Some people have a wrong perception of what productivity looks like. They think it’s all about getting everything done, being busy all the time, finding ways to make time for everything in your daily schedule, etc.
But in the end, these same people don’t seem to be moving forward in the right direction.
Others, however, don’t rely as much on working hard as they do on working smart.
What does it mean to be a smart worker? Well, for starters, it means focusing on the essentials and doing more of what works while eliminating the many unnecessary things average people fill their days with.
Next, it’s about efficiency. Focus is a must here, and distractions must be eliminated so that the work can be done in less time.
All that, together with other principles and techniques, are the foundation of being effective and efficient in your work and personal life.
Here’s how to start working smarter instead of harder:
1. Don’t concentrate too much on the long-term vision.
Success consists of setting specific goals that will take you to your vision, and it’s said that people should always keep the end result in mind.
But productivity means getting things done in the present moment and being mindful of your current activity. In this case, thinking long-term is a distraction, as it doesn’t really help you get there.
So skip the part where you create a 5-year business plan, and think short-term. What goals can you set for the next 3 months that will help you boost your revenue, bring new clients, or expand your brand and network?
Then, divide that into smaller objectives and see what you can do about it over the next 2 weeks. Do it again until you have a clear plan on how you can spend this exact day in a way that will be most efficient and related to your goals in the near future.
Do that every day, and you’ll get where you want to be faster than anyone else around you.
2. Choose less over more.
Working smart doesn’t mean getting everything done; it means getting only the right things done.
Take a closer look at your to-do list for the day, and see what’s not that necessary. Remove it. Don’t work on it today, and you’ll notice that nothing really changes. But the benefits are more time for the important things, more freedom to start new projects or do things you enjoy, more peace of mind, and faster results.
3. Learn to say no.
Simplify your work life even more by saying no to more things.
For example, stop accepting every new project you’re given. Some won’t get you far, aren’t something you’re the right fit for, or else, and you know it. So say no to them and focus on your current ones with more attention to detail.
The same goes for new clients. You can’t say yes to every single person that approaches you. You just don’t have enough time and energy. So prioritize—stop working with the ones that don’t pay you enough, don’t respect you enough, or don’t let you show off all your talents and expertise.
That leaves you with more time for the 20% of the clients that give you 80% of your revenue. Make them happy by doing more work for them, be available for them even during weekends, give them bonuses, etc. It will pay off.
Sometimes you’ll have to say no to good ideas too, in order to say yes to the brilliant ones that are worth all of your energy and focus for the next few weeks.
4. Find your most productive time and make the most of it.
Analyze how you spend your time every day, and you’ll notice that you’re more productive during a certain period than any other time. Then, schedule your most important work for that time, and don’t let anything distract you until you get it done.
It’s the time when you can focus more easily, have enough energy, and can get more done in less time. So make the best of this time.
Even if it’s not the early morning, make the necessary changes so that your meetings, chores, free time, etc. are before or after that block of time.
5. Give yourself deadlines.
Deadlines are one of the easiest ways to be more productive. Parkinson’s law says it best: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
Our mind just enters a different state in which it concentrates better and works faster when we give it a deadline. Even if your client has already set one, decide on an earlier one so that you can be ready earlier and have time for other things.
Soon, that will become your attitude toward life, and you’ll stop procrastinating one everything, even things that aren’t work-related.
Whenever something comes up, you’ll do it right away, or at least soon enough, and you’ll never forget about a project or deliver work after the expected time.
So that’s how you start working smarter and save yourself time and worries.
What’s the one change you will make today to stop working harder and do things the smart way?
Originally published 03/23/17.