12 Uncommon Ways to Work Smarter Instead of Harder

Uncommon Ways to Work Smarter Instead of Harder - 12 tips for working from home or office

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

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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

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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 get your work done 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, 20 to draft an email.

But you won’t get anything accomplished unless you have focus. 

 

Hocus Focus

Managing a remote team: Set expectations

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As much as we all claim we can “multi-task,” 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 smarter. Productivity is a result of focus. Staying focused means eliminating  distractions and getting your head “in the zone.“ 

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!

 

Pomodoro Hacks

The famous Pomodoro method has proven to increase productivity – as most of you already know. For those who are not familiar with the Pomodoro yet, the method is fairly straight-forward. 

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.

Source: Luxafor

Customize classic Pomodoro techniques for your own personal schedule. The Pomodoro is meant to be hacked!

Try these unconventional work smarter ideas using Pomodoro framework:

  • Pomodoro Your Day
Break your typical workday down into a dozen Pomodoro sessions with time at the beginning and end of the day to check emails, communicate with co-workers, and plan for your next workday.
  • Be A Power Pomodoroer
When the 25-minute Pomodoro countdown begins, put your nose to the grindstone and keep it there. Eliminate distractions, focus hard, and drill down into the task at hand. Think of nothing else but what you’re doing. Live in the “zone” for 25-minutes. Then take five. You’re capable of a lot when you can get your mind and your projects in sync. Work in short, intensive bursts.
  • Use A Physical Timer
  • Pomodoro Your Leisure Time
This is a great way to track and limit “time-suck” activities that lead to counter-productiveness. Limit your video game / YouTube / social media time to 25-minute chunks, too. You can always go back for more after a five minute break.
  • Pomodoro Naptime
Schedule a Pomodoro nap in the afternoon. According to the folks at Buffer, naps can yield improvements in cognitive function, memory, and creative thinking. Our bodies are naturally programmed for a midday rest. Naps also aid in learning, helping us retain information longer. A 25-minute nap is a great way to refresh and recharge without wasting the rest of your day!
 

Productivity Power-Users

How to manage a remote team

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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:

  • Knock out unpleasant tasks early in the day.

Save the best for last…and get the worst out of the way quickly.  Often times called “Eat the frog” principle thanks to Mark Twain saying “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day,” it works really well. As long as the “frog” is a task and not a real frog. Plus, you will always end your day on a positive note with the most satisfying task of the day.

  • Plan ahead with a planner.
Ditch the fluttery mounds of Post-It notes and get yourself a real planner. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A 99-cent paper notebook will work fine (though you won’t regret stepping up to this $20 planner). Keep all your to-do lists and work notes in one place.
  • Eliminate tasks you do not need.
Regularly go through your to-do list and double check every task you have there. Ask yourself if you really need to do it? If not, then simply remove the task from your list and smile. Eliminating unnecessary tasks will also take away all the anxiety and stress associated with them. Use Eisenhower Matrix to determine which tasks are not worth keeping on your to-do list.
  • Automate.
Use the power of automation whenever you can. Zapier can be very effective here, connecting thousands of services into workflows created to be personalized to your needs.
  • Use tools.
Tools help us to multiply our productivity. Thankfully, the most powerful tools are nowadays just a few clicks away from you (including tools for effective remote work).
Whatever you need to do the chances are that there is a tool for that. If you need a design there is Canva (or its alternatives), if you need to build on WordPress there are no-code builders that can build it for you, if you need to find an email Hunter will do it in a blink of an eye – there are tools for every task you need. 
It’s then up to you how you put those tools into the work and transform your hard work into smart work.
  • Let nature recharge you.
Take a walk in the woods. Go stare at the ripple in a lake. Watch a river flow. Breathe deep and let nature relax and rejuvenate you. Then get back to work. This can also be your after-work routine which will help you to return to work fully recharged the next morning.
And, if you’re quarantined at home, try looking at images or videos of nature, or put some nature sounds on. All of these can help aid productivity.
  • Cap business meetings to 30 minutes or less.
Anything longer and people zone out…including you! Always inform about your expectations at the beginning of the meeting, so everyone is on the same page about not wasting any time.

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.