As the old saying goes, “work smarter, not harder.” But what does that really mean? When there are deadlines looming, bosses looking over your shoulder, and clients ready to launch, how do you stay focused, and get everything done efficiently? How do you produce effective results, even when you’re under the gun?
Sometimes we know what to do, but we get distracted, or over-commit, only adding more onto our already full to-do lists. Everything soon feels like a priority, and it is unclear where to start and when to take a break. Going at that rate, burnout, sickness, and exhaustion occur, and then we are useless and can’t get anything done.
It will take will power, fortitude, and laser sharp focus to work more efficiently, but avoiding time-wasters can leave you with more time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. These 10 things will help you to work faster AND smarter:
Planning, using productivity tools, and scheduling tasks on your calendar can help. Set yourself up to win by breaking tasks down into manageable chunks, so you can know what is most important to do first, and still have time to take care of yourself, such as eating well, exercising, relaxing, etc. Without self-care, you lose efficiency due to being overworked.
2. Don’t multi-task
There is an illusion that doing many things at once is productive. Instead, it leaves you half-focused, and constantly switching gears. You may have a sense that nothing ever really gets complete this way. Set a timer, and work in 90-minute increments. Focus on that one task either for 90 minutes, or until it is complete. Then, take a break, and move on.
3. Urgent doesn’t necessarily mean important
What someone else thinks is urgent can create a sense of people-pleasing induced panic. If you know it is not important, then prioritize, and do what is most important first instead. You know best how to set your priorities and get your work done. So listen to yourself.
4. Turn it off
Power down those phones, turn off notifications. Set up an autoresponder if you need to, but disconnect in order to avoid distractions. You will get more done, if you focus only at the task at hand and answer to all missd calls and notifications once you’re done.
5. Take breaks
Get up. Move around. Shake it out. Eyestrain and headaches can happen if you look at a computer screen for too long. Get outside for a quick stroll and come back feeling refreshed and energized.
6. Closed door policy
Hunker down and hibernate. People popping in and out of your office creates stops and starts in your productivity and you have to keep starting over again each time. Create true office hours and stick to them.
7. The eye is on the prize
Keep the end in mind – the big picture. Focus on how great it will feel to accomplish the task. You are on your way if you are taking action. Staying focused on the end result can remind you of the big picture, so that unimportant pieces, or your perfectionism, can’t stop you from getting it done.
8. Celebrate the little victories
Projects take many steps until completion. Break down your project into these steps, and then do a little happy dance each time you complete a step. Rather than beating yourself up for what you haven’t done yet, taking time to pat yourself on the back as you go along, can give you the confidence to see it through to the end.
9. Say “no”
Don’t over-commit: When you are already on a tight deadline, don’t take on anything else. Put a moratorium on saying “yes,” to anything new until you complete this project. Don’t leave people hanging, but say you will contact them when you are finished. Stepping outside of the task at hand has you lose focus, and makes you feel overwhelmed and scattered.
10. Stop saying “I’m so busy”
It is complaining, and complaining only makes you – and everyone around you – feel worse. Instead of saying “I’m so busy”, say “I have already come so much closer to my goal”. This will encourage you to keep going.