When it comes to working smarter and not harder, everyone knows the usual tricks: Manage your time, take strategic breaks, get enough sleep. And that’s all good advice, but you’ve probably asked yourself if there’s more you can be doing. After all, you’re already using those strategies, and you still find yourself with more work than you can possibly do in one day. With that in mind, let’s distill that to 7 ways to start working smarter, not harder.
Have a million items on your to-do list? Stop thinking you need to finish all of them—instead focus on the things that are crucial to your job performance and your company’s success. Sure, it would be nice to get to Inbox Zero, but is that really more important than finishing up that critical investor report right now?
Half of the battle is getting started. So, instead of striving for perfection the first time around, aim to get something on paper, even if it’s not your best work. Whether it’s a presentation or an email, you’ll be surprised at how much easier the editing process is when you return to it later.
As tempting as it is to buckle down and grind out all of that work, it’s really setting you up for burnout in the long run. Take a break, get adequate sleep, and figure out a plan for how you’re going to tackle things more effectively tomorrow.
Remember Parkinson’s Law: Tasks expand to the time allotted.
Mary Kathryn Johnson
By giving everything in your schedule—no matter how small—a deadline, you’re instantly freeing up time for other things. Not only is there beauty in compartmentalizing everything, but there’s something to be said for taking away your ability to procrastinate.
It’s surprising how quickly you’re able to solve problems when you can visualize them. Step away from your computer screen and start drawing.
Communicate more by talking rather than over emails with clients, consultants, vendors.
Give your co-workers, clients, bosses, and, yes, yourself a break from the dreaded inbox by finding a way to talk instead of email. Whether that’s hopping on a quick Google Hangout or (gasp!) picking up the phone, your colleagues and fingers will thank you.
To make the most of my morning, I make sure to prep myself the night before. As soon as I wake up, I know where I’m going to start, I know what project I’m diving into, I know which problem I’m going to be tackling first. If you can set these firmly in your mind before you go to bed, you’ll wake up with far more energy and drive to tackle them—because they’ve been marinating in your subconscious.
As Yapstone advises, “Essentially, it means that there is no inherent glory in being the first one in the office and the last one out if you’re wasting your time in between. It’s better to be the person arriving at noon and leaving at 5 if you can make those hours more productive.”
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