by Josh Millar
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “work smarter, not harder”. It sounds great, but how do you actually do it? Working smarter isn’t abandoning the hard work required for success, but instead, it’s about finding ways to make that effort more efficient. Here are a few strategies that come to mind when I think about working smarter:
Keep a Small To-Do List
When it feels like you have a million things to do, throwing them all on the to-do list might feel like a great way to organize. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really encourage us to prioritize tasks in a streamlined way, and it can make us feel overwhelmed and exhausted before we even begin. Even if you keep a master list for any and all to-dos, highly productive people tend to also keep a short list of their top 3 to 5 most important tasks. Trimming your list down helps you avoid multitasking, direct your focus where it will have the most impact, and accomplish the work that matters most.
Automate and Delegate
When you’re cutting down that to do list, are there any items that don’t need to be done by you directly? Working smarter means finding ways to waste less time and direct your energy where it’s really needed. Automating social-media marketing, for example, can save you hours every week without sacrificing the positive results of completing the task. If you’re in a management position, make sure that you’re not losing time to micromanaging, and let go of the tasks that can be delegated.
Find a Routine that Works
Speaking of automation, automating some parts of your life, not just your work, can help you be more efficient. While you don’t want to operate on autopilot all day, building strong habits around things like getting up early, single-tasking, being active, and taking regular breaks can promote optimal productivity. When you radically change the structure of your day every day, you spend time and energy deciding which activity to do next. A clear routine streamlines your day and preserves your energy for more important work.
Positivity and efficiency go hand in hand. When you start your day believing that there’s simply not enough time to do it all, where is your motivation level at? How well can you concentrate when you’re thinking about the all the things you’re not getting done? Positivity promotes energy — the energy to get up early, engage with our work, and stay motivated throughout the day. Simply watching your thoughts can help with this. Try to notice negative thoughts when they arise so that you can challenge them and replace them with more optimistic ones.
Make Time to Relax
Working smarter means having more non-work time and using at least some of that time to support your productivity. That means finding ways to relax, letting your brain recharge, and lowering stress levels. Stress and fatigue are two of the top sabotagers of efficiency. If you’re constantly grinding with little break time, you’re likely to encounter at least one of them. Working smarter isn’t just about the way you tackle your time in the office. It’s incorporating lifestyle choices that support your overall productivity.
Beware of Busy
Busy is a red flag. Whenever you feel busy or hear yourself tell someone how busy you’ve been lately, it’s probably a good time to pause and check in. Sometimes, you’ll be busy even when you’re working at your most efficient. More often though, being busy is a signal that you’re not working as smart as you could be. Whenever this feeling comes up, see if any of the above strategies could cut down your workload. Check in with how you’re spending your time and see if any distractions or bad habits are getting in the way of your success.
Working smarter means working with more focus, more intention, and more drive. It’s concentrating your efforts and channeling them where they’ll be the most effective. It’s getting rid of non-essentials and cultivating habits both in and out of the office that support productivity. Do you have any tips to work smarter? Share them in the comments!