Why do they say work smarter, not harder?
Here at One TEAM Partners, we despise this saying. When you flippantly say to someone, “Work smarter, not harder,” it implies a slight insult in that it raises a point that people are not already working smart.
Your team is your team because they’ve been hand-picked for their intelligence, skill sets, experience, and drive. So why insult them by telling them to work smarter, not harder? In actuality, this phrase has nothing to do with working intelligently but rather working efficiently.
Working “smarter” has nothing to do with your actual intelligence.
Working “smarter” is really about learning how to work at your maximum level of efficiency. It’s about getting the most out of your time spent devoted to a project. Working smarter is about wasting as little time as possible on unnecessary distractions and interruptions. It’s about promoting the best in your team members and helping them recognize and hone their strengths in order to effectively drive projects to completion and improve staff morale.
Top tactics for working smarter
Our research tells us that people like lists. In keeping with our desire to deliver what you want, we’ve come up with a list of the top 11 things you can do to work smarter. Yes, 11… 10 would have been way too predictable.
We’ve touched on this topic a couple of times (specifically in our Prioritization Matrix Blog, that you can check out here). The key takeaway is realizing that not every task or step in a process carries equal weight. Working smarter means doing the bigger or more important tasks first. Portion out the jobs that are going to go the furthest to drive you toward your project completion or end goal and start working on those early. Limit the tasks that are time-consuming, but don’t have a huge impact on the project or goal realization.
2. Chill out
This concept goes against so much of our inherent drive to be great leaders or team members. So much of the time, we associate working more with working smarter. Honestly, though, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your team is to take a break. Rest when you’re tired. Powering through during periods of exhaustion only leads to costly mistakes that you then have to go back and remedy. It leads to burnout. It leads to a loss of passion. Learn to breathe out and take a break when you need it; it will really cost you so much less time in the long run.
3. Be mindful
Realize that every item or detail you decide to work on is actually a choice. Make those choices consciously and with deliberation. Choose the tasks that feel the best and start with those first. Forcing yourself to do jobs that you don’t love or want to do leads to a lack of efficiency. Think about how easily distracted you get from doing the tasks that you don’t like, versus the ones that you’re passionate or excited about. If you find yourself checking your social media or your email eight times in an hour while trying to slog through a task, see if there is another task that’s more attractive to you that you’ll be able to complete and not feel like such a procrastinator.
We talk about this concept quite a bit also. Taking a few minutes to properly plan and structure your day can save you valuable wasted time. Creating blocks of time that will be devoted to certain activities provides you with a map for the day. With time blocks, if an emergent situation crops up, it’s easier to decide what can be sacrificed from the schedule or where you can steal some time to deal with it.
5. Stop multitasking
Another concept that we can’t seem to hammer home hard enough is the idea that multitasking leads to inefficiencies (In fact, we may just have a previous blog post that discusses how we don’t even believe it’s possible!). Commit to completing one task or project at a time before beginning another one. Having your focus pulled in a million different directions leaves you running around like a chicken with your head cut off. You feel busy, which often feels productive, but how much are you really getting done? Are you really getting closer to a project’s completion when you’re constantly being pulled in to focus on another project versus completing one project at a time? If you start something, finish it before moving on to another something.
6. Find your groove
Develop habits and build rituals that help you quickly and easily get into your groove at work. Finding your stride early in the day can really add up quickly in terms of maximizing your productive time. Let’s say you want to run a marathon but have zero history as a long-distance runner. You’re not just going to go out and run 26.2 miles straight out of the gate. You’re going to have a plan to train, develop, and improve your stamina and fitness level.
This same thinking parlays into becoming a well-trained, efficient, and focused slayer of tasks at work. Cultivate habits that help you focus and subconsciously prepare you for the day ahead. Things like guided meditation, visualization, exercise, and more will help put you in the proper mindset to tackle your day ahead with greater ease.
7. Ask for help
This seems like a no-brainer, but so often, we find that leaders feel like they have to be islands. Standing alone, strong and stoic. It’s more than okay as a leader or team member to ask for help if you’re stuck or overly extended when it comes to completing necessary and important tasks or steps. In fact, delegating and asking for help is one of the best ways to work smarter and not harder. It’s also one of the toughest things for leaders to actually do. So many of us are control freaks, so it can be challenging to hand over some of that control to others and trust that the outcomes will still be excellent. But, asking for help isn’t weakness, it’s intelligence. And it’s the reason you’ve surrounded yourself with a stellar team in the first place. You can’t do everything on your own. Let them help.
8. Communicate early
Again, another concept we tend to talk about regularly. Ask for feedback. A LOT. Communicate about progress, issues, snags, wins, etc., as early as possible. This will save you getting 90 percent of the way through a project only to have to go back to the 50 percent mark and redo a bunch of work. Communicating early and adjusting your sails early ensures that you don’t get too far off track, miss the mark, and lose the race.
9. Limit distractions
With so many folks working from home or remotely now, day-to-day distractions can really rob us of our productivity. Recognize environments that aren’t conducive to efficient work and limit your time in them. For example, if you’re working from home and you know your kids are going to be watching television between 3-4 p.m., don’t work in the living room or kitchen where you can hear them and get drawn into every squabble or random story they tell. If you want to work at a coffee shop or cafe, maybe avoid the one with 27 high-speed blenders that makes a ton of frozen or blended drinks. Pick one that’s quieter and more relaxing. If you have to work with earbuds in to drown out surrounding noises and interruptions, do it.
10. Do good…enough
Stop striving for perfection. Yes, it goes against pretty much everything we’ve been taught as leaders and employees, but we aren’t telling you to sacrifice your high standards; rather, realize that you will always find a way to fine-tune and tweak tasks or projects to the point of never actually completing them. Decide when enough is enough. Strive for a balance between project completion and efficient use of your time. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it does have to be done. By changing your focus from perfection to progress, you’ll find that things are getting done faster and that clients or customers are just as satisfied with the outcome.
11. Steal stuff
No, nothing illegal. We are talking about leveraging the power of what others might do or have done in similar scenarios. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, folks. Many who have come before you have figured out better, faster, more effective ways to do something, so it’s completely fine to steal some of their ideas and methodology to improve your own working environment. You might find that by borrowing from others’ experiences, you likewise tweak and improve a process that someone else can then rely on. And, then, you’ve helped improve someone else’s efficiency and approach. It’s a great and positive cycle.
Where do you need to improve?
After reading through our list, if you’re still struggling to see where you can make improvements or figure out steps that you can implement today, refer to step #7 and ask us for help. That’s what we are here for. Subscribe to our blog for even more ways to improve your leadership skills, satisfaction, corporate culture, and bottom line. We want you to succeed beyond your wildest dreams.