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

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

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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.

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.

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“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.

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.

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

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.

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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.

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

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com


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