How to be more efficient at work?

Efficient work is the same thing as smart work

I bet I'm not the only one who has googled “how to be more efficient?” at some point in their career. You know, those times when procrastination takes over and things just don’t seem to proceed? Yeah, we’ve all been there.

When I’ve been looking for ways to improve the efficiency of my own and my customers’ work, I’ve understood that being efficient is actually more about being smart about the task at hand. It means that working efficiently is definitely not about driving yourself on the edge of a burnout, quite the contrary. It’s about valuing the time you have during the workday and using that time wisely.

In order to use time efficiently, new – and quite frankly better – ways of working are required. These smarter ways of working include things like planning the use of time in advance, prioritising work and finding the perfect working rhythm for you. Let’s have a closer look at these practical tips later on, but first, it is important to understand what makes today’s working life so demanding and efficiency-oriented.

🆘 If you are in a dire need of productivity tips that actually work, skip ahead. 🆘

Modern working life can be demanding and stressful

For many employees, especially knowledge workers, there is never a moment when all the work is completed and absolutely nothing more can be done. There is always something in the backlog, tasks that have been waiting for a less hectic time to be completed. Or alternatively, it is time to look ahead and plan the next big thing.

On top of the never-ending to-do lists (yes, plural), we are easily overwhelmed with information overload. Email, social media and message notifications flood in constantly and we feel the need to be available non-stop. When our work is continuously interrupted, it is difficult to feel accomplished at the end of a long work day.

Ideally, you should have energy to do all the nice things your heart desires after work. If you feel that you have nothing left to give after the workday, it is perhaps time to check on your work-life balance. Are you trying to be efficient at the cost of your own wellbeing?

While remote work is a blessing to some, it is a curse to others. Feeling alone and isolated, poor cooperation with team members and lack of feedback lead to decreased work efficiency. I really want to stress here that although you can do a lot to improve your efficiency (many great tips below!), you are not the only one responsible for it. If you find yourself in a situation where you have too much work and/or not enough support, your manager should have the power to change things, too.

Finally, even if you get things done on time, it may not feel like you are efficient, due to the hectic nature of modern working life. At Gapps we have a vision about a better future and how to make work more enjoyable. Read more about how the future of work could look like. 

But to feel in control of your work immediately, let’s have a look at some practical tips you can do to turn things around.

Efficiency tips to work smarter, not harder

Improve your work efficiency with these practical tips. This section is co-created with my fellow Gappsians, who are passionate about making digital work smart and enjoyable.

Plan ahead 🧠

There is nothing worse than to be caught in a loop of ad hoc work and lose control of your task list. To minimise chaos, plan the next week or day in advance and do your best to stick to your plan. And be realistic about your to-do list, too!

How to do it in practice? Tips and tricks from Gappsians:

  • Check tomorrow's/next week's to-do list at the end of the day/week (whichever works better for your workflow). Is it realistic to get everything done in time or is some prioritisation needed?
  • Create and name themes for each week. This tells you where the core focus and most important outputs of the week are. This can be done on a daily basis as well.
  • If your role combines different responsibilities like manager work and customer work, try to book whole days for one role. Even if it doesn't work out 100%, it will reduce the need to jump from one role to another.

Break large projects into smaller tasks ✂️

It’s easy to procrastinate at the start of a big project, but remember, climbing the mountain happens one small step at a time. Accomplishing a number of small things makes you feel more efficient and it also takes you towards finalising the big project you are working on.

How to do it in practice? Tips and tricks from Gappsians:

  • Do one thing at a time. Multitasking may feel efficient, but it’s often not.
  • Motivate yourself by completing many bite-sized tasks that make up one large, cumbersome and demanding entity.

Prioritise tasks 🔢

Once you have broken down your work to smaller tasks, it is time to prioritise. Prioritisation should be an ongoing practice during the project you are working on.

How to do it in practice? Tips and tricks from Gappsians:

  • Use to-do lists (like Google Tasks) and add the most important tasks for today on the starred tasks list.
  • Schedule yourself a task power hour. Set yourself a number of tasks that you want to get done during the next hour, and get cracking!
  • Use The Eisenhower Matrix, also known as Urgent-Important Matrix, to prioritise work. Jamboard or Google Slides are good tools to visualise tasks, but pen and paper work, too.

