Working smart vs. working hard. Is there really a difference? Some may argue that there isn't, but I beg to differ.
Everyone is capable of working hard because all it takes is some effort and endurance.
Working smart, on the other hand, has everything to do with time and efficiency. Most people who are working smart do it intuitively. Lucky them, right?
Well for those of you who want to work smarter, not harder but just can’t seem to figure it out, listen up.
Work smarter, not harder
This is how to do it:
1. Get in a work routine
It’s okay to go with the flow sometimes. I’ll be the first to admit that having a flexible schedule is nice. But when it comes to handling your responsibilities efficiently, a routine works best. When creating your routine, create habits: bedtime habits, eating habits, exercise habits, social habits, work habits. When you develop habits, your brain performs these tasks automatically and more effectively, enabling you to do things without consciously thinking about them.
2. Prep before bed
To make the most out of your morning, prep the night before. By taking just 10 to 20 minutes to prepare for the following day, you can make a huge difference in your workflow. You’ll wake up knowing where to start and what problems need solving while having the drive to tackle them, all because you prepared your mind the night before.
3. Meditate in the morning before work
There’s no better way to start your day than with a little meditation. Mornings can be tough, but clearing your mind first thing sets you up for a successful day. Not only does meditation provide you with increased concentration and a boosted mood, but it also counteracts stress and anxiety. The best part? The benefits of meditation don’t end when your session ends; they continue to affect you throughout the day.
4. Learn how to prioritize your work
The ability to prioritize is a highly valued skill in the workplace because it helps you stay aligned with what’s important to both you and your company. Once you identify what needs immediate attention, you can center your focus on those tasks for the day and complete the most urgent tasks before moving on to those that are less critical. Feel free to use the assistance of productivity apps at work to give you a boost in this area. Learning how to prioritize at work will leave you feeling more productive and less anxious.
5. Set workday goals
Everyone knows how to set goals. However, not everyone understands why goal setting works. Goals trigger behavior, sustain momentum, guide and align your focus, and promote self-mastery. Once you put goal setting into practice, these reactions become instinctive, increasing your productivity long-term.
6. Get organized
Organization is a simple, yet highly effective tip. Organizing yourself, your desk, and your information will yield the most valuable asset of all -- time. Once you’re organized, you can say goodbye to searching through files, your inbox, and your calendar, and say hello to getting sh*t done. To keep your workflow organized, try project management software. It can be a lifesaver, and there are dozens of free project management software tools for those on a budget.
7. Master time management
Now that you’re saving time by getting yourself organized, you’ll need to learn how to manage that time. This isn’t an easy thing for most people, but there are a lot of time management tips and tools to make it easier. I’d personally recommend using a time tracking app. If you find yourself wishing you had more time, this will help keep you on track.
8. Block your calendar
Too many times I start working on a project only to have someone look at my calendar and see that I’m “free” and proceed to ask something of me. This leaves me flustered, and once I’m done with what has been asked of me, the mindset I had when starting my work has been lost. To avoid this, block off time on your calendar for when you want to get your work done. This will allow you to focus on what you need to get done during that time while also guaranteeing yourself time free from unexpected disruptions. Make sure you're utilizing the best calendar software as well.
Just as it’s critical to schedule time to get your work done, it’s important to schedule time for breaks. Build time into your schedule to take a few breathers throughout the day. Use this time for things like checking social media, browsing the internet, or just to decompress. But be sure to stick to this schedule. Once you start taking quick little breaks to check your phone or what your coworker is up to, your lost time adds up. You waste more time than you’d think.
10. Manage up
Managing up is the best way to get what you want, and fast. If you find yourself frustrated with the direction of your manager you can improve your situation by choosing to manage up. It’s exactly what it sounds like: managing your manager. This includes anticipating your boss’s needs, supporting their weaknesses, and keeping them (overly) informed. I know, you shouldn’t have to, but by doing so you’ll get back your time that they’re wasting. An example of this is making sure every meeting is productive by preparing an agenda before meeting.
11. Don’t time-suck
Meetings can be one of the biggest time-sucks for people. Some meetings are necessary, and if this is the case, tighten them. Start with a specific desired outcome and end with action items so that they’re quick and painless. Contrarily, kill unproductive meetings. Time is valuable; so don’t waste yours or anyone else's.
12. Automate, automate, automate
Want a quick win on maximizing productivity? Automation. It’s the age of technology, so why do the work that technology can do for us. Utilize the countless forms of software to automate things like your emails, tasks, and payments. A great example of this ismarketing automation software. By eliminating daunting tasks, you’re able to focus your energy on more important work decisions.
13. Eliminate stressors
Job stress is costly. In fact, according to a study by The American Institute of Stress, workplace stress results in as much as $300 billion annually in lost productivity. That’s no pocket change. Spare yourself and your company the loss of productivity by identifying your stressors and eliminating the ones that you can.
14. Ask for help
Everyone loves a problem-solver. But sometimes we spend too much time looking for answers that we just can’t find ourselves. If you find yourself spending your day doing this, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The more you communicate, ask questions, and utilize your team, the quicker you’ll learn to do it on your own the next time.
15. Take care of yourself
Not only is it essential to keep your mental health in check, but it’s also crucial that you focus on your physical health. Make time for yourself, invest in passions outside of work, exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. You can’t fire on all cylinders if you’re not taking care of your mind and body.
Implement these tips to work smarter, not harder
Keep in mind, learning to work smart effectively will take time and dedication. But if you put these tips into practice and keep at it, you’ll be working smarter, not harder in no time.
Jordan Wahl is a former content manager at G2. She holds a BBA in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She loves anything that puts her in her creative space. including writing, art, and music.