5 Ultra-Effective Ways to Work Smarter, Not HarderAUTHOR: Carol Duke
If you’re a college student or a businessman, chances are you already know the usual tricks to working smarter and not harder. This includes managing your time effectively, taking regular breaks, and getting plenty of rest and sleep. Sure, they’re good advice, but there’s got to be more than what you’re already doing on a hectic day.
If you’re already using those tactics but are still swamped with tasks you can’t possibly finish in a single day, then you’ve come to the right place. Below are 5 ultra-effective ways to become more productive (and ones you probably don’t know!).
Clean up your to-do-list.
So you’re about to work on a major project that needs to be pitched in 3 days. Your mind is racing with different ideas, wondering where to begin and what you need to do to get it done on time. Because of this, you end up creating a rather bulky to-do list.
The problem with this type of to-do list is that, instead of helping you stay in line with what needs to be done, they end up overwhelming you, thus preventing you from becoming productive. Multitasking isn’t always bad, but it often prompts you to expend your energy on tasks that aren’t really important or urgent.
Consider “trimming the fat” and make your to-do list lean by listing down at least 5 tasks in one day, based on their importance, level of urgency, and complexity. Avoid multitasking — concentrate on one task at a time. Once it’s done, you can move on to the next, less critical task. This way, you’ll feel less anxious and more productive.
These tasks should be goal-related and must be done first thing in the morning, whether you’re at home or in the office. Because if you set aside these tasks for later, chances are you’ll get your hands full with other things and run out of time to actually do them. By getting them out of your way right at the beginning of the day, everything else will seem easy-peasy.
Prioritize and delegate tasks.
When it comes to conducting your work, you can benefit from the famous Pareto Principle: 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. By identifying the most important tasks of the day (20%), you can direct your time and effort (80%) towards them. Cut away all unimportant activities and avoid wasting your time trying to perfect them.
Whenever possible, delegate less important tasks to someone who can do them for you. Afterwards, list down your own tasks based on priority. If it can be done in half an hour, do it ASAP. If it’s going to take more time to be completed, schedule and prioritize them. Paired with effective time management, you can work smarter, not harder.
Learn to automate.
Sick and tired of doing mundane, repetitive tasks? Consider automating them. You can do this by listing down all the tasks you do recurrently on a weekly basis. And then, use the power of technology to automate them, with the help of an app or by creating your own – whichever works!
One common repetitive task people are often faced with is processing e-mails. Based on a 2017 study conducted by the Carleton University, a “typical” knowledge worker spends an average of 11.7 hours processing e-mails at work and 5.3 hours at home, for a total of 17 hours a week. That’s about a third of their work week! To help you save time spent on processing e-mails, you can follow some Gmail hacks to boosting productivity, such as using keyboard shortcuts and experimenting with inbox configurations. With these, you can save a few precious minutes dealing with tons of e-mails.
Even small automations can make a huge difference. For example, if you often have to do presentations and standup meetings, you can create your own templates and then reuse them. Remember that the more automation there is, the more you can dedicate your time on creative and productive tasks.
Know when to walk away.
While it may sound counter-intuitive, learning to walk away from complex tasks can actually help boost productivity. By taking a break, you instantly remove yourself from a stressful work environment and in turn, avoid getting yourself burned out.
If you’re working on a complex problem, your subconscious will still continue working on it even when your conscious mind is trying to take a break. This is the reason we sometimes experience that “Eureka!” moment – a time when a solution suddenly pops into your mind – even when you’re not thinking about it.
So give your brain some time to “catch up” so you can come back feeling refreshed, more mentally prepared, and ready to take on the task.
Embrace your strengths and weaknesses.
Nobody else knows you better than yourself. You have your own strengths and weaknesses, and one way or another, they’re going to affect how you deal with work. Learn to embrace both by taking on more activities you think you’re good at, and then staying away from those that slow down productivity.
Again, avoid multitasking and if possible, delegate or collaborate with someone who can shoulder the burden of your weakest points. This way, you can spend more time on what you do best.
Working smarter and not harder involves a great deal of strategy on your part. But at the end of the day, it will result in top-notch work and less stress. Hopefully, the tips mentioned above can transform your working habits into something smarter. Not only will this help you complete tasks in a shorter time, you’ll also have more energy and time to spend on relaxing activities after all the work is done.