Whether you are a student or an employee, you understand the feelings of stress and frustration at continually being behind no matter how hard you work. Learning how to work smarter not harder, is the best way to re-evaluate your habits and become more productive. Read five smart tips to improve your work performance.
Work Smarter Not Harder: 5 Smart Tips To Increase Your Productivity
Have you ever seen the cartoon where the main character is running, running, running and yet never moves an inch? Some adults may relate to this feeling more than their kids do. It sometimes feels like no matter how many emails you send or papers you write, there is always something else to do. Anyone who has pulled a college all-nighter or stocked up on coffee mugs at work understands this sentiment. However, this does not need to be a daily reality in your life.
It is essential to address rising levels of stress and frustration because such emotions can negatively affect your health, job satisfaction and relationships with others. One secret to successfully navigating a workplace where you no longer always run in one place is to work smarter not harder. Take some time and consider five suggestions to help you develop more effective time management strategies.
Tip #1: Develop a Routine
Humans are creatures of habit, and you have the power to develop habits that are well-organized and thus make you work smarter not harder. Pause for a moment and write down an outline of your typical weekday. Think about when you get the day started and where you spend long stretches of time. Then use this information to construct a daily routine. Setting a routine helps you see where you are wasting time and identify gaps of time to be used more efficiently. Maybe the 10 minutes spent waiting for the bus can be used to practice a speech mentally, or a 45-minute break between classes can be used to rewrite organic chemistry notes.
Developing a routine helps you work smarter not harder by using your time more effectively and feel more prepared when beginning a new day. When creating your routine, keep the following points in mind.
Set aside 30-60 minutes for exercise, whether that is waking up early to cycle at the gym or taking a long walk after work. Planning exercise time in advance increases the likelihood of it occurring. There is a scientifically proven relationship between an established exercise regimen and efficient work performance. No matter how much work you must do, it is important to relieve stress and keep the body healthy.
Schedule a 10-minute break every few hours. This gives you time to walk around, get a glass of water and chat with coworkers. While it may seem like wasted time, a short break after focusing for long periods of time pays off as you return to the desk refreshed and ready to work instead of burnt out.
As tempting as it may be to save time and eat at the desk, schedule at least 20 minutes for a lunch break. Stepping away from the desk for lunch has similar benefits to scheduled breaks. Taking intentional time to eat with coworkers helps build community and often leads to healthier food choices than eating while working. Give the brain a break and feed it with a well-rounded diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Begin with a highly detailed routine and adjust it to a simpler form as time goes by. Maybe you don’t need to schedule in social media breaks, but you do need to regulate how much time you spend on your email. Find the routine that works best for you and allow it to structure a productive work week.
Tip #2: Design the Best To-Do List
To make you work smarter not harder at the end of each workday, make a to-do list for the following day. Align this to-do list with your daily routine and see what you can and cannot realistically accomplish. Making a to-do list directs your energy towards completing one task at a time instead of trying to do everything at once. Features of the most effective to-do list include the following:
Identify the product of the task, whether that is an email or a printed report. It provides a well-rounded understanding of what exactly you need to accomplish during the day.
Order of importance
Avoid being distracted by easier, more straightforward tasks and complete the most significant tasks when you are usually most productive. For many people, this is the first thing in the morning.
Set a final deadline as well as intermediate checkpoint dates to track your progress on larger projects. This way, you see how you are constantly moving forward through small projects instead of feeling stagnant in the midst one big assignment.
When creating your to-do list, you may find it helpful to color-coordinate types of tasks or to add checkboxes next to each item. Checking off or crossing out items on the list provides rewarding emotions of satisfaction and accomplishment that energize you in the middle of a busy day.
A to-do list serves two purposes: it reminds you of what you need to do while also reminding you of what you have done. Hang your to-do list somewhere easily visible. Save the lists in a folder and at the end of the week, pull out the completed lists and let yourself feel proud about how much you accomplished.
Tip #3: Foster a Positive Attitude
A negative mindset will only hold you back from reaching your highest level of productivity. It is important to learn how to see the glass as half full instead of half empty; otherwise, work burdens may weigh you down so much that you find it hard even to get started. Fostering a positive attitude helps you work smarter not harder by moving forward even when the workload seems daunting. There are a several simple mind exercises to help shape a healthy mentality. Try out one or all the following suggestions.
Be grateful. When you are feeling down, start the watch and spend five minutes listing what you are thankful for or calling to mind an image of a place that makes you happy.
Avoid negative language. For example, focus on what you can instead or cannot do.
Visualize success. Each morning as you get ready for school or work, visualize how you want the day to go and imagine feelings of strength and satisfaction. Develop a mantra. Many athletes use this tool to get through particularly challenging weight repetition or the final miles of a marathon. When you feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath and repeat a mantra such as “I can, I will.”
Maintaining a positive attitude can be hard work, especially when the weather is dreary or the to-do list is exceptionally long. However, those tough days are when such an attitude can help the entire office or project group stay optimistic and move forward together.
Tip #4: Use Your Team
Classmates. Colleagues. Coworkers. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help if you feel overwhelmed. Distributing the workload will help tasks get completed earlier. Plus, additional input and ideas may contribute to a more successful output than working alone. Be prepared to assist them in return when they fell behind. By working together, you foster a community that will help everyone work to the best of his or her ability.
Use your team to work smarter, not harder. For example, your teammates may also have daily routines, and you can help each other follow them. Perhaps you all take lunch at the same time or go to the same gym. Studying in a library or common room surrounded by other people instead of alone in your room may motivate you to avoid your phone and get to work. In general, social interactions are proven to foster a positive attitude and atmosphere in the workplace, as opposed to the adverse and unproductive effects of social isolation.
Tip #5: Enforce Closing Time
One of the most important items of your daily routine is set closing time. This can be a challenge for people who want to work smarter not harder because they traditionally work long and hard hours. However, the reality is you cannot work 24/7. Set aside your work at a certain time and let it wait until tomorrow. For example, leave the office or library at six. Eat dinner at seven. Read a book, work out or watch a tv show in the evening and then go to bed at a reasonable hour.
At first, it may seem like finishing the day and enjoying leisure time in the evening is a waste of productive work time. However, this is not the case in the long term. Separating work from home and exercising other parts of your brain will help you remain well-rounded and energized instead of worn out. In the end, taking care of yourself will help you take care of your schedule and overall productivity.
Time To Get Started Work and school are places where you spend a lot of time, and they are also places where you should feel useful and intellectually stimulated instead of exhausted and overwhelmed. By incorporating these five suggestions into your daily life, you can continue to work hard but in a smart, productive manner. The combined powers of a routine, a to-do list, a team, a positive attitude and a closing time will help you run, run, run and feel like you are finally running somewhere.