We’ve all heard the saying: “work smart, not hard” before. But how do you actually manage this?
It’s not about how many hours you spend at your desk, it’s how you spend those hours that counts. Once you master working smarter, you’ll not only be able to improve your work life, but you’ll also free up more time for your personal life. Win-win, right?
Here are 5 simple techniques you can use today to work less but get more done.
It’s easy to think that every task is highly important and urgent. But if this is the case, then where do you start? It almost seems impossible to tackle a to-do list that hasn’t been prioritised. My personal go-to for prioritising tasks is the Eisenhower Matrix.
The Matrix pushes you to question the importance of tasks with one simple question – does this task help you to achieve your personal or professional goals?
Once you’ve established the importance of the task, you consider the time you have to complete the task. Depending on each task’s importance and urgency, you can arrange them into one of the four quadrants: Do first, Do later, Delegate and Eliminate (or, you can get eisedo to do it for you!).
This way, you can focus on the important tasks that require your immediate attention, rather than wasting time on less important and less urgent tasks that aren’t contributing to your goals. Using this method of prioritisation will also help you to maintain clarity on your ultimate goals, as you can see how each task contributes to them.
2. Learn To Say No
Never underestimate the power of saying no. Studies show that using this simple, two-letter word can improve both your productivity and your mental health. This doesn’t mean that you should be saying no to anything and everything, but that you must be careful to avoid over-working yourself.
It’s important to help others and make them happy, but it’s also important to make yourself happy. Help where you can, but be realistic with any tasks or deadlines you agree to. By taking on fewer tasks, you can focus on your most important and urgent to-dos and get more done.
3. Find Appropriate Shortcuts
Taking shortcuts doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care, and it doesn’t mean that you’re lazy. If you want to work less and get more done, you need to find the most efficient way to achieve your goals. Anyone can work hard, but it requires a bit of initiative and creative thinking to find the smartest way to get stuff done.
So, if you have to respond to endless emails asking the same question every day, why not save your responses as templates? You may have to make small edits here and there, but the majority of work will already be done.
Do you have partners or teammates? Then make the most of them! Don’t be afraid of delegating work when necessary. In line with the Eisenhower Matrix, you should be evaluating each of your tasks to determine their importance and urgency.
If a task is considered not important (it doesn’t help you to achieve your personal or professional goals) but still requires urgent attention, then delegate this to a trusted colleague, or even to friends or family. These tasks could be anything, from booking flights to getting price quotes. If you have someone else to handle your non-important and urgent tasks, you will truly work less but get more done!
5. Schedule breaks
In his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells the story of a woodcutter and his saw. As he continues to cut down trees, the saw becomes blunter and blunter. By not taking breaks to sharpen his saw, this task is actually consuming more time and effort than needed.
In Covey’s own words, sharpening your ‘saw’ is all about:
“…preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.”
He emphasises the importance of taking time to keep yourself fresh and ready for life’s challenges. Sure, you could pull continuous all-nighters or constantly work over-time, but this is not a sustainable way to live. At a certain point, your body will become exhausted and your mind will wear down.
This behaviour leads to poor concentration and careless mistakes. So, in order to work less but get more done, it’s important (and urgent!) that you schedule yourself regular breaks to refresh your mind and body.
Over to you…
Do you have any other smart tips you use? Share them in the comments section below!