14 Ways to Get More Work Done

Almost everyone faces the challenge of doing more in less time—and that’s not about to change anytime soon.

In the past, those with lots of experience fared well. But not today. Experience holds us back—it only has value in a never-changing environment. Expertise is what prepares us for what we must do next so we can face the future with confidence.

The challenge, then, is transitioning from experience to expertise. Here are 14 ways to stop looking to the past for answers—and get more work done while you’re at it:

1) Adopt the right mindset. Experience short-circuits the thinking process. We go from zero to 60 in a split second and tear into tasks because we’ve been there before and think we know what to do. When entering uncharted territory, put that experience aside and approach tasks with an analytical mindset.

2) Give yourself time. It’s easy to deceive ourselves into believing we do our best work in a crisis or at the last minute. But where does that leave us when we run out of time? The answer: in trouble, making excuses and feeling overwhelmed.

3) Work on it, then let it sit. The best solutions rarely, if ever, occur on the first attempt. Whether it’s writing a report or working on a project, the human mind needs noodling time to work in the background without pressure. Remember, everything can be improved.

4) Avoid confrontations. This isn’t easy, particularly since we all seem to possess an urge to be right. When you come into contact with an opposing view, consider it a signal to take a closer look at your own views rather than pushing back to regain balance.

5) Second-guess yourself. Why are we always surprised when things go wrong? Ask yourself “what if” questions to foresee possible outcomes. Then, when asked about alternatives, you can say you considered various options and explain why you chose this one.

6) Learn something new. If you can do your job without thinking about it, you’re probably bored and underproductive. The human mind gets moving and stays active by coming up with new ideas, making improvements and solving problems.

7) Go beyond what’s expected of you. It’s easy to say, “I’ve reached my limit” or “I’m not paid to do that.” Everyone feels that way at times. But if we stay in our comfort zone, we can count on dismal days ahead.

8) Be present. The average employee spends just under eight hours a week on personal stuff while at work, most of it involving email and social media. For those ages 18-34, add another two hours a week to that average, according to a survey from staffing firm Office Team. That’s a whole day of the week of not being present.

9) Ask questions. Have you ever started a task only to discover you’re on the wrong track? Most of us have—too many times. It occurs when we’re too sure of ourselves or too embarrassed to ask questions. Asking the right questions is a sign that your thinking about what you’re doing.

10) Look for possibilities. Instead of just doing your work each day, take it to another level by interacting with it to improve it. Ask yourself: Is it clear? Is it complete? Will the recipient understand it? Is it necessary? Will it make the right impression? What have I missed? Should I start over? Is it time for another set of eyes?

11) Have clear goals. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish today, then add another target for the coming month, and so on. When you know where you’re going, the tedium fades.

12) Eliminate confusion. We may not be in a position to control the confusion around us, but we can avoid adding to it. Make sure your messages are accurate and complete, update address books and other files, and meet deadlines so you don’t leave others waiting.

13) Raise your standards. Others respond to us based on how they view us. Do they see you as someone who gets things done, takes quality seriously and demands a lot from yourself? Make a conscious decision about how you want to be perceived.

14) Take on a challenge. Nose around to see what you can find, drop a few hints, even raise your hand. But be sure it’s something you want to sink your teeth into. If it is, you might have a great time doing it.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer.