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9 Ways To Work Smarter Than Others

9 Ways To Work Smarter Than Others

Do you ever have lots of work to do and not enough time to get it all done? That’s not unusual. Many people complain about having a never-ending to-do list with items that never seem to get ticked off. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are ways to improve your daily experience and get more work done more quickly and more efficiently. With a couple of simple changes to your day, you can turn yourself into a powerhouse of productivity and efficiency. The best place to start is with your goals.

1. Know your goals

If you are clear about what you want to achieve, that’s a great start. People who don’t define their weekly, monthly or yearly goals end up being the busy fools, frantically racing from one task to the next without really knowing which one is their priority. Having clearly-defined goals eliminates this possibility. Knowing what you are aiming for helps when deciding what is your top priority and what you should be working on each day. Once you decide which tasks have priority, the next step is to schedule them.

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2. Schedule your time

My number one tip for beating procrastination and staying focused is to use your calendar. What gets scheduled gets done, or at least doesn’t get forgotten about. Once you schedule something into your calendar, it will get done sooner or later. So often people complain that urgent daily tasks push out what they had scheduled. This may happen at times, so when it does, reschedule your planned task for tomorrow or your next available slot. But remember to always ask yourself which task has priority. Sometimes tasks appear urgent but they could actually wait for tomorrow.

3. Turn stuff off

Ever get disturbed by a text message while you are writing a report, or by an email notification while concentrating on important documentation? If you want to be smarter than others, the wisest solution is to switch off your phone and gadgets and close any programs on your computer that you are not currently using.

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4. Use a task management system

You need a place to store and prioritize your tasks. Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list. If you do, you will always be reacting to the work other people want you to do instead of what you have planned to do. Use a task list and your calendar to schedule the work you choose to do.

5. Work with your energy

Some of us are night owls, while others are early birds. Know which one you are and work with your energy and focus. Plan the difficult work for the times when you have the most energy. The post-lunch slump is never a good time for brainstorming important projects. Most people are more alert and focused in the morning.

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6. Get enough sleep

Sleep is vital for focus and productivity. If you want to work smarter, make sure you are getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep affects the neurons in the brain and makes Jack a dull boy!

7. Get plenty of exercise

Branson’s number one productivity tip is exercise, so make it your first priority. Exercise creates energy and focus. It reduces stress and increases well-being. Try to get some exercise daily — not only will you work smarter, you will feel great too.

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8. Drink water during the day

Because our bodies are said to be made of 70% water, being low on water will affect every cell in your body. If you want to work smarter, you better be sure the cells in your brain have enough water. Dehydration will drain your energy and affect your brain’s ability to focus.

9. Don’t skip meals

Lack of energy and low blood sugar are two states you want to avoid if you are trying to focus and get things done. Regular meals throughout the day will reduce the possibility of an afternoon or midday slump, or a slump at any time of the day. Eat a substantial breakfast and try not to eat too large a meal in the middle of the day. This will maintain your energy levels throughout the day and keep your brain on high alert.

Try any of these ways to work smarter and you will get a lot more work done while feeling more focused, energetic, and maybe even happier, too.

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Ciara Conlon

Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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Last Updated on September 11, 2019

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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  • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
  • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
  • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
  • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

Benefits of Using a To-Do List

However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

  • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
  • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
  • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
  • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
  • You feel more organized.
  • It helps you with planning.

4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

1. Categorize

Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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2. Add Estimations

You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

3. Prioritize

To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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  • Important and urgent
  • Not urgent but important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important or urgent

You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

4.  Review

To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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Bottom Line

So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

To your success!

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Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

Reference

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