As a corporate employee, how can you work less and achieve more?

Aditi Chakraborty
7 min readNov 8, 2023

If you are a corporate employee, you understand the challenges that come with managing your time, completing work, meeting people and managing them, all at the same time. We often wish for 24 hours to be packed in those 9–10 hours. Meetings, work, collaboration and more meetings. There is a need to work more hours to prove you are a valuable employee.

But the point is, your productive hours in a day are limited. It’s at about 3–5 hours per day when extremely focused irrespective of how many hours you work. So how can we design our day to use our more productive hours to finish all the work there is, achieve your goals and still be at peace mentally!

Setting Priorities for Efficiency

The first step to achieve more in the least time possible is by setting priorities for the day either in the beginning or a day before. Select 3 things that are the highest impact, highest priority and 3 smaller things that might not be as important but definitely needle moving.

To arrive at this list you will need to list down every single activity for the day (when you begin, at least).

The list can look something like this

Meeting with X

Meeting with Y

Send a mail to Z

Make 2 creatives

Brainstorm with Designers

Write a brand brief

Meet 1 customer

Ultimately you will start to notice there are 3–4 extremely important things only that need your full attention. The simple logic to prioritising is what is the impact of that task and does that help grow your business?

Daily Task Management

Now we come to the second step, it might sound like Step 1 but don’t worry it is different. We prioritize the remaining tasks in the task list and assign a sequence. Why do we need to do that? So that you can logically arrange the work as per your energy and as per your contribution required.

For e.g. The first thing I do in the morning is to list down all the tasks, then the tasks that need me to write a brief and send to my designers or copywriters is done first so that they can get started on their work! Once I have done this, I work as an Individual contributor and create — it could be articles, emailers, social media posts etc. After this is when I start collaborating or meeting people. Meeting people usually drains my energy and hence I keep it for the last.

The best way to ensure I stay on track is blocking time on my calendar for every task that needs my attention along with blocking time for personal tasks after my work schedule. It helps me plan better. For e.g. 9–10 AM is always for doing the work where others are collaborators, 10–11AM for my work and meetings starting 11 AM onwards.

The last thing to track extensively is the hours you are most energetic. You can use that to do office work, house work or work that is really important to you. For e.g. My most productive hours are 8–10 AM, 12–1 PM and 3–5 PM. I prefer keeping these slots meeting and distraction free. Coming to distractions and energy drainers, let’s talk about that.

Identifying and Managing Energy Drainers

By now you already know we only have a good 4–5 hours where we are most productive. But this time can be reduced drastically because of some energy drainers. It can be anything from meetings to using social media or just being anxious about deadlines. I am listing down things that drain my energy and how I deal with them.

  • House chores to be completed before leaving for office — Sometimes I put in so much energy in the morning, I get tired by the time I even reach office. So I try to plan my days in the evenings and do what’s absolutely essential only in the mornings before office.
  • Deciding what to wear. I think I used to spend at least 15–20 minutes every day (That’s about 5 hours wasted every month. Instead just plan out the entire month’s clothes, get it ironed and keep them ready. You can do it weekly depending on how often you go to the office or repeat etc.
  • Scrolling social media immediately on waking up — I feel like I get sucked into it and start procrastinating everything else. If I do it at night before sleeping, I understand my sleep quality being affected and so much more. I start each day now by reading a book and avoiding the phone for at least 30 minutes before sleeping and after waking up.
  • Worrying about deadlines and things that I have missed — I have worked in fast paced super demanding startups and I constantly felt that I was slow and missing out on things. I was missing deadlines and nothing I did seemed to pull me through.

I would end up spending hours during weekends thinking about what will happen on a Monday. It drained me to a point where I started hating the job. Here’s a simple way I dealt with it. I closed work 1 hour early on Friday and wrote down the list of everything needed to deliver on a Monday. If I could delegate, I would send it off on Friday or plan for it in my to-do list. This helped me massively.

Ultimately we have to realize that everybody and everything is vying for our attention. It is upto us whether we want to allow it to take our peace of mind or not. We must protect it with all our might.

Minimizing Distractions

Another thing that adds on the energy draining and causes me to be less efficient is distractions — Calls, messages, pings, meeting requests, unplanned launches, Whatsapp messages, social media notifications, other app notifications, family group messages. You see where I am going with this. The list can go on and on.

The only way to deal with this is to restrict notifications and keep only the most basic and the most important. For emails I usually set myself a timer. I want to check email only every 3 hours at best, but I haven’t been able to do that successfully so far. So I have an alarm every hour and I check my mail. I usually try and not respond to pings that say — Hey. I like people being to the point and sending a message that I can take action on.

I have also removed the social media apps from my main phone and have a separate phone for communications and social media. The notifications have been blocked in that phone too. I just look at it, once every 1–2 hours or when I really want a small break.

On my laptop I use a tool called Rize. It helps me track my time effectively and gives me the details of each minute spent. When I know that every action is being tracked I tend to not wander as much. The last app that you can try is called Freedom. It will block all distractions for a defined period of time. I cannot tell you how useful this is.

Taking Regular Breaks

All the tips and techniques I have spoken about so far are to increase productivity, esp. During the times you have the most amount of energy. But there is another extremely important thing that is crucial to productivity. That is taking a break regularly. While it might sound counter intuitive it’s actually the most helpful!

I take 3 breaks usually — One mid day, one during lunch and one in the evening. But I also ensure I take breaks when I am stuck or feeling tired. I was in Kerala for the last 4 months and had easy access to greenery and being around nature. I would step outside for a walk and just enjoy the greenery, sometimes I would walk after it rained and that sort of had a cooling effect on my brain as well!

As someone who gets really worked up and anxious when things don’t happen the way I want it to, taking these breaks helps me keep sane and grounded. It allows me to dissociate from the task and look at it from different angles. Breaks help me keep going for the entire day. It also gives my neck, back and eyes a much needed break!

There isn’t a fixed productivity schedule that a person should follow, in fact the less templatized it is the better it is for you. What works for me, might not work for you and you can use this article to experiment with what actually works for you.

As corporates, we are expected to be present any time, everytime and I understand the need to follow it religiously. But I keep saying one thing to myself now — I have one life to enjoy everything, one body to experience everything in. Work is a part of me and not my entire life, so however it might prick my conscience (happens esp. With Indians) I have to learn to set boundaries. I am also not there yet, but its a work in progress and I hope to reach there soon!

I would love to hear stories from you as well. How do you manage time and prioritize as a corporate. How do you create a work life balance or integrate work into your life. It would be exciting to hear any other tips you might have for productivity.

I talk about corporate life, challenges, productivity in a workplace and women and their problems in a workplace. Subscribe to my content if you these topics interest you. You can send me a message on

https://www.linkedin.com/in/aditichakrabortyj/ or

https://www.instagram.com/aditichakrabortyj/

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

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Aditi Chakraborty

A freelance Web designer. I help people start profitable side-hustles by offering key marketing skills — Social media management, web design, copywriting & more