12 Uncommon Ways to Work Smarter Instead of Harder
We live in strange times. In a matter of weeks, much of the nation’s workforce has relocated to home offices.
But that doesn’t mean you have to work 24-7. It means now is the time to find the right work/life balance. Like, right now.
Work/life balance is about living your life (doing things you enjoy that nourish your soul), while also accomplishing income-producing tasks (which, if you’re lucky, are also enjoyable and soul-nourishing). Learning to prioritize, setting realistic goals, scheduling your time, and delegating tasks are the keys to working smarter, not harder.
Long Work Hours Are A Waste Of Time
Studies show that putting in more hours at work doesn’t lead to greater productivity. Instead, it has the opposite effect – our productivity drops dramatically after six or seven hours a day.
According to a 2019 study conducted by John Pencavel of Stanford University, people who log 70-hour work weeks are essentially producing nothing extra with that additional time in the office. These folks are working harder (probably at great cost to their personal lives) and getting nothing back for it.
According to workplace productivity coach Melissa Gratias, employees who put in long hours are often well-intentioned, but they miss the importance of downtime and “working slower.” That’s when people have time to evaluate, plan, and come up with creative solutions in the pursuit of productivity, according to Gratias.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Source: Envato Elements
What does work smarter even mean? It’s all about time management and the ability to prioritize (and sometimes delegate) tasks. It’s about developing habits, routines, shortcuts, and workflows that allow you to get your work done more quicker.
Time management allows you to divide your workload up into manageable chunks and chores — 10 minutes to clean the laser printer, 10 more to sell your old toner online, 15 to browse social media, and 20 to draft an email.
But you won’t get anything accomplished unless you have focus.
As much as we all claim we can “multitask,” we really can’t. Work suffers if you’re distracted by more than one task at a time. The ability to deeply focus on a project is essential for working smart. Productivity is a result of concentration. Staying focused means eliminating distractions.
But co-workers (especially your boss) constantly interrupt you. And, now that you’re working from home, your kids, pets, and the couch are all crying out for your attention. Argh! You can’t get anything done!
Working smarter means eliminating distractions and interruptions and really drilling down into a project. It doesn’t have to eat up hours of your day — you can accomplish a lot in 20-30 uninterrupted minutes, especially if your string chunks of work together.
It’s time to go full Pomodoro!
The famous Pomodoro method has proven to increase productivity – as most of you already know. For those who are not familiar with Pomodoro yet, the method is fairly straightforward.
Work on one task, and one task only, for 25 minutes, and then take a five-minute break. Take a longer break, say 15-30 minutes, after 4-5 Pomodoro sessions.
Our natural Ultradian rhythms show how our brains can only focus for about 90 minutes before needing a 20-minute break. If you want to try the Pomodoro method check these free Pomodoro apps.
Customize classic Pomodoro techniques for your own personal schedule. The Pomodoro is meant to be hacked!
Try these unconventional work smarter ideas using the Pomodoro framework:
Eliminate distractions, focus hard, and drill down into the task at hand.
So there are plenty of Productivity techniques out there and you don’t know which ones to use? We compiled our bullet-proof ways to become a Productivity Power User with your needs in mind!
Try these additional tips to increase productivity and up your “work smarter” IQ:
Some final words
In a world of constant distractions, the concept of working smarter instead of harder is key to striking a productive work-life balance.
First, you need to get a handle on your time. Define what you want to accomplish. Are you looking to free up time to spend with your family, or devote more time to a specific business task?
Defining your why will help shape your how. Because working smarter means taking control of your time, budgeting time, and deciding where to spend it. Doing things you enjoy is what life is all about — the reason you work.