My 5 favourite ways to work smarter, not harder
Wouldn’t it be great to earn more money without working our hearts out? We can. And we will. Let’s talk about productivity on a new level; learn how to work smarter.
Earlier in my career, my mind was plagued with thoughts like these:
- How do I accomplish more?
- How can I make more money?
- Where do I find the time to do all the things I want to do?
The more these thoughts permeated my mind, the more I slipped into behavioural patterns that made me feel like I was on a treadmill that was just getting faster and faster. The more productive I got, the more I could do. But the more I did, the more productive I had to be. My to-do list was never-ending and it felt like there were never enough hours in any day to complete my tasks.
One day, I decided something had to change. So I took some time to analyse my priorities, commitments and projects and I created new patterns of behaviour that allowed me to work smarter, not harder.
Here are the five things that had the most impact:
1. Plan, plan, plan …
Every morning, I take five minutes to map out my day. First, I write a list of all the tasks that I need to accomplish for that day. I prioritise each task and then work out where each task sits using the system below:
- What needs to be done today – Do it now!
- What can be scheduled on your calendar for the week – Schedule it!
- What can be delegated – Give it away!
- What needs to get done but can be done at a later date – Choose a date to do it later!
Planning my day, every day has assisted me in giving me back more time. I plan for everything. I plan when I am going to spend time with my husband or when I am going to go to yoga. I even schedule in time to meditate at 5am every morning. Bottom line – if it’s on the calendar, it gets done. So I put everything I can on to my calendar (as opposed to my to-do list).
"We are creatures of habit and if we want to increase our productivity, we need to plan, work with our strengths and remove all distractions."
2. I’ve identified my personal strengths and delegated my weaknesses
I used to feel I had to take care of all aspects of my business for everything to run smoothly. However, I’ve learned that delegating weaknesses is the next step in developing a business and taking it to a whole new level.
Speaking from experience, delegating is easier said than done and it might be tricky for some. You know why? It’s all about trust or faith in believing that the person that is helping you is going to do it right. It’s a common thought; one that can be quickly caught out and dismissed in an instance!
I once worked with this amazing lady. She was very detailed and specific with information, while I was very creative and a big thinker. I had the ideas and she had the eyes when it came down to attention to detail. This was such a great opportunity for us because it allowed us to work with what we loved to do and what came naturally to us.
Delegating your weaknesses makes a lot of sense so you can focus on the things you do best in supporting the business.
Focusing on your strengths is a way to effectively optimise your time and utilise the talent around you.
3. Manage meetings wisely
Across the world, one of the biggest reasons for the loss of productive hours is a meeting. How often have you sat through a meeting saying to yourself – “Well that was a waste of time. I could have used those hours more productively by finishing what I was working on”.
So… how do you decide if a meeting is worth it or not? Having a definite outcome to a meeting beforehand is key. Before accepting a meeting, I always ask myself these questions:
- Do I need to physically be there?
- Can I use Skype to save me time?
- Is this meeting going to add value to my business or me?
- Can someone else attend the meeting on my behalf?
Saying that ‘I think it is of great value to have human interaction’ is a trap I’m sure we have all succumbed to. The truth is most meetings can be held online or through a quick call.
4. Don’t be afraid to say no
If you’re anything like me, (a people pleaser), then your default position is to say yes all the time. When you always say yes and go to unnecessary meetings that are a waste of time just to please others, your work will suffer and you will miss deadlines.
One of my great mentors said, “Catherine, every time your say yes to others, you say no to you”. That has stuck with me for a lifetime and it really motivates my mind to be more creative in saying no. Smile, and politely say one of these alternatives:
- Can I get back to you?
- Can I think about it?
- Unfortunately, it’s not a good time right now.
- Maybe another time.
- Sounds great, but I have other commitments.
- Could you please give me more information before I decide?
- Thank you, but no thank you.
- I’d love to, but I can’t.
- Thank you for thinking of me, but I can’t.
- Another time might be better.
- I’m not sure if I am the best person for it.
- I’m trying to cut back on commitments.
- I won’t be able to dedicate the extra time needed for this project.
5. Avoid continuously checking emails
According to research, if we consider checking emails including our devices (mobile, tablet), an average user can check up to 150 times per day! I know, shocking, right? So what do we do? Here are a few simple actions that helped me regain my focus:
- Turn off alerts and notifications
- Keep mobile devices on silent
- Remove all mobile devices and gadgets from your workspace
- Set up an auto reply
So there – you go. These are the five actions that have given me back the most time in my business.
How about you? Do you have any sure-fire strategies for working smarter, not harder?