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How To Work Faster And Smarter

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How To Work Faster And Smarter

As the old saying goes, “work smarter, not harder.” But what does that really mean? When there are deadlines looming, bosses looking over your shoulder, and clients ready to launch, how do you stay focused, and get everything done efficiently? How do you produce effective results, even when you’re under the gun?

Sometimes we know what to do, but we get distracted, or over-commit, only adding more onto our already full to-do lists. Everything soon feels like a priority, and it is unclear where to start and when to take a break. Going at that rate, burnout, sickness, and exhaustion occur, and then we are useless and can’t get anything done.

It will take will power, fortitude, and laser sharp focus to work more efficiently, but avoiding time-wasters can leave you with more time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. These 10 things will help you to work faster AND smarter:

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1. Structure

Planning, using productivity tools, and scheduling tasks on your calendar can help. Set yourself up to win by breaking tasks down into manageable chunks, so you can know what is most important to do first, and still have time to take care of yourself, such as eating well, exercising, relaxing, etc. Without self-care, you lose efficiency due to being overworked.

2. Don’t multi-task

There is an illusion that doing many things at once is productive. Instead, it leaves you half-focused, and constantly switching gears. You may have a sense that nothing ever really gets complete this way. Set a timer, and work in 90-minute increments. Focus on that one task either for 90 minutes, or until it is complete. Then, take a break, and move on.

3. Urgent doesn’t necessarily mean important

What someone else thinks is urgent can create a sense of people-pleasing induced panic. If you know it is not important, then prioritize, and do what is most important first instead. You know best how to set your priorities and get your work done. So listen to yourself.

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4. Turn it off

Power down those phones, turn off notifications. Set up an autoresponder if you need to, but disconnect in order to avoid distractions. You will get more done, if you focus only at the task at hand and answer to all missd calls and notifications once you’re done.

5. Take breaks

Get up. Move around. Shake it out. Eyestrain and headaches can happen if you look at a computer screen for too long. Get outside for a quick stroll and come back feeling refreshed and energized.

6. Closed door policy

Hunker down and hibernate. People popping in and out of your office creates stops and starts in your productivity and you have to keep starting over again each time. Create true office hours and stick to them.

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7. The eye is on the prize

Keep the end in mind – the big picture. Focus on how great it will feel to accomplish the task. You are on your way if you are taking action. Staying focused on the end result can remind you of the big picture, so that unimportant pieces, or your perfectionism, can’t stop you from getting it done.

8. Celebrate the little victories

Projects take many steps until completion. Break down your project into these steps, and then do a little happy dance each time you complete a step. Rather than beating yourself up for what you haven’t done yet, taking time to pat yourself on the back as you go along, can give you the confidence to see it through to the end.

9. Say “no”

Don’t over-commit: When you are already on a tight deadline, don’t take on anything else. Put a moratorium on saying “yes,” to anything new until you complete this project. Don’t leave people hanging, but say you will contact them when you are finished. Stepping outside of the task at hand has you lose focus, and makes you feel overwhelmed and scattered.

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10. Stop saying “I’m so busy”

It is complaining, and complaining only makes you  – and everyone around you – feel worse. Instead of saying “I’m so busy”, say “I have already come so much closer to my goal”. This will encourage you to keep going.

Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com

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Bridget Baker

Web Presence Sherpa

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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