Make Your Daily To-Do Lists
How many things are you usually focused on? Maybe 3, 5, 10, 15, or more? Multitasking is a great skill in theory, but you’re not a computer.
Trying to think about everything you have to do all at once will inevitably cause you to lose focus of what you’re doing at the moment, significantly reducing your productivity. You’ll be doing 3-4 things simultaneously, but only at a third of your normal efficiency, at best.
You need to take a step back to see what demands your attention immediately. Yeah, priorities. Since most workplaces and projects shift from day to day, you’ll need to identify priorities every day. Focus on completing priority tasks before everything else.
How can you do it? You can start making your daily to-do lists. Your daily to-do list should have at most five items on it. Cross off one by one as you complete them. It will make you feel great, and you’ll get that sense of accomplishment.
If you still have more time when you’re done with your to-do lists, feel free to take care of less important tasks for the day.
Keep a To-Don’t List Always on Your Desk
On the opposite side of to-do lists which provide a sense of achievement, we have to-don’t lists. Many people work hard because they simply don’t know how to say no to some things. Some are unable to postpone a task or stop focusing on non-essential tasks. That’s where a to-don’t list came in handy.
Your to-don’t list doesn’t necessarily have to address only work-related stuff. Yeah, you can put “stop checking email every five minutes” or “don’t keep the LinkedIn tab opened at all times.” Basically, you can put anything there that doesn’t require your constant attention.
On the other hand, to-don’t lists can also help you start saving some time you would otherwise waste on stuff that’s not work-related. “Stop scrolling on social media sites” or “quit reading blogs” are just some of the items that can easily find a way into your to-don’t list.
Learn How To Manage Time Better
Of all the resources available to you, the only one that is definitely not limitless is time. If you work hard, you’ll never have enough time. However, if you work smart, you’ll have time to complete your tasks and have spare time to do with it however you please. To-don’t lists are a great way to start practicing time management, but it’s only the beginning.
The hardest part will be to stop multitasking because it’s a huge waste of time. Yeah, some job positions require it, but only computers can do two things simultaneously without sacrificing efficiency and competence. That’s why you have a to-do list now with priority tasks. Focus on one thing and move on to the next one.
You’ll have problems at the start because you don’t know how much time you use and how much of it you waste. Consider using a time tracking app. It will help you get a clear insight into how effective you are and what drains your time the most.
Take Care of Distractions
Did it ever cross your mind that you’re working longer because you have too many distractions? Distractions at work can cause you to lose focus, spend unnecessarily more time on completing tasks, and even put you in a corner, having to postpone a task for the next day. Meanwhile, you’ll remain under the impression that you’re working hard.
In this day and age, the two major sources of distractions are your smartphone and your web browser. Here is what you want to try to take care of those notifications and websites taking a big chunk of your productivity.
Set your phone on Do Not Disturb mode. Don’t forget to set exceptions for important people. If you use a computer, you really need to stop checking your Facebook, reading Reddit, and going down the YouTube rabbit hole. A simple plugin for your browser can help you save hours.
Stay On Track With Productivity Tools
If you’re working on a computer, you have this amazing opportunity to boost your productivity. Some tasks simply take too many clicks. Often you have to improvise and build your own Excel sheets, manage a project via Facebook Messenger, or even send important documents to others via a USB thumb drive.
There’s no reason to work hard at your PC when you can access all these wonderful productivity tools. There’s literally an app that can help you adopt a smart work mindset in every aspect of your workflow. There are apps to help you manage projects, automate email, stay on top of marketing – you name it.
Most of the apps are available for both desktop and mobile platforms. It’s very convenient because you can work smarter even when you’re using your smartphone.
Talk to People Whenever You Can
Many people depend on digital communication channels every single day. They use them to pass on important information. However, this type of communication leaves a lot of room for interpretation, especially if you want to keep it short.
Understanding someone’s message in the wrong way or failing to communicate what you want results in more work. You shouldn’t abandon electronic communication altogether – consider talking to people whenever it is possible. Pick up your phone and make that important call instead of sending an email. It can potentially save you a lot of time and work in the future.
