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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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