In my last post, I wrote about the best career advice I wish I was given before entering the workforce. And part of it refers to working smart, not hard, as a way to getting ahead while still preserving your health and sanity. Today, I wanted to share with you four tips that enable you to follow just that, and help you work smart not hard.
As I shared before, last year we were forced to reduce 10-20% work hours across the company because of Covid. With this setup, I basically had less time to essentially do the same amount of work or more; because Covid didn’t really stop business. During this time, I was forced to develop a few techniques to help me along the way. I also learned that I can produce the same output (or more) by putting in less time. How? Essentially, by focusing on the things that delivered the most impact and ignoring the thankless tasks i.e. those that are simply a waste of time. Here are the four tips to help you work smart, not hard.
Four tips to help you work smart, not hard:
- Focus on the things that deliver the most impact and ignore the thankless tasks. This will lead to you saying “No” more often – even to clients, yes! – but in the long run, it will help you. You can even do this transparently – with your clients or manager – and this will earn you points in the long run; because everyone loves added value/impact and no resource waste. If you look at all that you do in a day or in a week, I am sure that after a realistic assessment you can find plenty of “thankless tasks” to fully eliminate. If something won’t drive impact, well don’t even bother with it just so you fill your time.
- Keep your Fridays meeting free. I’ve started doing this since last year and with very rare exceptions, I stick to it. This way I can focus on doing actual work, getting ahead for the following week, or simply taking back some time for myself; something I’ve learned to shamelessly do. Keeping Fridays (mostly) stress-free has been a massive blessing and mood booster overall.
- Add a buffer in your timelines and deadlines. Every good project manager knows this, but if you haven’t learned it yet, it’s not too late. No matter how quick you think you will work or how well you’ve planned it, unexpected things will always come up. Give yourself some buffer to make sure you can produce optimal output at the right pace for you.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel with every single project or request you get; learn to template things, document, and reuse the materials again and again. It can be tempting to want to “innovate” every single time with a new presentation format, excel spreadsheet trick, and more, but it doesn’t always drive impact, and learning to know when to do it or not is key.
These are some tricks that I have been using, but depending on your work style, there can be others that work too. If you feel overwhelmed by work or like a slave of your own schedule, I would definitely encourage you to set some boundaries and focus on working smart rather than simply working hard. Start to play more by your own rules. Focus on your health, your time, and learn to work at your optimal pace.
Do you have any tips to help you work smart, not hard? Please let me know in the comments, would love to add a few more up my (work) sleeve.