Have you heard the phrase “Work Smarter, Not Harder”? Are you looking for new ways to increase productivity without putting in more hours? Here are ten tips to help you work more efficiently and more productively without expending any additional effort:
1. Establish a morning ritual. Morning rituals help to instill a sense of peace into the start of your day, as well as prepare you for whatever the day may hold. Go for a walk right when you wake up. Take your cup of coffee near a window and spend some time gazing out at nature. Practice meditation. Establishing a morning ritual will allow you to ease yourself into the workday, each and every day. Health Coach Joanna Frankhamm states, “The most important thing about a morning ritual is that it isn’t about mindlessly just going about your routine of choice. Rather, it’s a way of building something good into your life. It’s a very deliberate and conscious process that helps to set your course for the day.” Read more tips here!
2. Establish an evening ritual. Author Dan Harrison writes, “The way you end one day will determine the way you start the next.” Tidying up your workstation and making a list of tasks to tackle in the morning will give you a sense of closure and completion at the end of the workday. Implementing a few key steps into your evening routine can help you end the day in the same peaceful, prepared state of mind that you hope to start the next morning!
3. Just Get Started. I often tell my clients that the biggest hurdle to any project or decision making occasion is just getting started. We’ll rarely hit it out of the ballpark at first bat; but you’ll never hit anything if you don’t get out there and start swinging. The point is that we have to start somewhere. Preparing for a project? Get your thoughts and ideas down on paper and review and edit them later. Start your presentation, knowing that there will be finesse work needed. But just get started (and start swinging!).
4. Ignore low-priority items. Focus on tasks that will bring the biggest long-term impact. Learn to pick one or two items on your list and make them your priority. Stephen Covey, in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests ranking tasks across four metrics: important/not important and urgent/not urgent. Tasks that are both urgent and important go first, issues not important or not urgent go last, and the rest fall somewhere in between. Give all tasks on your schedule a deadline. This will remove the temptation of procrastination, and allow you to tackle each task in a timely manner.
5. Break big projects up into smaller pieces. Take a few moments and draft out a plan. Look at the big picture and the desired end result. Next, list all the steps necessary to get there. Work on one of these steps at a time. Allowing yourself to work in smaller pieces relieves stress and anxiety and allows you to work more efficiently for shorter periods of time versus risking a panic attack and burnout by trying to complete the project all at once.
6. Work around your strengths and weaknesses. You know yourself better than anybody. Your personal strengths and weaknesses are going to affect how you work. Some of us are morning people and are more productive in the a.m. hours; others are night owls and prefer to do their “heaving thinking” then. Schedule your heaviest workloads for your most optimal time. If you have tasks on your to-do list that you know are not in your skill “wheel house”, delegate these to someone else, allowing yourself to focus on doing what it is you do best.
7. Write it down. Carry a notebook and pencil with you at all times. Jot down ideas, problems, and possible solutions. Oftentimes visualizing a problem will lead to a solution. Author Michael Leboeuf states, “When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.”
8. Learn. Then learn some more. We’ve said it before; being a lifelong learner will benefit you in a myriad of ways. Read voraciously, watch podcasts, attend conferences or participate in webinars. Learning enhances our understanding of the world around us, betters our social skills and our increases our personal development. Lifelong learning gives you a necessary boost in self-worth, self-empowerment, as well as the knowledge that you are staying abreast of the latest information.
9. Recognize and eliminate distractions. When you are fully immersed in a task, whether it is studying, reading a report, etc., Psychologists report that you can get into a mental state called “flow”. When you are in the state of “flow”, you are able to work at your best. But distractions such as your phone, a radio in the background or even the voices of those around you can prevent you from fully embracing this state. It’s important that we train ourselves to turn off distractions and allow ourselves to work in an optimized state. The temptation to be “logged in” to multiple accounts at one time can be great. Email, Facebook, Twitter - all of these can sabotage your concentration and result in wasted time. Eliminate these distractions and increase productivity!
10. Walk away from a task. Taking a break can make you more productive. It gives your mind and body a chance to rest before attempting to complete the task at a later time. Walking away removes immediate stress and allows your mind time to refresh. “Maintaining unbroken focus or navigating demanding intellectual territory for several hours really does burn enough energy to leave one feeling drained,” writes Scientific American’s Ferris Jab. Even if you are no longer focused on the difficult item, your subconscious mind will continue working on the issue (even while you sleep), sometimes providing a solution when we are least expecting it!
Implementing these strategies can help you better manage your workload. We all have the same number of hours in the day to get things done. By working smarter, you will not only increase productivity and the quality of your work, but you will also free up time for the things that matter most.
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