Urgent-Important Matrix

Stay organised 💡

You can work more efficiently when you have all the needed information easily available. Set yourself up for success with categorising and grouping items that belong together.

How to do it in practice? Tips and tricks from Gappsians:

  • Use tab grouping in Chrome. Has kept my tab-hell in much better order and I tend to find information much faster.
  • Keep your email inbox tidy. Clean/archive answered and irrelevant messages from inbox. This way you always get on top of the inbox situation with a quick glance.
  • Colour-code notes/task to organise them by subject or urgency.

Know when is the most optimal time for you to work ⏱

This is not a quick fix, but rather the result of self-studying and learning about your own habits over time. Once you know what kind of rhythm works for you, reserve time for more difficult things when you feel most productive. Be mindful about your optimal rhythm when booking meetings, too. Read how organisations can rethink their approach to time management coaching.

How to do it in practice? Tips and tricks from Gappsians:

  • Learn how you use your time with the Time Insights feature on Google Calendar.


Master your calendar 📅

Closely related to the previous point, you need to be the master of your calendar, not the other way around. Calendar is your main tool in making sure you work in your most optimal time slots.

How to do it in practice? Tips and tricks from Gappsians:

  • Use your calendar to communicate your work rhythm to others (with focus time, out-of-office, location etc).
  • Avoid back-to-back meetings. Try to have 10-15 minutes of brain reboot time to orient yourself to the next meeting.
  • Use appointment schedules on Google Calendar to arrange meetings.
  • Integrate task management tools like with your calendar to see today’s task list in the same view as your meetings.

Help yourself to stay focused 🎧

Don’t let yourself get sidetracked when you really need to focus on something important. Your calendar is your friend also in this regard.

How to do it in practice? Tips and tricks from Gappsians:

  • Block focus time on your calendar and close Slack, email and other notifications for that time period.
  • Follow screen time on mobile and try to keep it <2 hrs. It's been a productivity boon for myself, even if some of the screen time obviously leaks to other devices.
  • Close all open apps, tabs and windows at the end of the day. This way every morning is a fresh start.

Remember to have breaks ☕️

Sitting for 8 hours straight is very dangerous for your health and sitting for long periods of time has a number of health concerns. In addition, letting your brain breathe is beneficial to your productivity. You should also have energy to do the things you enjoy after the workday, and if that is not the case, fixing your break habits is an easy first step.

How to do it in practice? Tips and tricks from Gappsians:

  • Add a daily reminder on your calendar to have an afternoon break. Have a snack, drink water and do a small stretching routine.
  • Get up every hour to do a little stretch, maybe some squats, stretches or something that will make your blood flowing and mind clearer.
  • Time your work-break rhythm, The Pomodoro Technique and TomatoTimer work for me!

Automate repetitive tasks 🤖

This one is a no-brainer – save time with automations. Many digital platforms offer easy ways to automate tasks that repeat. 

How to do it in practice? Tips and tricks from Gappsians:

  • Automate tasks in Google Sheets with macros.
  • Automate workflows on, save time and keep to-do lists in order.


Give and get feedback 💬

Collaboration is a wonderful thing! And with modern technology, you don’t even have to be in the same room to do it smoothly. When you collaborate, you are in an ongoing feedback loop with others, and iterations happen continuously. If collaboration is not an option, there are other ways to get feedback.

How to do it in practice? Tips and tricks from Gappsians:

  • Use emoji reactions on Google Drive shared documents to give quick and easy feedback to your colleagues.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback if you feel uncertain about the thing you are working on. Getting the “this looks great” signal is a sure confidence boost.

Feeling more efficient already?

I hope you find these tips useful and can incorporate some of them into your own workdays. If you think there is room for improvement in your organisation regarding shared ways of working and efficient processes, or you need help with Google Workspace or, we can lend a helping hand to you.

Subscribe to the Future of Work newsletter ✉️

Get a monthly overview of the most interesting news and resources that prepare you for the next steps of efficient, human-led working.

Subscribe now