We may be slowly emerging from the recession, but workers are still stretched thin at the office. Many have taken on more responsibility, struggle to secure the resources and support they need, and continue to work long hours. If you are among this group, your job is already difficult enough. The worst thing you can do is make it even harder on yourself. But did you know you may be doing just that?

Here are five ways you could be making your job harder and suggestions for avoiding these mistakes:

» 1. Confusing urgent with important.

If you find yourself with a lot on your plate, shifting some assignments to the back burner can help you better manage the workload. But be strategic about what gets pushed. A common mistake is to prioritize projects based solely on their urgency — the tasks with the most pressing deadlines are tackled first, while those with due dates further off get set aside.

But urgency doesn’t always accurately indicate a project’s importance. You could be rushing to prepare for a meeting later in the afternoon, for instance. But if it’s a routine gathering in which little is accomplished or few decisions are made, you could be wasting your time.

Before deciding which projects to focus on or skip, put together a list of your assignments and determine the priority of each. Consult the list on a daily basis so you remain on top of your most important tasks and can adjust the rankings as projects are added, deadlines shift and deliverables change.

» 2. Keeping to yourself.

In today’s environment, it’s easy — and seemingly beneficial — to simply put your head down and get your work done. After all, you’re too busy to do much else, like interact with other employees. But keeping to yourself can prove harmful in the long run.

For one, you miss out on the chance to make friends with co-workers. These relationships can make the time you spend at work more enjoyable. Plus, you never know when you might need to turn to an internal contact for assistance with an assignment, news about an organizational change or details about a vacancy in another department that caught your interest. So stop to chat in the hallway on occasion, join a co-worker for lunch, and participate in off-site events and celebrations to get to know those you work with.

» 3. Not wanting to bother your manager.

You know how busy you are, and you can only imagine how much your boss has on his or her plate. The best thing to do is to leave supervisor alone so he or she can focus on work, right? Not necessarily.

Remaining in close contact with your manager is essential to ensuring you focus on the highest-priority projects and meet performance expectations. It also ensures you have the information and resources you need to complete your work. Not asking your boss for clarification about the scope of a new project because you don’t want to be a pest, for instance, may cause you to spin your wheels if it turns out you guessed wrong about the scale.

Try to schedule regular meetings with your supervisor so you can keep him or her apprised of your current workload, request resources when needed and discuss strategies for overcoming potential roadblocks.

» 4. Being satisfied with the status quo.

When workloads and stress levels are high, workers often move career development down the list of priorities. But ignoring your professional education could put you at a disadvantage.

One reason is that many positions are evolving as firms combine roles and ask workers to assume duties that were previously handled by others. At the same time, changes in technology and new developments in your field mean that you could quickly fall behind if you don’t continually add to your repertoire of skills.

No one other than yourself will ensure you receive the training you need, so be proactive. Come to your manager with a list of training opportunities you are interested in and explain how pursuing them would benefit you and the company. Your supervisor may be able to support your efforts by subsidizing the cost, providing you with the necessary time off or recommending other avenues for development.

» 5. Leaving a mess.

Having a clean desk and an uncluttered email inbox may seem like the last things you need to worry about, but these seemingly small details could be slowing you down. Think about it: Is it really in your best interest to spend a half-hour looking for a message you sent sometime in the last three months?

Taking the time to straighten up your desk, organize emails and delete unnecessary files can help you find things more quickly and easily, thereby increasing your efficiency and productivity at work.

— Christy De Los Rios is the Santa Barbara branch manager for Robert Half International. She can be contacted at 805.568.0838 or christy.delosrios@rhi.com. The opinions expressed are her own.