5 Easy Ways to Work Smarter, and Not Harder
Hard work is absolutely the #1 key to success. But super-successful people always seem to get more done in the 24-hour day than the rest of us. Why? Because not only do they work harder, but they also work smarter.
Working smarter isn’t as hard as you may think, but it does take planning. I’d like to share with you a few of the ways that I’ve learned to work smarter throughout the years.
You see, there have been many times in my career that I ran out of hours in the day. When I was working three jobs in Jersey and then going to night school. Or when I started my business and had to do everyone’s job (because I was the only one there!). Even when I decided to move to Atlanta and found myself scheduled with back-to-back meetings every single day.
If I didn’t incorporate these five strategies into my daily work-home-life-flow, there is no way I would be able to get it all done and still see my family.
Read on for what just might change the quality of your life, if you follow these steps on a consistent basis.
Self-Analysis: The 1st Crucial Step You Must Take to Work Smarter
Back when I was working several jobs and taking acting classes, I struggled to find the time for family, friends, and for myself.
How could I go to the gym, study, and still maintain any sense of a life?
Well, before I could discover those answers, I decided to take a step back and just observe what I was doing. It’s kind of like a food diary or a financial audit: you cannot know how to change until you look at what you are currently doing.
People go about self-reflection in different ways, but here are the steps that worked for me. You may want to place your information in a table or in an excel spreadsheet:
- Each day right before leaving the office, write down everything that you accomplished that day.
- Record the time of day and the atmosphere (were you alone, in a group, at lunch).
- Record how much time it took you to start and complete each action item.
- Evaluate your work. Did you do your best on each task? Why or why not?
- Examine the factors that influenced your work. For instance, did you find that you got more accomplished alone, or with groups? Did you work better in the morning, during lunch (I know, but sometimes it’s nice to work when the rest of the office is out) or late in the day?
- After you have evaluated these basic elements (you should have five days of thorough data) think about what you must change about those elements to maximize your workflow.
- Finally, write a mission statement for each action item that you are going to change. Commit to it. For instance, if you find that you work better in the mornings, you might shift your social coffee-drinking time to a late afternoon water break. That way, you ensure that you are working when you are most productive.
- Design Your Workday so that you are Working When you are Most Productive.
Step 2: Work Smarter by Uncovering Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Call this self-awareness 2.0. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Let’s face it. When you aren’t knowledgeable about something, it takes twice, or even three times as long to complete a task. During your daily journal exercise, it’s important to note the reasons behind your actions. If a task took way longer than it should have, is it because you just didn’t know what you were doing?
And let me stop there: it is absolutely okay to NOT be an expert in everything. That’s why good leaders surround themselves with people who have talents that complement their own.
So you must recognize those areas that really aren’t for you and then learn to delegate. Of course, if the task falls within your job description, then before you do anything else, learn it. Find someone who can show you how to do it and figure it out.
Create your success.
Step 3: Get Organized and Work Smarter
One of my favorite books on organization is by Wendy Ellin. In her book, she explains that when you take a day or two to totally reorganize everything in your life, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Here’s the summary of how to do that:
- Throw away everything you no longer LOVE and NEED. If your office is cluttered, you need to get rid of the junk and keep only what you must have to do that job.
- Make a tickler file system. Each day of the month gets its own file, and you simply place the items you need to accomplish in that day’s file. You’ll never forget anything again. Oh, make sure to print out any emails that ask you to complete something on a deadline.
- Clean out your emails! Make special file folders for certain categories, place those important emails in those, and DELETE the rest.
- Just organizing your life will free up priceless hours each week, and that means more productivity, more space, more success.
Step 4: Get a Routine and Keep It Going!
If you do not have a routine, chances are that you’re wasting a lot of time you didn’t realize you were wasting. Think about it: when you snack all day instead of eating prepared meals, what happens? You wind up eating much more than you thought, simply because you are not keeping track of what goes into your mouth.
The same premise is true with your schedule. We have only 24 hours in the day. If you don’t pay attention to your time, you’ll wind up sleeping in, chatting too long, surfing the Internet, playing a game on your Smartphone, and NOT accomplishing anything.
And when you waste time, you are moving away from your dream. That’s counter-intuitive.
Here’s my routine. You don’t need to follow mine to the letter, but I have built my career on this schedule.
3:00-4:00 AM: Wake Up
5:30-6:30: Breakfast/Check Email/Plan Day
6:39-9:00: Complete the most difficult task on my to-do list
Mid-morning to afternoon: Work, Meetings
Before returning home: Make my next day goal list
6:00 PM: Dinner with Family
9:30-10:30 PM Bed
Step 5: Work Smart by Taking Care of You First
Finally, when you put your well-being on your priority list, everything else will fall into place. So, take care of yourself!
Exercise: Studies show that when you exercise on a regular basis, you feel better, think smarter, and accomplish more.
Nurture your relationships: Money, Success, Fancy Cars—none of it matters if you don’t have friends and family to share it with. When you nurture your relationships and give to others, it will come back to you twofold. And remember, helping others is the key to living a truly successful life.
Relax: Do you like Yoga, meditation, prayer? Whatever you do to relax, make sure that you do it every day. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. Stress affects every aspect of our being, from our cognitive functions to our physical well-being.
Getting ahead is more than just working with brute force. It’s about being smart on a daily basis. Take the time to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and identify your productivity habits and patterns. Only then will lasting change occur.