Working Smarter Not Harder (Benefits and Strategies)
Working smarter, not harder, is an expression professionals may use. This phase encapsulates the idea that a little planning can make the tasks of daily life much easier to manage. By applying a few innovative ideas to your daily schedule, you can boost your productivity, performance and work-life balance. In this article,e we explain the potential benefits of working efficiently, and we list strategies you can use to help you work smarter.
Working smarter, not harder, is a concept that focuses on streamlining how you work to make the entire process more efficient. Here are some of the potential benefits of working more efficiently:
More new challenges: You can apply yourself to challenging tasks more effectively if you have more time and energy. Working more efficiently can help you complete additional responsibilities.
Put a Pomodoro timer to use
I mentioned the Pomodoro Technique earlier, but it’s worth its own entry. For short tasks (or big ones that you want to chip away at in short bursts), try a Pomodoro timer: set a timer for 25 minutes, and work until it’s done. When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break and then repeat the process. There are even Pomodoro apps that can help you get the job done.
To ensure this method works for you, Scott Hanselman, a program manager at Microsoft and avid blogger, suggests tracking the technique’s effectiveness with an accompanying notebook. Each time you’re distracted during the 25 minutes, put a tick on a piece of paper. Over time, the pages of the notebook should contain fewer and fewer ticks.
“Then you’ll start thinking about productivity in your life as how many Pomodoros that you got done in a day,” Hanselman says. “You’ll say, ‘Man, that was a four Pomodoro day, I got a lot of work done.'”
What does it mean to work smarter, not harder?
Working smarter, not harder, means finding ways to use your energy and time at work more efficiently, which can help you complete tasks more quickly. To do this, many professionals use various strategies to help them prioritize their work, helping them identify their most important tasks. Besides increasing productivity, here are some other benefits of learning to work smarter:
1. Establish a morning routine
Try to start your morning the same way each day. This could mean taking a short walk to move around before sitting at your desk, or it could mean starting your day by reading a book for professional development. Meditation can be a great practice to start your morning with because it can increase concentration, improve your mood and decrease any stress and anxiety you feel.
2. Keep your to-do list short
Try to focus on three to five important and challenging tasks each day. Consider making these your most important tasks that can make you feel highly productive when you complete them. Focus on these tasks one at a time before moving on to less important tasks to better prioritize your work.
3. Establish a closing routine
Just as you have a routine for starting your day, also try to have a routine for the end of your day because it can position you for a great start the next morning. Start by making a list of the top three of five things you want to do the next day. When you’re finished, consider cleaning your desk and putting away any items that are out of place.
4. Block your calendar
Block off your calendar when you want to focus on work. This can give you time to get your work accomplished while ensuring you can avoid unanticipated distractions. If your company uses a shared, public calendar, this also can be a good way to ensure your coworkers allow you to get work done when you’re trying to focus.
5. Respond quickly
Try to start a habit of responding to people right away. If you open an email that requires a response, responding right away helps you get the task off your list. If you tell someone you aim to talk to them about something, try to contact them within 24 hours.
6. Measure your results, not your time
Keep an ongoing list of everything you accomplish during a day. This can help you feel motivated and accomplished. This list makes it easy to celebrate your accomplishments and better anticipate how long similar tasks may take in the future.
7. Enhance your communication skills
Make strengthening your communication and collaboration skills a priority. You can start by working on your active listening skills and staying on topic when you’re communicating with someone. For example, when you’re writing an email to a coworker, try to keep the email short and to the point.
8. Make meetings productive
Meetings are often necessary, and going into them with a plan can help them be more effective. Having an outline for what you want to discuss during a meeting and your desired outcome can keep them shorter and more focused. Try to keep the meeting as brief and productive as possible and end with action items to ensure everyone understands what you want from them.
9. Work in 90- to 120-minute blocks
Consider taking more breaks and dividing your day into 90-minute or two-hour segments to help maximize your brain’s ability to focus and improve your overall productivity. Also, try to adhere to your break schedule and remain focused on your work during your 90-minute work periods. It’s often a good idea to close your email and place your phone on silent at these times.
10. Focus on one task at a time
Switching from one task to another without completing the first can be inefficient because your brain may need time to change its focus. You can avoid this by focusing all of your attention on one task until it’s complete or you reach a natural stopping point in it. You also may be able to schedule your regular breaks around your tasks to help your brain refresh before starting the next one.
11. Set short deadlines
Setting deadlines for your work can help you focus, and consider planning to complete tasks in shorter periods. This can increase your efficiency while working on your tasks, which can allow you to complete them in less time than you otherwise would have. This can leave you with more time during your day to focus on other tasks or allow you to clean your office space before leaving for the day.
12. Practice stress management techniques
Consider practicing stress management techniques, like reading, meditating, listening to music or practicing yoga. These strategies can decrease the stress that can impact your physical, emotional and mental health. Doing these regularly can help you focus better and improve your workplace performance.