You work hard to provide for yourself and your family and please your boss. Is there any way you could be working harder? I have no idea, but I am sure there are many ways to work smarter. Successful people don’t necessarily work harder than you, but they do work smarter. Here are some of the techniques they’ve mastered.

1. Don’t just look busy

When the company manager walks down the hallway, everyone is on a call, in a meeting, or running errands. They look busy, but are they really busy? If you ask successful people, they will say “No.” All the above are strong signs of “mindless productivity.” This might get you lots of appreciation from your co-workers, but it definitely won’t get you a promotion — at least, not the promotion. To put it differently, working hard means you are on the track towards success, running 100 miles per hour… though not necessarily in the right direction.

2. Work smarter, not harder

The key to becoming a successful person is working smart, not hard. Quit the “robot” state and find new ways to approach each task and each project. Employ strong time management rules and software, such as TimeDoctor, and stick to cutting down the time needed to do each task. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you need to find new ways to use it and look at it from a completely different perspective. In time, you will be thankful for your new routine.

3. Prioritize all your tasks

Prioritization is the key for successful people – they don’t just solve all the tasks they have, they solve the most important first! Take example and find the most important tasks of the day right after you reach the office and solve them. When the most important tasks are done, you can say your day was successful, even if you don’t get to solve all the other tasks of the day. Don’t let the details drag you down, don’t procrastinate! Perfectionists often get lost in details, as they try to make everything perfect – this is a mistake, as unpleasant as it might sound. Focus on getting the large projects done, then take a second look at them, tweaking bits and pieces.

4. Gamify your work

Work gamification is a new concept, but it’s already emerging as one of the best ways to raise your engagement and change the way you work. As the name implies, gamification is the process of turning work into play, without skipping the actual work. Gamification increases your wellbeing and allows you to objectify your achievements. Just like a game, when you plan each task you can divide the work into small batches of 15-20 minutes. Then, award yourself with a treat when each task is finished. That treat can be anything you want, from a smoothie to a small walk in the park or checking your social media account. One of the benefits of gamification is you will learn how much can be done in a short time, like 15 minutes. Another benefit is the fact you are able to take some time to appreciate what you’ve just made, which is a great way to stay motivated and focused.

5. Group related tasks

The human brain is built to think of at one task at a time. When you have to do several different tasks, you need to use several parts of your brain, employing different types of thinking. If you group related tasks, your brain won’t be forced to switch from one type of thinking, such as analytic, to another, like creative, over and over again. Doing several tasks which require the same type of thinking consecutively boosts your productivity and speeds up your work. Grouping tasks is a great time management secret, as it can enhance and revolutionize the way you work. For example, if you are a writer and you have to document an ebook, document a report, then rewrite two articles and write an editorial, you’ll want to group the documentation work and the writing work. This way, you will be able to get them done quicker and easier.

6. Organize, organize, organize some more

One of the best time management hacks is organization – being organized is crucial for cutting down on the “dead” time in your workflow. Come up with a system and implement it as soon as possible. You will notice the huge difference which comes from knowing where the last week’s sale reports are and not having to spend 30 minutes looking for them.

7. Learn to refuse projects

From time to time, you need to say “No.” Overworking yourself is not the way towards success, but the way towards fatigue and exhaustion. Successful people master the ability to refuse certain tasks in order to concentrate on more important ones. Be picky and only pick tasks which mean something for you and can really give you a boost. Dedicate all your time to these projects, erasing procrastination and distractions, establishing a personal deadline for the task at hand. For example, promise yourself to complete an article in one hour. When you finish the article on time or even before your self-imposed deadline, you will feel an amazing amount of self-accomplishment. This emotion can be overwhelming and highly motivational.

8. Know when to call it a day

After all that time management, you will notice there is still a pile of work on your desk. This is the moment when you need to use the most important secret of successful people: quit it and go home. Yes, that’s right — after all the strategies to cut down the “dead” time, eliminate the excess tasks, and focus on getting the project done, you have to know when to call it a day and go home. As I’ve said, as long as you prioritize tasks and solve the most important ones, you are ready to go home. Don’t make the mistake of trying to solve everything. Instead, end your day when you are tired and you feel you’ve made a difference for someone. There will always be more work to do, but you have to live your life as well. Calling it a day is part of smart working — the most important secret of smart working, even, because it allows you to disconnect from work and enjoy life. This is exactly what makes you successful!

Featured photo credit: Flickr/Ben Smith via flickr.com

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