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5 Ways To Avoid Falling Into The Efficiency Trap at Work

I need to ask you some questions. Especially if you tend to fall into the category of “perfectionist” or “overachiever.”

  • Have you ever completed an assignment at work well before the deadline?
  • Have you ever checked everything off of your to-do list only to find you still have four hours left in your work day?
  • Have you ever had a coworker or supervisor tell you that you work too fast?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, you’ve probably fallen into the efficiency trap at work.

In a nutshell, efficiency in the workplace is defined as the tasks a single employee completes in a single work day. While you might assume the more tasks you complete in a day, the better, you might actually be wrong. Completing as much work as you can is not always the hallmark of an outstanding professional.

If you’re employed by a traditional company, you probably have to work a minimum of eight hours a day. You clock in at 8:00 AM and work until 5:00 PM with a one hour lunch break in the middle. Your workweek is Monday through Friday, and any time off you require needs to be approved by management and taken out of your earned paid time off.

If these characteristics describe your reality, it doesn’t bode well to rush through your work just for the sake of getting it done.

Working too efficiently can actually backfire, as the time you have left in your work day will be spent by trying to look busy or taking on extra work to help your less efficient coworkers. 

Being too efficient can also have a negative impact on you because people will start to expect that you will complete everything early. Overachieving at this level means you’re likely headed straight for burnout. And ultimately that doesn’t help anyone.

Try these tips to avoid falling in the efficiency trap at work:

1. Take your time. 

It’s good to slow down and really get into the mode when you’re chipping away at a project. Think about your work, put your heart into it, and enjoy the process. Sometimes the more time you put into your work, the better the end result will be.

Take some time to outline your work and do additional research. Do a deep dive and learn as much as possible about what you’re working on.

Pay extra attention to the parts you feel compelled to rush through. Try looking at your work objectively through someone else’s eyes. What do you feel could be improved upon? Take your time through that and sharpen it as much as possible.  

2. Let things sit and come back to them.

Step away from your desk for a bit to clear your mind. Sometimes you can get too close to a project without even realizing it and it could distract you from seeing your work clearly.

Go for a walk, grab something to eat, or simply leave your desk to grab a coffee. Coming back to a project later could help you see things more accurately so you can identify any mistakes.

3. Check your work.

You might think your work is pure perfection (and maybe it is) but everyone can benefit from checking their work for errors.

Looks for misspellings, grammar issues, or miscalculations. Make sure your work is really ready to submit as final. Taking an extra day or three to go over everything with a sharp eye can help you spot any mistakes. 

4. Phone a friend.

Ask a coworker to give your assignment a preview to get someone else’s eyes on it. Your colleague might offer sound advice that could make your project at hand even better. Go the extra mile and ask your mentor as well. 

Having a second set of eyes on your work could improve the overall quality of your assignment and give you a chance to spend more time perfecting it.

5. Stand behind your end product. 

At the end of the day, everyone works differently. If you really are submitting your best work, and doing it quickly at that, then that is the way it is.

As long as your supervisor is happy with your work ethic and quality, stand behind what you bring to the office each and every single day.

If your efficiency at work is received well by your boss, you should be good to continue on as your normally do. However, if your supervisor asks you to slow down and redo work, it could be a sign you’re rushing to get the job done and the quality of your work is getting lost in the shuffle.

Be sure to assess your performance regularly to be your best self in the workplace. Good luck, fellow twenty-something – you got this!

About the Author

Rachael Warren (Tulipano)

Rachael is a University of Southern Maine graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in Sociology. She remotely works full-time as a Senior Content Marketing Specialist for Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. In her leisure time, Rachael enjoys traveling with her husband, finding the next Netflix series to binge, and taking too many photos of her dogs Jax and Kai. Rachael is obsessed with chapstick, favors the Oxford comma, and is a proud Mainer. You'll likely find her exploring New England + beyond.