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Regardless of the job you do, you probably feel like we are falling behind with our work every now and then. The truth is, there are not always enough hours in the day to get everything done. As a result, you feel frustrated and stressed. And that is not good for neither your productivity nor your health.
Instead of working extra hours, which according to research does more harm than good, you can become more effective by focusing on what is important. Take a look at these tips to work smarter rather than harder.
1. Cut down the “To do” list.
When you have a new project or task, you naturally want to get everything done on time. So, you start creating a huge to do list with a hundred tasks that becomes overwhelming, preventing you from being productive. That is because you give your energy to less important tasks and activities.
Instead, you can keep a “short” list focused on your 3 to 5 most important and challenging tasks for the day. By focusing on one task at the time you will feel more productive. The same way, you should work on those tasks in the morning otherwise you may get busy and run out of time to do them.
2. Measure your results.
We often make the mistake of focusing on how much time a task takes to be completed instead of focusing on what you actually accomplished. Several studies have found that placing more importance into hours or physical presence rather than into actions and results creates a culture of anxiety and inefficiency.
A great way to help you measure your results instead of the time spent is to create “done” lists writing down everything you completed in a day. This will give you the opportunity to review your day and will help you plan more effectively. When you can see everything you accomplish, you feel more motivated and focused.
3. Keep up with the good attitude.
We have heard over and over that we are more effective at work when we keep a “positive attitude”. By saying “good attitude” we mean taking the initiative whenever it is possible, willingness to help colleagues in need, making sure the work is done to the highest standards, and so on.
A good attitude at work can help you set standards for your work, ensuring that you take responsibility for yourself. Having a good attitude at work could open many doors for you in the future.
4. Remember that communication is the key.
Regardless of the nature of your job, if you are freelancer, entrepreneur, or employee, there will be times when you must work with others. Therefore, it is very important to strengthen both communication and collaboration skills.
A good starting point is to be more aware of your active listening skills and to stay on one topic when communicating. By doing so, the information may flow smoothly avoiding confusion and misunderstanding.
5. Routines work like magic.
Several studies have shown that creating and following routines help you work more efficiently. According to Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach, speaker, and author, "We are creatures of habit, and so are our brains. When we establish routines, we can carry out tasks faster since we don't have to 'think' about the task - or prepare for it - as much and can work on autopilot."
6. Automate more tasks.
According to many professionals, the secret of getting more things done is to reduce the amount of decisions you have to make throughout the day.
In the words of Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project, in the Harvard Business Review:
"It turns out we each have one reservoir of will and discipline, and it gets progressively depleted by any act of conscious self-regulation. In other words, if you spend energy trying to resist a fragrant chocolate chip cookie, you'll have less energy left over to solve a difficult problem. Will and discipline decline inexorably as the day wears on."
In simple words, create routines and habits so that instead of deciding you can just do during the day.
7. Say NO to the multitasking culture.
We all believe and praise that we are multitaskers, but we are not. As a matter of fact, humans are just incapable of doing multiple things at the same time. Instead, we're simply shifting our attention from one task to another very quickly.
"People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves," said neuroscientist Earl Miller. "The brain is very good at deluding itself."
Researchers have found that they can see the brain struggling when multitasking. Next time you feel tempted to multitask take a step back and focus on the one thing that needs to get done right now and then move to the next task.
8. Take advantage of your procrastination.
According to Parkinson’s Law, if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.” This law does not actually give you permission to wait until the last minute to get your job done. However, it might provide a leverage for efficiency by imposing shorter deadlines for a task or scheduling earlier meetings.
9. Get rid of stress.
It is no secret that stress can cause not only emotional, but also physical and behavioral problems which can impact your work performance.
According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are the ones that involve physical activity such as: exercising or playing sports, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga. And the least effective strategies are clearly more sedentary options: playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours. We could say that keeping an active working environment is crucial if reducing stress is a goal.
Another effective technique of stress management is to increase your control over situations in advance. You can start by planning tomorrow the day before and sticking to your routines and habits.
10. Do more of the work you enjoy.
Not everybody is lucky enough to do what you love for a living. Even if you have your dream job and you are following your passions, there will always be tasks that you do not enjoy doing that much. In both cases, you should always focus more on the work that you enjoy doing.
When you do, you'll feel more fulfilled, inspired, challenged, and productive.
We hope that these 10 tips help you to work smarter and not harder. Remember that the most important thing is to have a working space adapted to you and not the other way around.