How to Work Effectively and Efficiently

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Efficiency is reduced because people have to switch between platforms to find information or get work done. This all takes time which could have been spent in more productive ways.
Effectiveness is harmed because team members struggle to have access to all the resources they need to

A lot of people use efficiency and effectiveness interchangeably. Nevertheless, understanding and differentiating them is the first step if you want to start optimizing for them.

  • Working efficiently refers to producing a result in a way that consumes the least time, effort, and resources. For example, imagine you usually spend 4 hours on preparing an update report. If you suddenly manage to prepare the same report in 3 hours then you have increased your efficiency.
  • Working effectively focuses on the ability for the outcome to reach its goal. For example, think of two employees working in sales. Both have the same workload and perform the same tasks, but one outperforms the other by 20%. We can then conclude that the employee with higher performance is more effective. 

    How to work effectively and efficiently: 14 strategies

    Some work strategies focus on efficiency, others on effectiveness and some tackle both. In this guide, strategies are separated by category so you can pick and choose based on your own needs.

    4 work strategies to maximize your efficiency

    If you’re looking to improve your efficiency, then these 4 strategies can help maximize getting the most out of your working hours.

    • Reduce the number of meetings you’re in
    • Set up a working routine
    • Stick to your deadlines
    • Use asynchronous video sharing
    • 1. Reduce the number of meetings you’re in

      According to the Harvard Business Review, meetings often are run badly and take up too much time. Executives spend nearly 23 hours in meetings, up from <10 hours in the 1960s.

      If you can reduce the number of meetings you sit through while still making key decisions and moving forward with projects, then your efficiency is guaranteed to improve.

      This doesn't apply to meetings that actually matter, but it might help you avoid meetings that could have been an email. Curious how to fill the gap?

      • Documentation: Fewer instructional or last minute meetings are needed if people can easily find the information they need.
      • Asynchronous work: Set up work in such a way that people can finish their tasks without being too dependent on direct responses.
      • Task management: Organize priorities with task management to structure the work that has to be done and swiftly move across different responsibilities.

      Note that meetings do not need to disappear altogether. Instead, follow our virtual meetings best practices and make sure to communicate efficiently while documenting enough information so your team does not depend on lengthy meetings to be informed on what to do.

      2. Set up a working routine

      Having a set routine helps you make efficient use of your time. Implementing structure to your day gives you a sense of control and helps improve productivity.

      Figuring out at what time of day you are most productive and sticking with it helps. When? Chances are you know best.

      It’s important that your team understands the value of flexible and asynchronous work in order for this to succeed. If a company is strict on working hours or locations, it’s likely that some people get left out, which will hurt their efficiency in the long run.

      Figuring out when, where and how your are most productive helps with getting the most done in the least amount of time. It’s also important that you stick to your newly found routine. After all, it takes on average 66 days for a new change in behavior to become a habit.

      If you’re able to keep up with a schedule and workflow that maximizes for your when, where and how, you’ll know you’ve been successful at building a working routine.

      3. Stick to your deadlines

      Your team will likely waste time and resources when not defining timeframes for tasks. Deadlines are a key component in project management strategies to assess your workload and make sure resources aren’t wasted.

      Nevertheless, keep in mind that deadlines should not become a roadblock that hinders the effectiveness of a task. Doing something faster is not worthwhile if that outcome does not fulfill its goal.

      Avoid deadlines from hurting your effectiveness by focusing on urgency and importance. This is also known as the Eisenhower matrix. Balance whether a task has to be completed now or can wait for another time. It’s also important to think of how impactful a task will be.

      Implementing reasonable deadlines will also boost motivation as you can more easily say no to new work or receive satisfaction from making a challenging deadline.

      If you notice that output is dropping in quality (effectiveness) when sticking to a deadline, it’s important to discuss reprioritizing other work. Getting assistance from other team members or moving a deadline back are all possible solutions to this problem.

      4. Use asynchronous video sharing

      Asynchronous video sharing is a great way to replace unnecessary meetings. Record dedicated videos for a team member or direct the message to the team as a whole.

      This way you can communicate without added distractions if done correctly. No need to book time in everyone’s agenda and one less meeting. This is especially useful for presentations, onboardings or tutorials. Allow people to pause, watch back and take more effective notes.