Become the Shortcut Master
Your smartphone and desktop computer enables you to work even smarter than you previously thought so. Do you depend on all types of software tools to complete your tasks? Are you still using the features and settings through menus? Invest some time to learn the keyboard shortcuts. You’re probably already using “Ctrl+C” and “Ctrl+P” to copy and paste text, images, and files.
When it comes to smartphones, there’s room for improvement here as well. Dedicate a section of your home screen to work apps so you can easily access them. Modern smartphones have a dozen of screen gestures that can save you time. Research your smartphone and start using them.
Improve Communication Skills
Business communication is full of fluff. There are unnecessary explanations, introductions, and instructions all over the board. Communication falls right into the work category and, if you want to work smarter, you should consider learning to talk smarter as well.
What does it imply? Start learning and practicing how to be more concise. Focus on the message you want to convey instead of on how you want to convey it. The best way to start doing it is to stand in front of a mirror and try to say what you want to say in 30 seconds or less.
It may be hard at the start, but once you get a hold of it, you’ll make the most of your time in meetings, networking events, and when meeting new contacts.
Find Someone to Visualize Your Work
Working in some industries requires working with concepts that might not be available in the physical world. Some of the industries where this happens regularly are architecture, interior design, real estate, construction, and utility. Instead of wasting time working with an image in your head, find someone to visualize your work.
There are platforms, such as EasyRender, where you can find and hire the best 3D artists. Having a photorealistic 3D rendered image in front of you when working on a project can help you make informed decisions and work smarter.
Don’t worry – modern 3D rendering tools can create stunning and detailed images.
Focus isn’t something that you have in unlimited quantities. After some time, you’ll lose focus, and your productivity will plummet. That’s because “focus” is a biologically restricted category – our brains weren’t built to remain focused for longer periods. That’s why a smart worker knows when to take a break.
Some people can stay focused more than others. You should put it to the test and be honest about when you lose focus – most people can work for 90 minutes before losing focus. Remember what we’ve said about multitasking – try to avoid it or keep it minimal at best. Multitasking can deplete your focus reserves faster than working on one task only.
Overcome Parkinson’s Law
Are you familiar with Parkinson’s Law? It states that: “Work tends to expand to fill the time available for its completion.” Are you often under the impression that there is enough time to complete the work? Even though you don’t work, you still feel like working, and it can eat your motivation.
Now it would be a good time to get out that To-do list of yours and set deadlines for all the tasks you have on there. Don’t be unrealistic – give yourself some room but don’t overextend.
This method will help you overcome Parkinson’s Law and do more in less time. Building this mindset is great because you’ll find it really useful outside of work as well.
Embrace Ongoing Professional Growth and Development
Working smart isn’t all about fine-tuning your workflow and using different kinds of apps. You also need to stay tuned to the latest developments in your field.
Digitization enables companies to achieve their goals faster than ever. Old processes are being mapped in a new and more efficient way as we speak. There is only one way to continue your smart work – professional growth and development.
There are plenty of ways to pursue professional training. You have good old conferences and meetups where you can learn from others and adapt their methodology if it appears better. Online training platforms offer hundreds of courses you can enroll in and discover all about the best and most efficient practices in your field.
Review Your Performance
Smart work ethics don’t happen overnight. It is a long-term effort, and you don’t want to leave anything to chance. All the effort you put into working smarter, not harder, can be for nothing if you don’t run regular assessments. Yes, this time, you’re the subject of your project. After all, you might be familiar with it as many businesses require employees to do self-assessments on schedule.
You can do assessments at different intervals to check whether your efforts to work smarter are paying off. It might be best to do it weekly. One week is enough time to see the results. You can also try to identify which tactic works the best for you, given that we all have unique characteristics.
Since it’s very hard to follow through with all these tips, you can use your weekly assessments to decide which method to try out next. Finally, after a couple of months, you’ll be able to make your own smart work methodology mix and stick to it for the best results.
These 13 tips will get you started on your journey to working smarter, not harder. Hopefully, now you understand that you’re not locked into one place. You have many opportunities to become more productive and feel better about yourself.
If something doesn’t work for you, don’t dwell on it. Jump to the next thing on the list until you find something that resonates with you personally.