just one more thing for your to-do list, not something that increases your heart rate.

Effective work tactics will enable you to maintain — or even increase — productivity even though you’ll feel like you’re not working as hard. Organization and planning are a big part of working less, but it’s also about your mindset. Stay happy, stay healthy and don’t let those deadlines whoosh by too quickly.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

1Pingbacks & Trackbacks on 14 Ways to Work Less and Still Be Productive

  1. […] Time Management: Any task can seem insurmountable if you don’t put a limit on how long you have to work on it. Fortunately, there are many techniques that can break that time down into manageable tasks. A popular one named the Pomodoro Technique breaks work down into 25-minute chunks, followed by a 5-minute break. Find a technique or app that works for you and use it. In addition to managing your time, try managing your work style so you can get more done in less time. […]

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