Ahhh, the true adage, “work smarter, not harder”. While it resonates with most, it can also be confusing and downright infuriating. Maybe you’re already working really, really hard and still aren’t achieving the results you’d like. Perhaps you actually need to work smarter in order to be more effective at getting what you want.
I’m no stranger to working both hard and smart. Running a copywriting house and career coaching company is fulfilling…and a lot of work. To achieve optimal results (and maintain my sanity), I set certain parameters for myself. It isn’t about taking shortcuts. It’s about being proactive.
There are several actions you can take to be more effective at work. Why not try implementing these four?
- Fix your to-do list
Write down specific, measurable tasks that you’d like to accomplish each day. “Schedule meeting with vendor” is good, whereas “complete project” isn’t digestible enough. In addition, limit what’s on your plate. While this might seem counterintuitive, you’ll be more effective when you do fewer things and do them well.
Before you wrap up, make a list of goals you’d like to achieve the following day. It pays to plan ahead to make sure you’re focusing on the right things – one key habit of effective people.
- Stop multitasking
Once you’ve got your list ready to go, pick the most pressing item and handle that one first, exclusively. I’ve said it time and time again, but you won’t get much accomplished with frantic multitasking attempts. There are several Ted Talks and articles that are begging you to stop multitasking right now. Monotasking, it turns out, is far more effective. Have you ever attended a meeting, while sneakily texting a friend, only then to get asked a question by your boss? There are several ways this scenario could play out, but I’m sure you know the likely ending. Do yourself a favor and focus on one thing at a time (if you want to be more effective, of course).
- Improve your workspace
Is your desk overly-cluttered? Or maybe you work from home…from your bed. Neither one of these makes for a healthy work environment. A good rule of thumb is to only have whatever project you’re working on visible at the time you’re tackling it. You’re likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by the other piles of paperwork, so try to keep those to a minimum. And definitely don’t work from your bed. While you want to work in an environment that makes you comfortable, this sacred space should be a place for rest only.
- Take more breaks
A break can serve as creative fuel and act in place of a caffeine boost. On average, your brain is only able to focus for periods of 90 minutes at a time, so every hour and a half or so, take at least 15 minutes to pause and do something else. Powering through does not mean you will get more done; in fact, you may be even less effective.
While these tips aren’t complicated, they have the ability to create massive change in how effective you are at handling things on the daily. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kickass administrator or the CEO of your own company, be proactive, get clear on your priorities, and then work on them one at a time. Remember, there’s a huge difference between being efficient and being effective.