      Loom is a tool specifically created to help you record these async videos. After sharing a link, team members can leave comments at different time stamps or respond with a custom emoji in-video.

      This improves efficiency as content remains relevant and doesn’t require you to explain things again to multiple stakeholders. 

      4 work strategies you can implement to maximize the effectiveness of your team

      Remember that effectiveness focuses on delivering high quality output. These 4 strategies for effective communication and work can be implemented on the daily.

      • Use meeting agendas
      • Create a weekly to-do list
      • Prioritize the most impactful tasks
      • Connect with your team

      1. Use meeting agendas

      When you need a meeting to accomplish specific goals, it’s important to have structure. We have discussed in our best practices for meetings how a meeting agenda is crucial to collaborate effectively and get the most out of your time spent meeting.

      Setting up meeting agendas before getting together helps ensure the correct team members are present, important information is read in advance, and people are well informed on action items.

      Make sure to send the meeting agenda at least 24-48 in advance so that everyone who is attending has enough time to prepare. We discuss the most important meeting agenda examples in a dedicated article, but here are some highlights:

      • Action items: What tasks need completing or what issues need resolving before meetings? For example, someone needs to upload a certain document.
      • Informational updates: What information should team members digest before getting together? Make sure to share in advance so you can avoid reading information and have a more in-depth discussion on the material.
      • Discussion topics: What should be discussed in the meeting? This can include brainstorming or open bullets for other team members to add their topics.
      • Relevant files: What documents should you attach to aid the meeting? Make sure to make cloud files easily accessible and available to everyone.

        2. A weekly to-do list helps with being effective

        It's hard to work effectively with scattered thoughts all over the place. A lack of organization will leave you stressed and unable to work on what will be most impactful. Weekly to-do lists allow you to start the week off right.

        By breaking large projects into smaller tasks, you organize your goals into achievable activities. This way, you prioritize work that is most important and relevant to achieving company goals and objectives.

        However, a to-do list might look different depending on your role, work preferences or priorities. If you are the kind of person that stresses over organization, a simple excel might lack functionality or become a timesuck to keep up-to-date.

        If so, take a look at more productive alternatives to a weekly to do list template. Internally we often use a bunch of Rock features to keep important tasks at hand:

        • We use Set Aside to store messages, tasks, notes and topics easily available.
        • Summarize all tasks across different spaces in a dedicated ‘My Tasks’ panel.
        • Organize tasks in sprints to reduce the cognitive load.
        • Discuss to-do’s in depth with topics, dedicated discussions in group spaces.
        • Use the task board in the personal space to organize priorities.

    3. Prioritize the most impactful tasks

    If you’re still left thinking - what should I start doing to collaborate effectively and get work done? A simple takeaway would be to prioritize. Prioritization allows you to make the most of your time at work.

    Being effective starts with your to-do list. Instead of cluttering up your list with low-impact tasks that overwhelm you, focus on tasks that drive value first. Start your day by selecting the tasks that are important and urgent, in line with previously discussed deadlines.

    4. Connect with your team

    A significant part of working effectively is fostering good communication within your team. Note that this does not mean scheduling redundant meetings. Instead, collaborate effectively by building an environment that is engaging and open. Here are some core strategies for effective communication to implement if you want to connect more with your team:

    • Trust: Trust is key to work effectively as a team. Teams lose effectiveness when trust is lacking as creativity and different perspectives are not nurtured.
    • Open feedback: Team members should share their thoughts and feelings, even if they are negative. Welcoming constructive criticism ensures that work relationships and output are optimized. Or if there are issues, they can be discussed and promptly resolved.
    • Recognition: Everyone should feel valued and receive the recognition they deserve. Team members feel more compelled to deliver valuable output if it’s recognized and celebrated by other team members.

    Communication goes beyond your close circle. You should extend it to other departments to really optimize team members’ effectiveness. This way, the process of improving cross departmental collaboration and cross functional collaboration is naturally incorporated into your workday.

    6 Work Strategies to implement if you want to work effectively and efficiently

    Now that we’ve shared some tips that focus on each point individually, it’s time to look into some activities that combine both working effectively and efficiently with others.

    • Take time off and rest
    • Set asynchronous work as your default
    • Use a project management framework
    • Implement task management in your team
    • Leverage documentation
    • Use all-in-one tools

    1. Take time off and rest

    If rest isn’t in your vocabulary, then you can forget about effectiveness and efficiency. Adequate rest is key to preventing burnout. It might seem counterintuitive, but working less is the real secret to create valuable output with the least amount of resources.

