Career Development

12 Tips to Work Smarter Not Harder

October 6, 2020

Learning to work smarter, not harder can improve your productivity and performance while increasing your overall job satisfaction. It can also make you a valuable asset to the organization for which you work, increasing your job security. Implementing the strategies necessary to work smarter, not harder takes some practice and development.

In this article, we discuss the many reasons why it's so important to work smarter, not harder and share 12 strategies for how you can do so.

Why is it important to work smarter, not harder?

There are a number of reasons why it's important to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter:

  • Saves energy: Working in short bursts, for example, allows you to accomplish challenging tasks with greater energy and produce better results.

  • Increases productivity: It encourages you to streamline processes and combine tasks, saving on labor and costs.

  • Increases motivation: It fosters feelings of positivity about your job, colleagues and yourself.

  • Makes you more valuable: Companies are always looking for ways to get more accomplished with less effort and looking for ways to work smarter, not harder can allow to save valuable resources for your organization.

  • Increases self-esteem: Working smarter allows you to create a better quality product with less effort, which in turn naturally will boost your self-esteem

Related: 9 Tips for Being Positive at Work

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How to work smarter not harder

Here are 12 ideas for how you can work more efficiently:

  1. Establish a morning routine.
  2. Keep your to-do list short.
  3. Establish a closing routine.
  4. Block your calendar.
  5. Respond quickly.
  6. Measure your results, not your time.
  7. Enhance your communication skills.
  8. Make meetings productive.
  9. Work in 90 to 120-minute blocks.
  10. Focus on one task at a time.
  11. Set short deadlines.
  12. Practice stress management techniques.

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 with reading a book for professional development. Meditation can be a great practice to start your morning with. Meditation has been shown to increase concentration, improve your mood and combat any stress and anxiety you may be feeling.

2. Keep your to-do list short

Keep your to-do list short and focus on three to five important and challenging tasks for the day, your most important tasks that, once completed, will make you feel highly productive. Focus on these tasks one at a time before moving on to less important tasks.

3. Establish a closing routine

Just as you have a routine for starting your day, you should also have a routine for the end of your day, as it will position you for a great start in the morning. Start by making a list of the top three of five things you want to do the next day. When you're finished, straighten up your desk and put away any items that are out of place. You may also want to back up your computer.

4. Block your calendar

Block off your calendar when you need to focus on work. This will give you the time to get your work accomplished while ensuring your day is free from unanticipated distractions.

Related: How to Balance a Fast-Paced Workplace

5. Respond quickly

Get in the habit of responding to people right away. If you open an email that requires a response, take the time to respond right away so the task is off your list immediately. If you tell someone that you'll get back to them about something, try to get back to them within 24 hours.

6. Measure your results, not your time

Keep an ongoing list of everything you accomplish during a day. This will help you feel motivated and accomplished. This list makes it easy to celebrate your accomplishments and better anticipate how long similar tasks will take in the future.

7. Enhance your communication skills

Make strengthening your communication and collaboration skills a priority. Start by working on your active listening skills and staying on-task and on-topic when you're communicating with someone. For example, when you're writing an email to a coworker keep the email short and to the point.

Related: How to Communicate Better with Coworkers

8. Make meetings productive

Meetings are often necessary, and when this is the case, go into them with a plan. Have an outline for what you want to cover during the meeting and a desired outcome. Keep the meeting as brief and productive as possible and end with action items.

9. Work in 90 to 120-minute blocks

Research has shown that your brain is best able to focus for 90 minutes at a time. Consider taking more breaks and dividing your day into 90-minute or two-hour segments. This will help you maximize on your brain's natural ability to focus and improve your overall productivity. Also, make sure that you adhere to your break schedule and remain focused on your work during your 90-minute work periods. It's a good idea to close your email and place your phone on silent at these times.

10. Focus on one task at a time

Studies have shown that when you switch from one task to another, you actually waste time because of the time it takes your brain to switch tasks and change its focus. Resist the impulse to multi-task and, instead, focus all of your attention on one task until it's complete or you're ready to move on for the time.

11. Set short deadlines

Parkinson's Law says that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. While you should always set reasonable deadlines for your work, consider setting shorter windows of time for completing tasks. This tactic will often increase the efficiency with which you're able to accomplish them.

12. Practice stress management techniques

Practice stress management techniques like reading, meditating, listening to music or practicing yoga. These strategies can combat the stress that can impact your physical, emotional and mental health and improve your workplace performance.