Everyone likes to talk about hard work. You’ll see quotes plastered on break room bulletin boards. CEOs and entrepreneurs like to talk about it in keynote speeches. It’s considered a valuable metric when gauging an employee’s commitment to the company.
And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with hard work—in fact, it’s a good thing—it’s not always necessary to work harder in order to see better results. You have another option: working smarter.
If you can achieve the same results by working smarter (as opposed to working harder), wouldn’t you rather do that? Working smarter means leveraging the resources you have and developing savvy processes that reduce the need for more time and manual intervention.
What does it look like to work smarter? Here are a few suggestions and techniques that will allow you to increase output without demanding more time or effort.
1. Conquer Difficult Tasks First
We all have those tasks that we dread. Naturally, we tend to put these tasks off until the last possible moment. And while we may eventually get them done, having them hang over us like ominous black clouds ultimately creates added stress that slows us down. That’s why savvy individuals choose to conquer difficult tasks first.
When you conquer difficult tasks first thing in the morning, your day suddenly begins to crystallize and you become more ambitious and focused. The result is an easier day that’s more flexible and enjoyable.
2. Streamline Cumbersome Processes
There are a certain number of tasks that you do multiple times per day, every single day. Now imagine if you could shave a few minutes off these processes. How much time could you save every day, week, and month? You’d be amazed if you calculated the results. Here are a couple of ideas:
Adopt electronic signatures. Trying to get multiple people to sign documents and then upload and send those documents to the appropriate parties can be a nightmare. “Eliminating manual processing and document errors enables your staff to focus on their core responsibilities, rather than chase after people to sign documents and correct errors, leading to a better overall experience for everyone involved,” says Michael Laurie of eSignLive.
Organize your email inbox. How many hours do you waste trying to filter your email inbox? One study says the average person spends as much as 6.3 hours checking email each day. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools you can use to simplify the process of checking and responding to emails.
Even if you’re only able to improve a couple of processes, the hours you save can be reallocated to other important tasks that generate a better return on your time.
3. Make Better Communication a Priority
Poor communication can put constraints on your daily workflow that hurt productivity. The good news is that it’s really not that difficult to improve internal communication. With the right collaboration tools, you can quickly isolate and overcome points of friction.
Because email can be such a drain on productivity, many companies are turning to leading collaboration apps like Slack or Trello. The result is quicker communication with fewer missing pieces.
4. Use a Schedule
Do you arrive at work knowing exactly what you’ll be doing at each hour of the day, or do you simply take things as they come? While there’s a time and place for both strategies, creating a schedule (and sticking to it) almost always results in a better use of your time.
“The very act of using your organizational skills to plan your day, week, and month gives you a greater feeling of control and will help increase productivity throughout your day,” business consultant Brian Tracy says. “You’ll feel in charge of your life. It actually increases your self-esteem and improves your sense of personal power.”
When it comes to increasing output, you have the choice between working harder and working smarter. While both may get you the desired results, why would you want to do more work than you have to? By working smarter, you can save time and get better results at the same time.
In this article, we referenced a few specific ways in which you can work smarter, but be on the lookout for additional opportunities in your own organization. The more efficient you become, the more of a return you’ll begin to see on your time investment.
By: Larry Alton