Are you drowning in a sea of tasks, feeling like there’s never enough time to catch your breath? We’ve all been there, watching the clock tick away, wondering how it’s possible that we only get 24 hours each day.
Now, think about those people who seem to have it all under control. They’ve got a full-time gig, a side project they’re passionate about, and still manage to hang out with their loved ones without even a hint of stress.
Meanwhile, you might be struggling to make it through the day with time to spare for anything beyond your job or catching some sleep.
Why is that?
The secret doesn’t lie in stretching those 24 hours. It isn’t about working harder, pushing yourself to the limit until you’re ready to drop. No, the real trick is working smarter.
That’s right — it’s about making those hours work for you, not the other way around.
So, if you’re looking to reach your goals without walking the tightrope of burnout, it’s worth asking yourself if there’s a smarter way to work.
Table of Contents
- What Work Smarter Really Means
- 11 Ways to Work Smarter
- Bottom Line
What Work Smarter Really Means
Working smart isn’t just about effort, it’s about insight. It’s recognizing what you do best and then optimizing your approach to work accordingly.
Regularly ask yourself, “Is there a better way?” or “Can I stop doing this task?” This mindset is all about efficiency, getting more done in less time, and it’s packed with benefits:
- More rest: Smart work schedules allow for ample rest, which recharges you mentally and physically.
- Less burnout: By managing your energy wisely, you’re less likely to burn out.
- Better balance: Smarter work strategies free up time, improving your work-life balance.
- Increased motivation: Efficiency breeds motivation as you accomplish more with less stress.
In essence, working smarter means making your work work for you, not the other way around.
Now, let’s dive into 11 strategies that can change the game for you, making each day not just more productive, but also more enjoyable.
11 Ways to Work Smarter
Think of your brain as a spotlight. When you’re working on a single task, that spotlight shines bright and clear. But when you flip between tasks, that light flickers, and it takes time to shine fully again with each switch.
This isn’t just about feeling scattered—it’s a real drain on your mental energy and time, leading to work that often takes longer and isn’t up to par.
Research backs this up, showing that when we multitask, the extra time needed to switch between tasks can eat up a whopping 40% of our productive time. It’s like a tax your brain pays for jumping around, and that “task-switching cost” adds up.
When you try to do too much at once, you split your attention and end up doing nothing well. It’s like trying to catch four balls at once—you’re going to drop one, or maybe all of them. This scattered focus can mean more mistakes and lower-quality work.
So what’s the solution? Lock in on one task at a time. When you monotask, you’re committing to one thing, which means doing it better and faster.
If focusing isn’t your strong suit, don’t worry—we’ve all been there. And there are ways to train your brain to get better at it.
Check out our guide on honing your focus and say goodbye to the juggling act: How to Focus And Boost Attention Span
Think of prioritization as drawing a treasure map for your day, where X marks the most important tasks. It’s the route that gets you to the prize, avoiding those time-consuming detours.
When you set your priorities, you’re taking the wheel of your day, steering your time and energy toward what’s truly important.
It’s like wearing blinders to keep you looking straight ahead—no getting sidetracked by those little, nagging tasks that don’t really move the needle.
When everything feels urgent, nothing is. That’s why knowing what comes first matters. Without it, you’re running in circles, getting busy but not productive, missing the mark on the tasks that count, and that’s a one-way ticket to burnout.
Don’t just make a to-do list; make a to-do list that makes sense. A list where the big rocks are first, and the sand fills in around them.
If you’re not sure how to do that, we’ve also got a guide to get you on the right track, so you can learn how to sort the big from the small and get clear on your top priorities: Prioritization — Using Your Time & Energy Effectively
3. Plan Weekly, Do Daily
This means pinning down what you want to hit, like major goals such as boosting revenue, or the small wins in your daily grind. Without this roadmap, it’s easy for your targets to slip into the backseat.
But don’t suffocate your days with overplanning. Zoom out and draft a weekly plan instead.
Why? Because each day comes with its own set of surprises, and you need the wiggle room to adapt.
Weekly planning is your buffer zone. It’s the strategic way to handle the curveballs life throws without flipping your whole schedule upside down.
Here’s what makes planning by the week smarter than a day-to-day hustle:
- Flexibility: Got a week’s worth of hours to toy with? You can pivot without panic. That overrun meeting or last-minute task? Just shuffle your blocks of focused work to another slot in the week.
- Big-Picture Perspective: A week-wide lens helps you to stitch your tasks into your bigger ambitions. This isn’t just a to-do list; it’s your strategic ally, nudging every effort a step closer to those end-goals.
