Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 19, 2021

12 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder to Be More Productive

12 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder to Be More Productive

Many people, when faced with six dozen tasks at a time, decide to work longer hours and push themselves to the point of exhaustion to get things done. However, this really isn’t the best way to go about it. Instead, it’s time to look at how to work smarter, not harder and learn more effective ways to work.

Working smarter and not harder involves better managing your time, knowing what needs to get done and when, and utilizing tools that will keep you on track. Here are some of the best tips to help you get started.

1. Improve Your Time Management Skills

When it comes to time management, there are a few simple rules that can really help you to manage time better.

For example, when setting up a top priority task, you need to switch off your phone and ignore your email so that you can focus on one task at a time. Then, you need to abandon any ideas of multitasking, as that will slow you down and ruin your focus. Finally, set a reasonable deadline, and do everything in your power to meet it.

Time management doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be consistent. Put a strategy in place.

“When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” -Sir Ray Avery

2. Speed up Your Typing and Use Shortcuts

These days we’re all keyboard slaves. So, why not speed up your typing and try to get rid of the two finger syndrome. In fact, you save 21 days per year just by typing fast!

Try some of these apps and games to help you type fast: 8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

Advertising

Using shortcuts on the keyboard is another time saver and can speed up your work. For example, press F2 to rename a selected file, while CTRL + I will put selected text in italics.

There are so many of these. If you make the effort to learn them, they really can be helpful and save you time in the long run.

3. Learn How to Use Productivity Tools

If you’re looking to work smarter, not harder, it is well worth downloading all the useful tools and apps that can boost your productivity. Take a look at the 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools and install whatever fits your needs.

These tools can help keep you focused, organize your tasks, and eliminate distractions from your workspace. Being productive has never been so easy.

4. Use Your Phone Wisely

Instead of writing emails, sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone and talk to the person responsible. It saves time, especially for important or urgent discussions.

If that colleague works in the same office, it is even better to go and talk to him or her. It gives you a break, you get some exercise, and you actually make human contact, which can help you destress during the day.

5. Keep a Tab on Your Tabs

If you are like me, you might well find that you have a ton of tabs open at the top of your browser. In order to find the one you want, you have to search for them as they are off screen. Having all these tabs open slows down your browser, too.

One solution is to use OneTab, which can keep a neat tab list on the screen when you want to quickly get to one of them or you want to remind yourself which ones you have open.

Advertising

6. Use a “To-Don’t” List

We all know about to-do lists, and I find that they are generally great. They give me a great sense of achievement as I cross off the tasks done.

However, I often find that we are doing non-essential tasks or ones that can easily be postponed. That is why many people recommend the to-don’t list.[1]

The to-don’t list is full of the things you need to avoid in order to find a good work-life balance in the long term. For example, you can add “mindlessly scroll through social media” or “people-pleasing” to your to-don’t list to help you focus on what really matters.

7. Expect Failure and Fight Paranoia

When failure rears its ugly head, some people get paranoid and fear that this may become a trend.

Projects will go wrong, and failure should be expected rather than feared. Learning lessons from failure and analyzing what went wrong is the best way forward.

“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” -Richard Branson

8. Be Concise

Rambling on at meetings, in emails, and even when introducing yourself to new clients can waste a lot of people’s time and isn’t the best place to start when you want to work smarter, not harder.

One way is to practice and sharpen your “elevator speech,”[2] which tells people in 30 seconds or less why they need your skills and how they can benefit from doing business with you.

Advertising

Just think of the many situations where this could be useful:

  • Making new contacts
  • Talking about yourself at a job interview
  • Meeting people at conferences or parties
  • Phone calls to new clients

9. Ask the Right Questions

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” -Naguib Mahfouz

How do you get feedback? The secret is to ask the right questions at the right time.

When you do this, you are gathering the information you need to help in decision making, which will help you focus on the right tasks for the day. This will save you time, and you will be able to cut meetings to a minimum by honing in on the important work.

Research shows that asking the right questions can lead positive effects to increase by 400%.[3] There are also other benefits in staff motivation and a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

10. Learn as Much as You Can

You should always be on a steep learning curve. Look at your skills profile, and determine where you need to fill a gap. Talk to important connections and network in your niche.

Keep up to date on trends and developments. When an opportunity arises, you will be the best equipped to seize it because you have never stopped learning. This is a great way to work smarter, not harder.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” -Mahatma Gandhi

If you want to learn how to become a super learner, check out Lifehack’s Free Guide: Boost Brain Power And Become a Super Learner (Essential Guide)

11. Look After Your Greatest Resource

You are your own greatest resource, so taking care of your body and mind is key when you want to work smarter, not harder.

If you do not get enough sleep, exercise, and relaxation, you find that you become less and less productive. You begin to work longer and longer hours, which is the exact opposite of what you want. Instead, start your day with a good breakfast and a small workout to give yourself a great boost.

Overall, make sure you are in the best shape possible. It is useful to remember that you need to take breaks throughout the day. Research has shown that even very brief moments of diversion can greatly improve your productivity.[4]

Taking 15 minutes to rest and getting fresh air and exercise is one of the best ways to work smarter, not harder, and you’ll improve your mental health along the way.

12. Don’t Fall into the Trap of Working Smarter and Harder

As a society, we are obsessed with learning to work smarter in order to be more efficient and save time all around.[5]

However, the most important thing to remember is that you should accept when you are ready to switch off that computer and not fill up the time with even more work. Once you’re on track by working smarter, use that extra time that you’ve won for yourself to do things outside of work that bring you joy.

The Bottom Line

The key to greater productivity is to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter saves precious time and energy for the things that really matter—your life goals, your personal growth, your health, and your relationships.

Advertising

Use the tips above to start getting more done in less time.

More on How to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

12 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder to Be More Productive 10 Reasons Why People Are Unmotivated (And How to Be Motivated) 10 Simple Morning Exercises to Make You Feel Great All Day What Your Fear of Being Alone Is Really About and How to Get over It Write A Personal Mission Statement to Achieve Your Goal More Easily

Trending in Time Management

1 Does the Pomodoro Technique Work for Your Productivity? 2 10 Common Mistakes You Make When Setting Deadlines 3 Why the Pomodoro Method Is the Best Productivity Timer 4 12 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder to Be More Productive 5 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

Advertising

Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

Advertising

Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

Advertising

It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

Advertising

Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

    Read Next