Have your boss, family or friends ever told you that hard work pays off or that it’s important to work hard to get to play hard? Next time you hear this, you may want to correct them by letting them know that it’s actually more important to work smarter, not harder.
This is especially helpful to those that work for themselves, because they’re no longer on a clock; they are forced to be smarter with their time because if not, they may end up working all day, every day. Everyone can benefit from learning how to work smarter rather than harder.
There are many tips to employing smart work habits. Keeping a pen and paper handy everywhere you go, establishing a ritual to stop working for the day, and respecting your calendar are just a few examples. Here are the top tips to help you work smarter rather than harder:
Set up your Calendar
It’s important to set up a calendar each week of how you want to allocate your daily time. Then, you need to actually stick to the calendar. If you find yourself using your time for something off the calendar, ask yourself if this is a smart use of your time and what you should really be doing with this time. Respect your calendar.
Taking Sunday Off and Designating a “Stop” Time
You really need to allow yourself a day off. It doesn’t have to be Sunday, but choose one day during the week where you are not working. Respect your day off, because you’ll get the time to refresh and relax your mind. This will make you more productive during the other 5-6 days of your work week.
This will also make you work harder the day before you are done because you’ll know that whatever doesn’t get done will have to wait an extra day to get tended to.
On regular weekdays, make sure you are giving yourself a stopping point at which you’ll quit working for the day. This should end with a routine that indicates that it’s time to stop. End your day the same; whether it’s straightening your desk, backing up the computer or making a list for tomorrow’s work.
Respond to Emails Quickly
You may find responding to emails and phone calls quickly can be a frustrating task when you feel interrupted. The problem if you don’t is that you’ve not only been interrupted in the moment, but you’ll have to stop later to respond to the call or message. It is smarter to respond promptly because it’s already on your mind. Also, clients and partners will respect your quick communication. If you don’t have time, simply let the person know that you’ll get back to them, and be sure to do so within 24 hours.
Have Hope but Don’t Get Comfortable
While it’s important to breathe during the hard times to remind yourself that it won’t last, it’s also important not to get too comfortable during the good times. Be aware during good times that things could change and don’t become paranoid when the harder times arrive. Failure happens and it’s OK.
Did you know that it’s healthy for you to take 10 minutes a day to laugh out loud really hard? Use this stress relief by reading a funny book or having a great conversation for ten minutes a day when you need a breather. You should really be taking a break every 90 minutes for about 15 minutes of time.
If you can, napping is a great way to improve cognitive function, memory performance and creative thinking. These will all help you to avoid burnout. Since spending time in nature is a great way to allow your mind to fully relax, this is a great way to spend your 15 minute breaks.
Establish a Start-of-Day Ritual and Work in Blocks
Lastly, consider starting your day with a routine. If you work from home, start your day with a walk or enjoy a cup of coffee with a short reading. This will get your body and mind ready for the work day. Starting your day by checking your email helps you deal with issues and learn quickly if your day needs to be adjusted to fit into handling problems or if it can go as planned.
Throughout the day, work in blocks where you can spend each part of the day in various workspaces. Have a plan for what you will accomplish at each workstation that must be completed before moving on to the next space. You’ll find that the change of scenery and list of tasks helps you to be more productive.
Use these tips to start working smarter, not harder, and gain some time and peace back into your work life.