But the real secret? It’s all about what you do each day. The steady drumbeat of daily action, no matter how small, is what drives your progress forward.
Forget about biting off more than you can chew; it’s the daily nibbles that avoid burnout and keep you moving.
Think of your workload as a jigsaw puzzle. It’s the tiny pieces that, day by day, add up to the big picture. Instead of lunging at the whole puzzle and ending up stalled, you tackle it piece by piece. And that’s how you build a rhythm that can last.
When you combine weekly planning with daily action, you’ve got a powerhouse combo. It’s about laying tracks for the long haul and then putting down the ties, one by one, every single day.
This is how you keep the momentum up and roll your efforts into something big, something that sticks.
Ready to get your planning game on point? Dive into the nitty-gritty of crafting a plan that works: Your Guide to Effective Planning & Scheduling
4. Block Your Calendar For Important Things
Let’s get real for a moment: if you don’t carve out time for what’s important, life will decide for you, and it’s not going to be in your favor.
If you want to make things happen, you’ve got to put them on your calendar like they’re appointments you can’t miss.
This means earmarking time for the big tasks and the little things, too—yes, that includes time to kick back and take a breather. I talk about creating ‘Focus Blocks‘ in the Time Flow System. This is your power move, where you grab your day by the collar and tell it who’s boss.
Open up your calendar and picture your day as a series of blocks, just waiting to be filled with your priorities. Place your tasks into these blocks deliberately, like you’re piecing together a puzzle.
Maybe you set aside a block for mapping out your business strategy, another for touching base with clients, and a chunk of time just for sifting through emails.
Remember, these ‘Focus Blocks’ don’t have to be in hour increments—customize them. Some to-dos might be quick 15-minute bursts, while others might sprawl over a couple of hours.
The key is to fit these blocks to the rhythm of your work and life, not the other way around.
And these blocks, they’re more than just placeholders. They should be stepping stones leading you toward your bigger goals — your ‘North Stars,’ as we explore in the Time Flow System.
When you align your daily blocks with your long-term visions, that’s when the magic happens.
5. Create a Routine and Stick to It
Imagine your daily routine as the framework of a building—the stronger and more consistent it is, the higher and more confidently you can build. It’s the sum of your habits that gives your day its shape, its predictability, and its rhythm.
Think of it this way: a solid daily routine is your secret weapon for success. Every tweak and improvement, even as small as shaving off 10 minutes from a task, adds up big over time.
Save those 10 minutes a day, and suddenly you’ve got an extra 60 hours a year. That’s like a little time treasure you just found under the couch cushions.
But how does a routine actually make you work smarter? It’s simple. A routine takes the guesswork out of your day.
Instead of starting each morning wondering what you’ll tackle first, you have a plan. That saves mental energy right off the bat.
Then there’s the time saved from not having to make a bunch of decisions—because let’s be honest, decision-making is exhausting.
A well-crafted routine aligns your daily actions with your energy levels. Slot in high-concentration tasks when your mind is fresh, and save the autopilot stuff for when your brain is ready for a break. That way, you’re always playing to your strengths.
And routines aren’t just about work. They encompass everything from your morning jog to the wind-down ritual before bed. It’s all about creating patterns that maximize your time and energy.
Want some inspiration to craft a routine that hits the mark? Explore these examples: Powerful Daily Routine Examples for a Healthier Life
6. Say No Often
Here’s a tough but crucial word to get comfy with: “No.” Not saying it can land you in a heap of trouble.
You might think you’re being helpful by taking on every request that comes your way, but there’s a cost.
Overcommitting is a surefire way to slow down your work, chip away at the quality, and leave you churning out less-than-your-best. It’s better to do a few things well than to do many things poorly.
If you keep saying yes, you’ll find yourself with a plate that’s not just full—it’s spilling over. This isn’t just about having too much work; it’s about your life tipping out of balance.
Working yourself to the bone isn’t a badge of honor; it’s a one-way ticket to Burnout City. People will keep piling on the work, oblivious to the fact that you’re silently drowning. This isn’t just bad for your health; it throws off everything else in your life.
And when you promise the moon and can’t deliver, it sets people up to expect the impossible from you. They think you’ve got it covered when in reality, you’re in over your head. This misalignment of expectations isn’t good for anyone.
Learning to say “no” is an art—one that will keep you sane and ensure you’re only tackling what you can handle while maintaining quality.
Want to master it? Dive into The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life.
Think of delegation not as offloading your work, but as an investment strategy for your time. It’s about knowing your strengths and playing to them, and then handing off tasks that others can do, maybe even better than you.
This isn’t about shirking responsibility; it’s smart time management.
