Working smarter contributes to the flow of ideas, productivity and aids in your motivation. It’s a simple enough concept to grasp, but it is extremely hard to put into practice. Especially considering so much of the way you complete your work is habitual learned behaviours. Those around us don’t usually contest either. After all, it’s been instilled in us all that hard work gets results, no matter the kind of work it is. As long as you are working towards something, and working hard, you are guaranteed success. Right?
Unfortunately, that’s simply not true. Just because you are working hard, doesn’t mean you are doing the right kind of work. The work you want to be doing. The kind of work that gets you lasting results. This notion of ‘hard work’ is so engrained in us and wider society, that we are blind to just how damaging it can be.
Having too much work and too little time is a very common problem, and it’s frequently combatted with the same very common solution, “Work harder!”. The response we usually get when we say we aren’t seeing the results we want to see, or things aren’t turning out how they were supposed to is that – you simply aren’t working hard enough! Which when you are at your wits end, can be both confusing and infuriating to hear. Especially as a business owner, you would know better than anyone just how ludicrous that statement could sound. “How much more work could I possibly be doing?”, you might think, “There aren’t enough hours in the day!”
Enforcing this ideal of work is toxic, and often leads to us burning out. You are working absolutely all the time, you’re beyond exhausted and you’re starting to notice how this ‘motto’ is affecting you. You’re no longer as creative as you once were, you seem to be taking on more and more yet your productivity is at a standstill, and to top it off no matter how tired you are you just can’t manage to turn off enough to get some sleep. If this sounds like something you can relate to, it’s time to start making changes in how you approach your work.
Working smarter does away with the limp catch-phrases that appear to do nothing other than impose guilt, and allows you to start working efficiently and seeing results sooner. Not only that, but you are able to preserve your humanity in the process. Working smart forces you to highlight your priorities and encourages you to step away from your work, rather than bury yourself deeper in it (as we have been taught to do).
Listed below are 5 tips to help you get ditch your old habits and start working smarter:
- Make an effort to learn
In the modern world we live in, the need to learn things is often taken for granted. Everything we’d ever need is at the click of a button. Whether it be a quick fix for a frequent mistake, or easy access to company procedures – it’s just too easy to get away with not fully engaging with your work.
Learning is arguably the foundation of what it means to be able to work smart. Learning from your mistakes for example, saves you time, and allows you to engage with the mental processes that are required to ensure you make a permanent switch to the ‘working smart’ mindset. For example, learning to self-analyse, trace your steps, be accountable etc. allows you to not only stop making small mistakes that end up wasting your time, but trains your brain to not immediately go for the ‘quick fix’ that is allowing these mistakes to pile up and bog you down in the first place.
Of course, it’s impossible to have affluent knowledge on all things related to your work, but the more committed you are to actually learning and understanding the information you deal with on a daily basis the better. If you learn as you go along, it won’t seem so daunting.
- Prioritise efficiency
Be proactive, and make the most of the time you have when you have it. The best way to do that is to ensure you have prioritised efficiency. Efficiency is your best friend when it comes to working smart. Find something you’re doing and find a way to make it more efficient. Whether it be a keyboard shortcut, or dedicating an entire day to cleaning up files, it’s always worth it.
- Know when to step away
Take a breath when you feel yourself getting weighed down. When we encounter problems, we have a tendency to think we must work harder at them in order to solve them. Most of us think that you must invest yourself further into the problem in order for a solution to materialise itself. However, often times the case is that if we left the problem alone, and stopped allowing ourselves to be consumed with it, we’d fare much better when it comes to finding a solution. Give it a try.
Rest. You can’t work hard, nor smart, if you’re constantly exhausted. Staying up regularly and working all night isn’t the smartest thing to do, and it’s not just because you’re going to struggle to get out of bed in the morning. The fatigue will impact you for days after, especially if you make a habit out of it. Similarly, it’s not smart because as we mentioned above, working harder or exerting more of your energy into a project doesn’t guarantee better results.
- Ask questions
Have a collaborative approach to your work, where appropriate. Going at it alone is great some of the time, but every so often we could all do with a refresher and some help. Clarification on that one task you’ve been sitting at your desk for 20 minutes trying to figure out would go a long way in saving you those 20 minutes. Don’t be shy.