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  • Writer's pictureWhitney Kippes

Working Smarter, Not Harder

We've all heard the saying right? "Work smarter, not harder." But what does it really mean? And how can we really work smarter without sacrificing our ambitious goals?

Being more effective at work

We are truly creatures of habit - as are our brains. When we establish routines, we can carry out tasks faster, since we don't have to think about the task.

If you've ever auto-piloted to the grocery store on your way home, you know exactly what I mean.

What's so interesting here is that research published by Stanford University has shown that there's a real decline in productivity once you hit a certain hour mark - employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours -- so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours.

That means that being more effective might free you up the space to get just as much done in half the time it once took.

So how do you make it happen?

This is one of those areas where understanding the science logically does not automatically make you great at the follow through. Or maybe that's just my experience.

Here are a few tips that can start you toward working smarter:

  1. Prioritize more - facing down a wall of to-dos is enough to make anyone scattered. Narrow your list to the items that are the most urgent and most important (I love a Eisenhower Matrix for this), and you'll be able to work through those with more care.

  2. Focus on results - instead of thinking that you have two hours of work to do, frame it by the result or objective. For example, I have to write three blog posts today. It matters most to me that I complete that task - not really how long it takes to do it.

  3. Communicate clearly - having to do and redo work is probably our biggest time suck. Imagine the time we would save by just getting it straight the first time. Practice active listening and repeating back instructions to ensure there is clarity from the get go.

  4. Cultivate routine - use a calendar, habit tracker, or check out our video on time management for some tips.

  5. Stop multitasking - when you have your list of top priorities, try a focusing system, like a pomodoro timer, to knock out on task at a time without slowing your brain down switching gears from one task to another and back again.

Working smarter means prioritizing, building systems, and eliminating waste. More than anything it means stepping back to ensure that you have a plan in place to tackle your afternoon, your week, your month, and your year.

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