5 ways you’re making your job harder than it needs to be

  • If you’re not an efficient worker, you may be making your job harder than it needs to be.
  • Productivity expert Peggy Duncan said organisation is the key to efficiency on the job.
  • Duncan told Business Insider the five biggest ways you’re wasting time at work and making your job harder.

Peggy Duncan thinks you’re spending too much time getting too little done at work.

Duncan is a personal productivity coach who helps clients improve their work efficiency, and she’s observed countless ways workers aren’t making the most of their time.

In the long run, an inefficient workflow can make your job harder than it needs to be, she said.

“If you want to get your life back and if you don’t want your job to kill you,” Duncan told Business Insider, it’s important to get organised and understand where your time goes.

Here are the biggest reasons Duncan said you’re making your job harder than it needs to be.

You’re unclear about where your time goes


Have you ever gotten to the end of your workday and wondered what you did with your time?

You didn’t finish the report that was due yesterday. Your desk is a mess. Maybe you work longer, frantically trying to catch up. You feel stressed, miserable, anxious.

Duncan has seen this many times.

“You have no idea how long things take, so you underestimate,” she said. “You have to analyse how you’re spending your time so you know where it’s going, how long it takes, and what’s getting in the way of getting it done.”

Duncan said that it’s important to know things like whether someone is interrupting you to ask the same question five times a day. You won’t see the patterns unless you write it down.

“Keep a little simple time log for a couple of weeks,” she said. “Jot down everything that you’re spending time on.”

In addition, note whether each activity was important. If someone interrupted you, write down the reason.

There’s chaos in your computer


Once you understand where your time goes, Duncan recommends turning your attention to organisation – everything from your desk and your computer files to your clothes closet and junk drawer at home.

“Being disorganized is why you don’t have any time,” Duncan said. “You’re spending too much time looking for something all the time.” She recommends giving up two or three weekends, initially, to organise your life.

“You’re going to get that time back,” she said. “You won’t be as stressed. Your confidence is boosted. Your coworkers have more confidence in what you say.”

But organising is a process that takes time and maintenance – “You just can’t go ‘poof!’ and all is well,” she said.

Think of it as Marie Kondo-ing your inbox and beyond.

“The same principles apply. The principles of organising don’t change,” Duncan said.

You have mangled priorities


Maybe you handed that report in late because you spent too much time helping Bob fix his spreadsheet or searching through your inbox for that important email Jo sent you.

Once you have a clear picture of where your time goes and you organise your stuff both physically and virtually, your next challenge is to use that newfound time in a better way. You’re ready to reclaim your priorities, Duncan said.

“You prioritise based on what’s closest to the money,” Duncan said. “What is going to get you paid? What is going to get you a raise? Which clients pay you without any hassles? Those are your priorities.”

You’re reinventing the wheel


Duncan worked at IBM after college, which gave her an appreciation for the power of process and procedure. She sees people lose time at work by failing to systematize routine tasks.

“If you do something more than three times, you need a system,” Duncan said. “If you look at your core work, you need a process.”

“Everybody who touches the work needs to be at the table developing the process,” she said. “Don’t make it too complicated.”

You miss out on educational opportunities


Whether it’s mastering the lesser known features of Excel or simply learning how to type with two hands instead of two fingers, Duncan said it’s critical to get the proper training in whatever technology you use on the job.

“Whatever technology you touch every day, you need to learn how to use it,” Duncan said.

There are lots of ways to increase your skills, from YouTube videos, instructional books, and online manuals to the free software trainings that many companies offer to their employees.

It takes time to master something, of course, but in the long run, it will save you time by automating tasks you do manually.

“You touch this stuff every day. That’s why it’s taking you hours to do something that (you could) do in a few minutes. This is why you don’t have any time,” Duncan said.