We all wish we could be more efficient with our time, and there’s a vast array of advice out there telling us how. But which of it is genuinely useful? I’m going to target five steps you can take right away to improve your personal effectiveness; not just for work, but in all aspects of life. We can all improve our attention to detail and concentration skills. Let’s narrow it down:
- Optimum speed
Do you have a task sitting in your in-tray right now that you’ve been working on for what seems like weeks, and can’t quite shift? An incomplete job can feel like its weighing you down. How can we productively complete that task for good without making mistakes?
Errors are caused when work is rushed, you’re stressed or panicked, or you’re bored. Make sure you’re working fast enough so that your brain is only focussing on the task in hand and doesn’t wander off to think about other things. You can’t do more than one cognitive task at a time, so try to achieve an optimum speed by setting and working to achievable deadlines.
- Check every detail
You may do this already. But are you doing it properly? In an ideal world, once a piece of work is complete, we’ll scan it once over for mistakes. Simply scanning a document doesn’t work. You need to be alert to the possibility of error. Whenever you check a document, remind yourself that ‘there’s a mistake here somewhere and I’m going to find it’. With this mind-set, you’ll stop errors from slipping through, and get things right first time.
- Be present-minded
I get easily distracted at work, and it’s not hard to see why. Interruptions come from all sides. I’ll be offered a cup of tea, the phone rings, an email alert appears onscreen, my boss interjects with a question, or the morning postwoman arrives. Sound familiar? It’s easy to lose a train of thought and get in a pickle.
To combat this, I focus on one task at a time, and am fully present-minded as I complete it. I’ve made changes to my work environment to reduce the risk of interruption, by simply turning off email alerts and selecting ‘do not disturb’ on my phone (this is hands down my best discovery of the year so far). If you focus on one project at a time, you can prevent confusion and mistakes.
- Choose productive time frames
I work best as soon as I wake up. It’s in these golden five hours or so, before hitting lunch, that I can think clearly and critically. After eating, my brain decides to focus on digestion, so my alertness drops. Suddenly it’s much harder to stay present-minded and think methodically. This is where the potential to make mistakes lie.
To combat this, I’ll switch my efforts to concentrate on a different kind of work. Generally, I find spending the early afternoon on a creative task – like writing a blog post – to be a productive use of my time. You too will have time frames where you’re naturally more alert, and you should have a good idea of when these are. Balance your time appropriately by assigning different types of work to different times of day.
- Never feel guilty taking breaks
This is something I wish I had told myself sooner. Some people view ‘productivity’ as meaning completing as much work as possible in a certain time frame. I now view ‘productivity’ as getting the best work done in a certain time frame. Achieve quality, not quantity.
To ensure this happens, remind yourself to take regular ergo breaks to maintain overall health. Respond to your body’s signals that it’s uncomfortable or fatigued. This doesn’t simply mean popping to the loo, or making a cup of tea. You must use this time to engage with your muscles which will reduce the risk of injury at work.
Take an ergo break right now to get your body moving! Pull back your shoulders in circular motions, rotate your ankles and wrists, and turn your waist left and right. Supplement this by alternating your posture throughout the day, and as the days get sunnier, walk out in the fresh air.
With these steps, you’ll get things right first time, and you’ll feel good about it. Think about every angle of a task and check documents properly to avoid making silly mistakes. If you get the little details in your work right, your overall productivity will increase. When you return to a task, approach it with our five steps: 1. Achieve an optimum speed, 2. Check the details, 3. Be present-minded, 4. Work with your time, 5. Take regular breaks. And remember, there’s a mistake there somewhere, and you’re going to find it. With the right mind-set, you can achieve anything.
If you want to train yourself how to work accurately and efficiently, you might like to attend our open accuracy skills workshop, One-day Accuracy Skills, in London on 12th April 2018 or in Manchester on 16th May 2018. It’s a perfect introduction to accuracy fundamentals. You’ll learn how to develop your concentration skills, improve your document checking techniques and pay attention to the details. Develop an accuracy mind-set and manage your time for accurate outcomes.
Accuracy Asides is the name of our accuracy blog
You get to hear about our latest accuracy course results, the real-life 'bloomers' which come to our attention and all the latest news and juicy gossip about errors! We share accuracy tips and advice too.
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