If you have been in business for a little while now, you are likely to have been told that you need to work smarter and not harder. It is a phrase that gets bandied about in the corporate world, but what does it really mean? It can conjure up an idea of sitting on the beach with your laptop in one hand and a cocktail in the other. And in some cases, that might be what working smarter is. But for most of us, the phrase is all about a desire to have it all, but with no clues or ideas on how to do just that.
So what does working smart even mean? For starters, working smart is going to be different from person to person. As it will vary depending on job roles and requirements, as well as personality types. Some people will enjoy being busy and getting through a to-do list; working smarter will just mean getting through it more efficiently, for example. Another person’s definition of working smart will be being less busy and reducing things like the labor cost for running their business, for instance. So it does depend on personal goals, values, and your own personal definition of success. Because at the end of the day, if you can get to your goal quicker than you though, whether that be tangible, personal, or financial, then that is what is going to be working smart after all.
Working smart needs to have a massive level of self-awareness, as it will help you in your decisions to work smart. When you’re self-aware, you will be able to do things like prioritizing better, as well as knowing what your needs are. You can build on what you’re good at and ask for help when you’re in need or don’t have the skills to get it done. Working smart has an intention behind it; you are doing things in a deliberate way. Another way of describing working smart could be that you are able to recognise what you’re good at and what you need help with, so that you can achieve what you want to quickly but efficiently.
So after reading through those descriptions, you are probably thinking about what changes you may need to make to make sure that you are working as efficiently or as ‘smart’ as possible. So here are some practical solutions to working smarter to get your goals achieved in the workplace. You don’t need to spend all hours of the day doing your work or running your business, at least not when you’re working smart. Do any of these resonate with you?
Managing your time is a really important part of working smart. But when you look through all that you need to get done, how many of you actually put a time limit on the task in hand? That can be a really effective way of getting things done, as you can focus more easily. You’re likely to avoid any distractions when you know you have two hours to get a specific plan written out. If you give yourself all day to do it, then you won’t be very productive and will get distracted easily.
Grouping up tasks that are similar and also prioritizing is a great way to get more work done and get it done in a more efficient manner. That isn’t to say that you will get everything done in that time. But it shows your strengths and makes you more aware about how fast or slow you can get things done. From there, you can assign out tasks to other people if needed, as well as being able to reallocate time for different things. Knowing how you work and what you need to get things done will help to make you much more productive in the long term.
Set Goals, Purpose, and Scope
Using and knowing your goals, purpose, and scope in business is going to help you work much smarter than ever before. How often have you been doing tasks and sat there thinking if they are really necessary or at least necessary for you to be doing? So when it comes to delegating, it helps you, and the person you have assigned the task to, to get things done and have a focus.
You could ask yourself, and explain to your colleagues, what the job will look like when it has been completed. That in itself will give you a clear goal of what you are aiming for, because you won’t know how to get anything done if you’re not even sure what it will look like when it is done. The purpose is also key, to motivation if nothing else. You will be so much more motivated to get a job done when you understand why you are even being asked to do it (that will work for your colleagues or team too). The final part of achieving tasks well, is to give the scope of the project. An understanding of time frame, budget, or involvement can be important in making sure that you get things done. Whoever is assigned the task can have a much better go at it when they know the full details of it. So they, or you, can work smarter and be more productive and efficient.
Theme Your Time
According to many productivity coaches, being able to theme your time can mean you are more productive in the long term. It is also reported to help you free your mind so that you can focus on the specific theme or task in hand. If you theme certain days as days for certain things, or weeks are themed for certain things, then it can help you be more productive. The reason being is that it will help to avoid decision fatigue. It will become more autonomous if you know that it is a Wednesday, so that means you’ll be speaking to suppliers, or it is the last week in the month, so you’ll be checking on sales. When time is themed like this, then it can allow a better work and life balance, as people know what to expect, as well as allowing more freedom and flexibility with a balance that will help them.
Create New Strategies
Creating some new strategies for yourself and how you work can be really key to helping you to work smarter. Think about your working day and where the distractions lie. For example, emails can be a big productivity killer. You might quickly check them, but then an hour later you have read through them all and have started replying, even though you had a more pressing task. This means multitasking which can be considered working harder but not working smarter. It can be overwhelming and mean hopping around from one thing to another, which isn’t how you work smart. So creating a new email strategy, for instance, could be just what you need to work smarter. This can work for many things in your work life, though. So think about what is the biggest distraction for you, and then you can create an appropriate strategy to help your productivity.
Interruptions can be a big distraction and one of the things that can stop you from working smarter. Being able to focus on the task in hand is important. So if someone stops to ask you to do something or to remind you about something, write a note. Then you don’t have to remember what has been said, and can quickly get back to the task in hand. Then when you’re ready to move on from the task, you can go to your notes and work through the next things that need to be dealt with.
Multitasking can be one of the least productive things that you can do, as you don’t get the tasks done well; they just get completed ‘enough.’ So writing notes can be a great way to stay focused and really help you to use your time more wisely. You might find other things that work for you, like voice memos, or sending yourself emails. But whatever you choose and find that works for you, then go with it; you want to be working as efficient as you can after all.
One thing to bear in mind is that working smarter comes back to being efficient and getting your goals ticked off. Some things will work for some people that won’t work for other people. But you need to be aware of what works for you and what you need from the people around you, so that you can get things done as easily as possible. At the end of the day, the more self-aware you are about how you work and the style that works best for you, the better. Then you’ll be able to have the work and life balance that you’re after, while still achieving your goals. What changes will you start to make today?