When you are swamped at work, you may assume you’re going to have to burn the midnight oil for days just to keep up. However, you can work long hours every day and never get ahead, which is both physically and mentally exhausting. The answer to tackling a pile of work is not necessarily to simply work more hours. In fact, research has shown that working longer hours doesn’t mean you get more accomplished. A study out of Stanford University indicated that someone who worked 70 hours a week finished about the same amount of work as someone working 55 hours per week. The takeaway is that by working LESS, you might actually be more effective.

Instead of ramping up your work hours, consider the following to increase productivity and efficiency.

Limit Your To-Do List

When you have a project, you may be tempted to list every tiny detail that needs to get finished. Not only can this be overwhelming, but it can also bog you down in non-essential tasks that take away from time dedicated to your most important tasks. Limit your lists to three to five of your most important tasks and focus on those – one at a time – before turning to the less critical things.

Results are More Important than Time

When a task takes longer than you expected, you may start feeling bogged down and your attitude can quickly take a turn for the worse. Instead of focusing on how long the task took, look at how much you accomplished by completing the task. You got ahead and were able to deliver something of value, which was your goal. Focusing on time will always make you feel like you are racing against the clock, which is not a productive mindset.

Create a Routine

There is a reason that humans are creatures of habit – it is because our brains work best when they know a routine. When you follow an established routine, your brain won’t have to think as hard about what you’re doing, and you can almost finish tasks on autopilot. This saves time and energy, allowing you to move on to the next task quicker.

Automate and Delegate

If you have to make decisions about every little detail each day, it can be exhausting and can bog you down. When certain aspects of your work are automated, you don’t have to spend the time making those decisions or completing those tasks. When you create systems that automate tasks or you delegate tasks to trusted colleagues or contractors, you will have more time and energy to devote to the decisions that matter most.

Keep a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Humans are not machines, and they cannot plug away at work indefinitely without losing steam – or possibly having a breakdown. You need to take time away to relieve stress and engage in non-work activities. Even you enjoy your job, your job should not be your entire life. You will look forward to getting to work more if you take some much-needed time off.

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