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7 Ways to Work Smarter Not Harder

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work smarter not harderYou know the feeling. You’re just walking into the office and already feeling overwhelmed. There’s a meeting at 9 a.m., a presentation due and your phone keeps buzzing while you stare at a list of unanswered emails stretching all the way to Terre Haute. That’s when you tell yourself, “I need to work smarter not harder!”

If you say your job is a major source of stress, you’re not alone. You can’t keep pulling 10- to 12-hour days and kid yourself by thinking things will slow down soon. Work overload can make even the smartest people underperform.

So, whether you’re working from home or heading into the office on a daily basis, here are seven ways you can start working smarter, not harder.

Plan Ahead

Spending 10 minutes each night mapping out the next day’s “to do” list can save a lot of time.

Do things like:

  • Develop a short list of the most important items you need to accomplish
  • Outline the agenda for a meeting you’re going to lead
  • Jot down the points you want to make during an important call

Working from your list the next day will keep you on schedule and make you more productive at work.

Prioritize

Take your list and put it in order of urgency or importance. This will help you manage workloads and meet deadlines.

Set Time Limits

Instead of sitting down to work on a project and thinking, “I’m staying here until this is done,” try thinking, “I’m going to work on this for two hours.”

Setting time limits forces you to focus and boosts your productivity.

Develop an Email Strategy

Your email should have a workflow. Productivity expert Mike Vardy recommends setting designated times during the day for checking emails — don’t leave it open all day long. It’s part of his three-step approach to managing emails.

Use Your GPS to Delegate

Speaking of delegating, it’s time to get out your GPS. No, not the one you use to navigate, but the one you use to delegate. TimeFinder founder Mitzi Weinman says her GPS stands for Goals, Purpose and Scope. It helps keep you, and the person you’re delegating to, on track. For example:

  • Goal — ask yourself, “What will my work look like when it’s done?”
  • Purpose — understand the “why” of the project to get buy-in and explain how your work fits into the bigger picture
  • Scope — provide deadlines, format, audience, budget, resources and your involvement

Delegating gets things off your plate and allows you to pay attention to details on other projects.

Set Attainable Goals

If a basketball team is down 20 points at halftime, until they invent the 20-point shot, they’re not going to make it up all at once. Same thing goes for the things you’re trying to get done.

Just like the basketball team should focus on cutting the lead to 10 by the start of the fourth quarter, say to yourself, “I want to have the first three slides for my PowerPoint done by Monday.”

You’ll manage your time better, stay on task and deliver faster results. You’ll also get the satisfaction of achieving multiple goals on your way to the ultimate one: completing your task.

Use Your Energy to Your Advantage

If you’re more creative in the morning, that’s when you should do your writing or brainstorming each day.

Save the afternoon for things that don’t need your creative energy like phone calls, interviews and emails.

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