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Being Productive Without Putting In Overtime

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We here at The Methodology Blog are always searching for ways to be more efficient at work. It can seem impossible to get everything done in one day without putting in extra hours. So how can you finish your work and still leave the office on time?

Many of us put in 40 hours a week at work. Even that can feel overwhelming at times. When there is an important project or deadline that needs to be completed, it can demand even more than those dedicated 40 hours. You may find yourself sitting at your desk, jealously watching coworkers clock out at 5:30 and resign yourself to putting in extra hours, maybe for the rest of the week. Better make an extra strong pot of coffee and get to work. But what if there was a better way to manage your schedule, meet your deadlines, and still make it out of the office at quitting time?

workplace productivity clocking out

© Flickr user Patrick Hoesly

Eric Barkeer writes in The Week concerning this exact issue. Barker reached out to his friend, Cal Newport, who seems to be a genius at getting work done and leaving the office at exactly 5:30 PM every single day. Newport, who is a full-time professor at Georgetown University, teaches classes, meets with students, pens several peer-reviewed academic journal papers every year, blogs, has written four books and somehow manages to be married and father to a young child. So how does he get this all done while rarely working a weekend or putting in overtime? Check out his tips and our thoughts below:

1) To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.
We’re pretty fond of to-do lists around here. Writing out the day’s tasks can help ease a scattered brain. In fact, one of our guest bloggers suggests keeping that list to just three items. But as Barker points out, sitting down and writing out a bunch of stuff you have to do is only the first step. Go the extra mile and schedule those tasks. Just because you jotted down “take care of emails” as your second item for the day doesn’t mean that it’s actually efficient to handle because it happens to be #2. Looking at your calendar and plotting out the timing of your to-do list is necessary!

2) Assume you’re going home at 5:30, then plan your day backwards.
So you’ve decided to leave on time today. What’s next? Give yourself a deadline. Don’t leave your entire day open to just complete work as it pops up throughout the day. If you give yourself those 8 hours to get work done, the deadline being your specific clock-out time, you’re less likely to end up getting stuck finishing things. This is why actually scheduling your duties off of your to-do list is so important, and working backwards can help you finish on time.

3) Make a plan for the entire week.
Most of us have a hard enough time planning a day, let alone an entire week. But Newport insists that looking at the bigger picture is necessary:

“People don’t look at the larger picture with their time and schedule. I know each day what I’m doing with each hour of the day. I know each week what I’m doing with each day of the week and I know each month what I’m doing with each week of the month.”

Sure, things will pop up along the way. But if you know your schedule, then you can accommodate these issues and work around them.

4) Do very few things, but be awesome at them.
This is a great piece of advice. No, you won’t get every single thing on your to-do list done, but trying to do that is what gets you stuck in your chair later than necessary. You’re taking on too much! Our employee productivity experts have discussed how necessary it is to say no. Get rid of unessential tasks and give your attention to things that are actually a priority. And do them excellently.

Good work can be completed within a 40 hour week, but it requires some efficiency. If you’re interested in learning how your organization can use its time better, contact us at Accelawork.

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Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea transplanted from Illinois to South Carolina. She loves to write, read, and spend time with her dog and her family. Alyssa is very active on social media. She has been part of the AccelaWork team since 2013.
Alyssa Shea

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