How to Work Smarter Not Harder

It’s the start of another workday, and you have a ridiculous amount of things that need to get done. You are of course more than familiar with this scenario. You’ve been here plenty of times before. There’s just a lot of stuff, and just not enough time to do it all. But you will of course try your best. And so you decide to push yourself to the extreme, and actually work your butt off to get things done. But as the end of the day rolls around you kind of look back and wonder how on earth you managed to accomplish so very little. You were so busy, but have almost nothing to show for your efforts. If only you had worked smarter not harder.

 


1) THE PRIORITY PYRAMID

To work smarter not harder requires a clear understanding of the priority pyramid. The priority pyramid helps you break your tasks into three categories. These categories include the important stuff, the necessary stuff and the unnecessary stuff. The important stuff includes all the things that you absolutely must get done today. These tasks have the highest long-term payoffs. The necessary stuff includes all the things that you should get done today. These tasks have low long-term but high short-term payoffs. The unnecessary stuff includes all the other things that you could do that won’t provide you with any real value.

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2) AVOID THE BUSY BEE TRAP

Have you ever gotten yourself caught up within the busy bee trap? This is where you work yourself silly for an entire day, but in the end you have little to show for your efforts. You of course thought you were being productive. It seemed as though you were doing all the right things, but you were really only fooling yourself. Yes you were extremely busy, but were you actually focusing on your highest priority activities? Your highest priority activities are what get you results at the end of the day. Staying busy focusing on the wrong things is certainly not a sign of productive output. With that in mind, commit yourself to focusing on what matters.

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3) RECOGNIZE WHAT’S WORKING

To work smarter not harder requires understanding the output of your current work habits. There are possibly certain things you are doing right now that are working quite well for you. What are those things? Where are you getting results? How are you spending your time? Where are you being most productive? Identify what these things are and figure out how you can apply these methods into other areas where you’re not getting satisfactory results. Also consider how you could potentially improve your approach and work habits to get even better returns on the time spent working through certain tasks.

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4) ELIMINATE UNNECESSARY STUFF

To work smarter not harder requires making optimal choices. It requires making appropriate and necessary sacrifices that then give you the time and space you need to focus on what matters most. This is of course all about effective prioritization. There are certain high priority activities that only you can do. These are therefore the things you must focus on. Then there are other activities that are either of a low priority, or they are things others can do for you. To work smarter not harder, you must decide what should be delegated, outsourced or eliminated. Clear the clutter, and you will have more breathing room to focus on what matters most.

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5) CREATE AN AVOIDANCE LIST

To work smarter not harder, requires focusing on all the right things. However, in order to give your undivided attention to what’s most important, you need to avoid the pitfalls of indulging in low value activities. It’s of course all very well and good to say that you will not partake in certain activities, however temptations will always arise and will draw you in, when you least expect it. With this in mind, it can be helpful to create an action avoidance plan. This involves drawing up a list of items that you will avoid indulging in at all costs. Along with that list, write down how exactly you will avoid succumbing to these temptations.

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6) WORK LESS TO DO MORE

To improve your productivity and results over the long-run requires engagement. In other words, you need to be engaged and motivated to want to improve your performance over time. With this in mind, it can be helpful to challenge yourself to work less and do more by consistently raising your standards of performance. You can of course do this through testing and measuring. Test and measure your results and output, then challenge yourself to do better the next time around. You can even turn your work into a game where you use a timer, and then try and beat your best self from the day before.

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CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

It certainly isn’t easy to get into the habit of working smarter not harder. It requires some thought and attention to detail. You need to for instance figure out what’s working, what’s not working, and then have the courage to make potential tweaks to your workflow to improve performance.

Working smarter also requires a great deal of self-awareness. You need to constantly be aware of how you’re working and whether or not it’s in your best interests to work this way.

What works well for one person may very well not work for you, or for the purpose you had in mind. Given this, you must therefore be very vigilant to actually work smarter not harder by focusing on doing the right things, in the right way — that are most appropriate to the task at hand, and that work to your personal strengths.


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