    Your brain is like a muscle. Without periods of rest between workouts, it will become fatigued and unable to perform at the highest level. Staying well-rested is essential to maintaining your concentration, motivation, and ability to solve problems.

    Make sure that everyone is well-rested and takes enough rest to avoid a toxic work culture. Within your strategies for effective communication; Introducing check-in questions for meetings and keeping an eye on types of communication styles can help you spot issues before they arise and act immediately.

    Rest is not just the occasional vacation. While taking time off is crucial, rest needs to be an everyday practice. For example, 10 minutes of daily mindfulness practice with positive affirmation for work can make a big difference in your productivity and health.

    2. Set asynchronous work as your default

    What’s the best way to work if you're looking to get effective and efficient output? We advocate for Asynchronous work as the default for collaboration. This methodology does not require all team members to be online at the same time, providing the whole team with more flexibility.

    Employees can focus on their individual efficiency and effectiveness without waiting for others to finish tasks. Think of it like a relay race instead of a sprint. A team member can pick up a task from another one without needing to wait for an “okay.”

    There is no need for constant check-ins, meetings, and consistent messaging that lead to interruptions. Employees can stay organized at work without relying on others. Moreover, asynchronous work allows you to choose the schedule that maximizes your productivity.

    You get the freedom to start your day according to your needs when you don't have to be online at the same time throughout your complete workday. Obviously some overlap is beneficiary, but it should not encompass 100% of your workday.

    3. Use a project management framework

    The right project management framework can help you organize your work in a more structured way. Project management provides you with processes and guidelines to help deliver efficient and effective output. To find the right one, ask yourself - what’s the best way to work for your team?

    Although there are plenty of frameworks, Agile vs Waterfall is one of the largest feuds in the project management sphere. Despite their differences, both have been adopted by major companies for their proven success. For example, companies like Apple and IBM use Agile due to its demonstrated effectiveness.

    When choosing a framework, consider your team's needs, project requirements, and organizational culture. By selecting the most suitable approach, you can optimize productivity and ensure a smooth project execution.

    4. Implement task management in your team

    Task management allows you to maximize your efficiency and effectiveness by breaking large goals into smaller stepping stones. This makes prioritizing, optimizing workflows and getting work done easier as it’s configured in smaller pieces.

    Since prioritization is key with task management, you can leverage the different features it offers to focus on the most important work. You can also track how many activities you finished in different time frames.

    This makes it easier to become more efficient as time passes. You can track how long you spend on different activities, and find back past activities without searching across folders or docs.

    Here are a few features within task management that can help you with managing your workload.

    • Deadlines: add a start or due date to your tasks and make sure that they are finished in time.
    • Connect with your team: use the comment section, assignees and followers to keep all relevant team members in the loop.
    • @mention: You can @mention tasks in comments, descriptions and outside of the Tasks mini-app to quickly set up a weekly to-do-list.
    • Prioritize: Tasks have a priority field: Highest, high, medium, low, lowest. Updating your tasks with this field allows you to filter all tasks to only see the most important to-do’s.

      5. Leverage documentation

      A core component to working effectively and efficiently is documentation. This consists of storing past activities and information in places that are easily accessible to you and the rest of your team. Here’s how documentation helps with efficiency and effectiveness:

      • Implementing documentation makes your team more efficient as they spend less time searching for relevant work information. Well documented teams can access important information without searching for too long or reaching out to one or more team members.
      • Teams become more effective through documentation because they have more information available when completing a task. They can also more easily access relevant activities or information from the past that can help improve the output. 

        6. Use all-in-one tools

        If you’re using multiple tools to communicate and collaborate with your team then bringing it all together might help your team. Disconnected workflows cause a lot of context switching. This reduces efficiency and effectiveness in the following way:

        • Efficiency is reduced because people have to switch between platforms to find information or get work done. This all takes time which could have been spent in more productive ways.
        • Effectiveness is harmed because team members struggle to have access to all the resources they need to provide valuable output.

        Rock combines messaging with tasks and your favorite apps so you can focus on maximizing effective and efficient work. This way you can avoid switching between a separate messaging and task management platform to get work done.