3 Amazing Tips To Help You Work Smarter!
Wouldn’t it be nice if working smarter was the norm? Sadly, in the frenzy of getting things done, there’s little time to examine what you are doing, why you are doing it, or if there are better strategies to getting stuff done. So, the hustle continues and the more exhausted you are!
What is it that keeps us running around like crazy chickens with their heads cut off? Maybe because…
- If you slow down, it will mean dealing with what you’ve been trying to avoid
- The fear of failure, not measuring up, or not being enough – you know, your Fear Monster – is running the show
- You crave significance, recognition, or success
- You feel more successful when you are working than when you are doing life
- You’ve forgotten who you really are or what you really like to do
- That would require you to make some changes
- Being busy makes you feel important
If you’ve fallen prey to any of the above reasons you are not alone! I have too! And all the endless activity left me worn out and discouraged. After all, if I’m going to work that hard, there better be some pretty amazing results, right?
Unfortunately, the exact opposite happens! It’s remarkably counterproductive to always be working or perpetually busy! As humans, we need time to rest, refuel, and process. We weren’t meant to exist in a state of perpetual motion.
My Working Smarter Adventure
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been doing some experimenting to find ways to work smarter rather than harder. It’s been a learning experience – a journey that I’m still on. Here are three tips that have made a powerful difference for me so far:
1. Create a Rhythm of Reflection
In order to being working smarter, you have to slow down and take time to reflect. That’s hard! You will come up with all kinds of really good reasons for NOT slowing down and making time to ponder work and life. I promise you that if you don’t, you will keep on spinning your wheels!
The rhythm that works for me is to spend a couple of hours at the end of each month to reflect. Yes, a couple of hours, and it is well worth the time! I find it is most effective for me to write out my thoughts down in my “work journal” for a couple of reasons. It forces me to stay on track and be more intentional than just reflecting in my head. Because my thoughts are written down, I’m also able to go back and review what I’ve written. That allows me to see progress, and notice where I’m getting stuck.
It’s also helpful to have some specific questions to explore. I don’t always explore the same questions each month, except for these four:
- What’s working? This is based on how I feel, the data from tracking – am I engaging in the daily activities that will help me get closer to my target, and my results.
- What’s not working?
- What needs to change?
- How would I assess my life?
These four questions enable me to step back and see an overview of my life and work that allow me to create a strategy to keep me moving towards my goals.
Here are two other questions that I often ask myself, and that are helpful, especially when you are first beginning your rhythm of reflection:
- What do I want more of in my life?
- What do I want less of in my life?
The answers might surprise you!
Perhaps for your life and work, waiting until the end of the month to examine how everything is going wouldn’t allow you to course correct soon enough. The rhythm that works best for you might be every week or every other week – maybe even daily.
The beauty of having a work journal is that there are all sorts of ways to use it. It’s also a place to…
- Check in with yourself
- Generate ideas
- Solve problems
- Put goals in writing
- Gain perspective
- Record wins
- Notice what is energizing and draining
- Document the lessons learned
- Explore and clarify
- Reflect & evaluate events, projects, sales calls & more
- Observe my strengths
- Take notes from webinars, books, etc.
While technology is amazing for many tasks, I prefer to write in my “work journal” the old-fashioned way. There is something about the process of writing by hand that allows me to be more creative and expressive. Plus, for me, it’s more fun. If a physical journal is not your idea of a good time, do what works!
Be prepared! When your schedule is extra full, you will be tempted to skip journaling. Don’t! That’s when you need the processing time the most!
2. Plan Purposefully
One of the snags that I’ve run into in the past was being so focused on what needed to happen today that I missed what was ahead. That left me scrambling on some pretty big projects, not to mention feeling stressed and unable to apply the kind of creativity those projects needed.
In order to plan more effectively, I now review on Fridays what’s ahead and actually plot out on a physical calendar what tasks must be done each day. Generally, I work looking two weeks ahead, but the last quarter of the year I map out the entire three months. It’s a lot, but for me, the end of the year is a particularly full time of year both personally and professionally. It’s also the most wonderful time of the year and I don’t want to miss out on all that wonder!
I’ve found that plotting deadlines for various activities slightly ahead of when they must be done is also helpful. Then I’m able to work backwards and break the task down into action steps that I can then add to my calendar. Planning my day becomes simple as I refer to the physical calendar I’ve created with the designated tasks for that day. And when I get behind, it’s easier to prioritize all that’s on my plate and determine what needs to happen first.
It might sound like extra work, but I promise if you stick with it, the process will save you time and worry in the long run!
3. Engage In What Energizes YOU!
When I’m perpetually working and putting all my efforts into the work basket it makes me a one-dimensional person – aka a boring person! There’s a whole lot more to me (and you) than work!
The more I engage in other activities besides work that fuel me, the more energy I have for work. For me, those energizing activities would be time with family and friends, reading, gardening, cooking, being creative, exercising, hiking, just for starters.
What kinds of activities, besides work, energize YOU?
You’ll be surprised at how engaging in energizing activities inspires you, boosts your confidence, and unleashes your creativity in ways that positively impacts your work and gets you working smarter. With more energy and focus, you can’t help but get the results you desire and that’s what working is about!