02 Sep 4 Ways to Work Smarter Not Harder for the Best Productivity Results
Work smarter not harder. We hear the term a lot, but do you ever find yourself wondering how to actually work smarter not harder? Not only that, but how do you even measure whether you are working smart instead of working hard?
Today we unpack what it means to work smart and know when you are doing so. Plus, we’ve put together a collection of our most popular tips to help you achieve more in less time while increasing your job satisfaction and productivity.
Difference between efficiency and effectiveness
The first step to knowing how to work smarter not harder is understanding the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.
Being effective is about doing the right thing while being efficient is about doing things right.
Let’s break that down some more. If you are completing your tasks quickly and you’re doing them well, but they don’t support the progress of your goals, then you are efficient but not effective.
Likewise, if you are completing tasks that support the progress of your goals but you are burning time and funds to complete them, then you are being effective but not efficient.
To achieve both efficiency and effectiveness, you must focus on tasks that align with your goals and complete them well in adequate time.
Efficiency vs productivity
Now that we have covered the difference between doing the right things and doing things right, it’s worth looking at the difference between being efficient and productive.
Of course, it’s all good and well to know how to be efficient, but do you ever find yourself being held back by those never-ending, menial daily tasks that seem to take up all your time? Here’s looking at your inbox.
What if you could streamline the low-value tasks so that you can focus more on the high-value stuff?
Being productive means taking control of your time management, implementing structures into menial tasks, optimising your daily habits, and leveraging digital tools. When you do these things, you set yourself up for long-term, consistent productivity.
- Effective – To do the right things (choosing the right goals to focus on)
- Efficient – To do things right (to achieve goals in adequate time and minimal cost)
- Productive – To consistently prioritise high-value tasks that produce high-value outcomes while low-value tasks are streamlined and automated through sustainable structures.
Next time you’re planning out your day, ask yourself:
- Am I prioritising the right things?
- Do I know how to complete them efficiently?
- Do I have suitable structures in place to support my productivity?
Suppose you find that you are genuinely working smarter not harder; well done. However, don’t be surprised if you discover one or more of those areas needs work; it’s completely normal and quite common.
And don’t worry, we created a course for individuals like you who want to learn how to work smarter not harder, every day.
Want to know how to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity? Read about myPEP.
Benefits of working smarter not harder
Working smarter takes discipline and practice, but as Indeed points out, the benefits are worth it.
When you achieve more with less stress, you enjoy greater job satisfaction, increased motivation and productivity, and even makes you more valuable as an employee, resulting in a boost of self-esteem.
The most common ways to streamline your workload are:
- Reduce your to-do list by planning and prioritising high-value tasks
- Set up routines and habits that boost productivity
- Increase focus with time-blocking and allocating focus on one task at a time
- Streamline and automate processes with the right tools (digital or physical)
- Take more breaks to increase motivation, productivity and wellbeing
At a glance, you’re essentially doing less to achieve more. But it only works if your efforts are focused on the right things and you’ve put processes in place to help you do them well.
Our top tips to help you work smarter not harder
Tip #1: Overhaul your habits
Did you know that your daily habits can either increase productivity or completely sabotage it?
Habits that can hinder your productivity can include putting too much on your to-do list, not setting yourself up with a solid routine, and even trying to multitask – which can seem counterintuitive.
When it comes to setting yourself up with productive habits that support your efficiency, we recommend:
1. Start your day with a plan to give yourself a headstart – we suggest allocating time in your afternoon to map out a plan for the following day.
This means you are ready to go when your day begins, and you won’t waste time and energy trying to plan your day in the morning.
2. One thing at a time – Have you heard the saying “jack of all trades, master of none”? That applies to multitasking too. When you multitask, you might be working through a lot of things.
However, it’s unlikely that you can do them all efficiently. We recommend focusing all of your attention on a single task at a time. Single-tasking is a skill that takes practice.
Therefore, we recommend that you start small. Try just 10 minutes of focused time to begin with, and when you find that easy, try 25 minutes.
3. Time-blocking can transform your day – If you want to achieve maximum time management, time-blocking is essential.
You simply divide your day into time blocks and assign tasks to each block. It helps you identify and prioritise important tasks and allows you to focus on one thing at a time.
4. Eliminate physical and digital interruptions – to help you stay focused, turn off all notifications on your devices, shut down your email client, close the tabs in your browser and even try noise-cancelling earphones.
Ensure your physical space is free from clutter, and if you work from home, agree on communication boundaries with your family so they know when you cannot be disturbed.
Tip #2: Master your inbox
It might come as no surprise that the constant flow of emails through your inbox can negatively impact productivity.
One of the most transformative moments for attendees of our workshops occurs when they learn how to tame their inboxes and streamline the flow of incoming emails.
To master your inbox, we recommend implementing a folder system that sorts your emails and reduces the feeling of overwhelm. When you consider the emails you receive every day, you can identify patterns that will help you structure a set of categories in the form of folders.
- “To do” – emails that need more than 15 minutes to action
- “Speak to” – emails you need to discuss with someone, or you’re waiting for a reply on
- “Follow up” – when you’re waiting on responses from others
- “Delegated” – emails and tasks that you’ve delegated
- “Reading” – emails that have things you definitely need to read within scheduled time blocks
- “Someday” – emails that you’d like to read if you have time
In addition to your folder system, we suggest automating as much as possible.
If you use Outlook, you can leverage helpful tools such as Quick Parts and Quick Steps to automate repetitive tasks and frequently used text blocks and phrases.
Setting up inbox rules to automatically move emails to allocated folders is another efficient way of automating your inbox.
Tip #3: Plan for maximum productivity
As we mentioned earlier, planning your day is an essential part of achieving optimal productivity. Our top planning tips include:
- Plan the afternoon before to save time and energy in the morning. The best way to plan is to put a well-organised calendar together. Prioritise your tasks and block out time in your calendar to work on them. Remember, focus on one task at a time.
- Tackle your least favourite task first so that you can get it out of the way when you have the energy for it.
- When mapping out your day, ensure that you create time for breaks and buffers to avoid burnout.
- Be sure to review your plan every morning to know exactly what to expect for the day. This will help you mentally prepare for the day.
Tip #4: Look after your wellbeing
Finally, don’t forget to look after your well-being. The purpose of working smarter is to achieve more efficiently – you can’t do that if you’re burnt out.
Sometimes it’s hard to notice the signs of burnout until it’s too late. If you feel lethargic, irritable, withdrawn, lacking motivation, or struggling to get yourself started each day, you could be experiencing burnout.
If you are noticing the symptoms of burnout at all, we recommend:
- Reach out for support – it’s ok to talk to someone, whether family, friends or a professional.
- Speak to your manager – some may find this intimidating, and that’s ok. However, it can make a world of difference to have an honest conversation with your manager about your workload and how you’re feeling.
- Take breaks! Skipping breaks is not going to help you achieve more.
In addition to reflecting on your own wellbeing, you can help promote wellbeing in your workplace to create a supportive culture among your colleagues.
Practising effectiveness, efficiency and productivity can have a powerful impact on your workplace performance and job satisfaction.
So if you think you’re ready to reduce stress and achieve more, take a look at our myPEP program for individuals who want to work smarter, not harder.