Work efficiency is the key to success in almost every job.  For office jobs, you can start with small but obvious steps, like keeping your desk tidy, socializing less and minimizing online distractions. Sometimes, though, you need to make larger changes to the way you work and collaborate. If you are wondering what you can do to be more effective in your job, here are a few tips to help you reach maximum productivity:

1. Plan your day

Every morning, whether you are working from home or in an office, take a few minutes to make a list of things you need to accomplish by the end of day. If you have a lot to do and don’t know where to start, prioritize tasks by dividing them into three categories of urgency and importance:

  • Important and urgent — do first
  • Important but not urgent — do second
  • Neither urgent nor important — do as time permits

Being realistic about your planning can help you be more effective in your role. For example, don’t forget to take unanticipated events into account when budgeting your time. Responding to emails or tending to unplanned but urgent, in-the-moment tasks happens on a regular basis, so take that into account when estimating what you can accomplish on any given day.

Organizing your to-do list this way helps keep you from simply directing your energy into the things you like to do while putting off pressing tasks.

2. Stop putting out fires

In your job, are you mostly proactive or reactive? If much of your day is spent fixing mistakes and dealing with irate employees or coworkers, that means something in the department isn’t quite right and work efficiency is nowhere to be seen. When you’re super busy, it’s tempting to just put out a fire and move on. But in the long run, it’s much more efficient to carve out time, investigate the problem and find a proper solution.

Try keeping an incident log to see if you can spot patterns that lead you to the source of nagging issues — and prevent them moving forward. Gather information on which categories of employees experience problems, when they experience them, and so on.

After you’ve identified the root cause, implement changes and improvements. Yes, this process takes time, but it’s a worthwhile investment that’ll ultimately save time. When planning your day, don’t forget to set aside time for small steps that will actually save time in the long run rather than just putting out fires in the moment.

3. Get help when necessary

Almost everyone periodically gets hit with extra work. Some of this is predictable, such as during tax season or the annual enrollment period, while other times are one-off events like a merger and acquisition.

While many workers have experienced additional tasks and tight deadlines during heavy workload periods, it helps to prepare so that you don’t have too much to handle. Making errors because you’re trying to do too much — and having to correct them — is the epitome of wasting time.

One of the best ways to improve your department’s work efficiency is to hire temporary help for busy periods. Identify where the issues are, and let your boss know when the team is struggling to keep up so they can bring in reinforcements.

We all have days when we have less than 100% work efficiency, and that’s OK. But don’t get into the habit of always having to catch up and deal with emergencies — not when there are definite steps you can take to get more done in less time.

Whether you are hiring or looking for a job, learn how Robert Half can help.