When you delegate, you’re not waving the white flag of defeat. You’re making a smart play. You’re choosing to spend your time—those precious marbles—on tasks that need your special touch.
By passing along the other stuff, you’re not losing control. You’re sharpening it. You’re clearing your plate for the big-ticket items that only you can handle.
It’s about zeroing in on what you do best and letting go of the rest. It’s recognizing that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
Free up your time to focus on where you shine, and trust others to take the lead on the rest.
If the idea of handing over the reins makes you queasy, you can learn the ropes here: Delegation — Leveraging Your Time & Resources.
8. Bring in Experts and Consultants
There are times when the smartest move is to recognize what you and your team don’t know. That’s where experts and consultants come in. They’re like the special forces of the business world — you bring them in to tackle specific challenges that are outside your crew’s expertise.
Think about it. If you’re spending too much time trying to figure something out, you’re not being efficient. An expert can step in and solve that problem in a fraction of the time, which lets you and your team focus on what you’re good at.
It’s not just about patching holes; it’s about upgrading your whole operation.
These pros don’t just fix issues; they bring fresh eyes to your projects. They’re not bogged down by the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality.
They’re trailblazers, bringing new ideas, perspectives, and experiences that can take your business from running to sprinting.
Bringing in an expert isn’t an expense; it’s an investment in turbocharging your business’s engine.
9. Speed up Your Typing and Use Shortcuts
Most of us are glued to our keyboards every day. So, getting good at typing is like having a superpower.
Imagine, by just typing faster, you can snag back almost three weeks a year. That’s right, speedier fingers mean more time for… well, anything else!
Don’t know where to start? No problem. There are tons of apps and games out there that make learning to type fast not just easy, but fun. You could be racing cars or zapping space invaders all while picking up a skill that saves you heaps of time.
And here’s another tip: keyboard shortcuts. These are the cheat codes for the digital age. With a quick CTRL + C and CTRL + V, you’re copying and pasting faster than you can say “shortcut.” It might seem like small potatoes, but it all adds up. Learn these shortcuts and use them. Your future self will thank you for all the hours you save.
10. Use Apps to Automate Your Life
You might not notice it, but there are tons of little things you do every day that eat up your time. Each one might seem tiny, but together they’re a time-eating monster.
That’s where automation comes in. It’s like training a bunch of tiny robots to do all that stuff for you. Need to sort emails? There’s an app for that. Need to remember a gazillion passwords? Yep, there’s an app for that, too.
These apps are like a Swiss Army knife for your digital life. They’re designed to take care of the repetitive tasks that you don’t need to be doing.
Then there’s Alfred, a genius tool that makes your computer do things faster, and 1Password, which keeps all your passwords safe so you don’t have to remember them all or keep resetting them when you forget.
Lastly, the Time Flow System app, developed by our team at LifeHack, aiming to help you optimize your day and reclaim your time gaps.
Sure, you could do all these things yourself, but why would you when you’ve got all these apps waiting to help out?
Dive into the world of time management apps, and you’ll find a tool for just about everything: Best Time Management Apps and Tools
11. Use AI Assistance
Let’s face it, artificial intelligence isn’t just for tech whizzes or big corporations anymore. It’s right here, ready to help you zip through your to-do list.
Using AI is like having a brilliant assistant who’s always on call. You’ve got tools at your fingertips that can take a jumble of words and tidy them up into something that makes sense—without you having to comb through every line.
Grammarly’s great at that. It’s like having an English teacher in your pocket, except it doesn’t need a desk.
And then there’s ChatGPT. Need a brainstorming buddy? Want to whip up some content but the words just aren’t coming? That’s where it comes in. It can help you flesh out ideas or give you a first draft to work from. It’s a collaboration without the committee meeting.
For the visually inclined, there’s Midjourney. It can turn your half-baked “what ifs” into stunning graphics without you needing to be a Photoshop wizard.
Research can be a bear, but not with Perplexity. It digs through the data and gives you the gems without you having to spend hours in the digital mines.
With AI, it’s like having an extra brain—only this one doesn’t need coffee breaks.
Working smarter isn’t just about getting more done in less time. It’s about clearing the deck so you can focus on the bigger picture – your dreams, your well-being, and the people you care about.
Every minute you save with these smarter work strategies is a minute you can invest in what truly matters to you. So, embrace these methods. Make the most of the technology and strategies available to you. Delegate. Prioritize. Automate.
Remember, your time and energy are the most precious resources you have. Don’t just spend them; invest them where they’ll make a real difference in your life. That’s working smarter. That’s how you make each day count.
|American Psychological Association: Multitasking: Switching costs
|Ratatype: Typing speed research: how to save 21 days per year while typing