What exactly does it mean to “Work smarter, not harder”? Working faster? Working efficient?
Before you enroll in a time management course or start playing “beat the clock” with your project list, consider these helpful tips on how to effectively and efficiently manage your to-do list.
Time management. For most, this is easier said than done. First, when setting up a top priority task list, switch off the phone and ignore your email. Abandon any ideas of multitasking as that will slow you down and ruin your focus. Every task on the list should be done without interruptions, or with as little as possible. This will help you remain focused and get the task done efficiently. Finally, set a reasonable deadline and do everything in your power to meet it.
Speed up your typing and use shortcuts. We live on keyboards, whether it's on your laptop or on your phone. Speeding up your typing and getting rid of the two-finger syndrome is a good way to increase efficiency. Using shortcuts on the keyboard is another time saver that is often overlooked. For example, press F2 to rename a selected file, or use CTRL + I to put selected text in italics. You can also create your own shortcuts for emails or, pin your most frequently used websites to your favorites bar. If you make the effort to learn shortcuts, they really can really improve your workflow.
Use your phone wisely. Instead of writing emails, sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone and talk to the person. It saves time, especially for important or urgent discussions, and cuts out the back and forth conversations. Try to eliminate checking your social media and texts. Set your phone on “Do not disturb” until your task is done.
Delegate Appropriately. Most of us want to do everything ourselves. Working smarter means knowing and focusing on the areas in which you’re strongest—and letting go of things you’re doing for other reasons or don’t need to be doing. High performers tend to think it’s easier to do things themselves. To be more effective, ask for help and enlist people who are better at certain tasks and functions than you are. This requires taking a hard look at your strengths and having the humility to admit that there are some areas others are more skilled at than you. You’re likely spending more time than is necessary on the things you’re not good at.
Stare at a photo. Keep photos at your desk of your loved ones, pets, vacation or favorite past-times. This helps one think about why they are working smarter and not harder. Do you have a game to get to after work? People are more likely to get tasks done when they have something they are looking forward to after work. Doing this can help keep you on track when tempted to procrastinate at your coworkers' desk, spend too much time on social media, or otherwise undermine your efforts to get your work done efficiently.
Be concise. Rambling on at meetings, in emails, and even when introducing yourself to new clients can waste a lot of people’s time, including yours. Short and sweet is best when writing emails. Stick to your point. If your weekly conference calls tend to wander off topic and last an hour longer than they’re supposed to, set an agenda and stick to it. Email the agenda out ahead of time so people know what topics are going to be covered.
The key to increasing productivity is to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter saves precious time and energy for the things that really matter to you — your life goals, personal growth, health and relationships. It also produces higher quality work. These changes aren’t going to happen overnight. Making a conscious effort to apply even one of these tips a day can improve work productivity and keep you on the path of working smarter, not harder.