Of course, I mean WORK SMART, not hard – but when you read it in reverse, it emphasizes how much sense it makes to really think about your work habits rather than potentially waste your energies. Modern conveniences may “save time,” but as of yet no one has discovered a way to eke out more than 24 hours in a day, so the only real way to accomplish more in a day is to change how you work and what you work on.
How you think about and execute your work is often largely within your control. Here’s a list to get you started and help you think about why you make the choices you do in the way you work. You may need to develop some new habits or fine-tune some old ones:
- It Takes Time to Make Time: Just like the adage “it takes money to make money,” if you want to work smart in the long term you are going to have to take some time out from your normal activities to focus on creating efficiency. Set aside some time to make yourself a Work Smart Game Plan. Ask yourself, “What do you need to stop doing?” and “What do you need to start doing?”
- Make Space in Your Day: Meetings, though a necessary component of work life, also create the most wasted time and stress in the majority of workplaces. If you are booked solid all day in meetings, when will you get your work done? On top of preserving time to get your work done, adhere to the practice of scheduling breaks to give you the option to address emerging issues or other needs so that you aren’t staying late.
- Create Systems/Processes: How many wasted minutes or even hours have you spent searching through your desk or network drive for that very important note you wrote down or the contract that needs to go to the client? Multiply that by 1000, and you might be close to the amount of time you’ve wasted in your career by not taking the time to get organized. Come in on a weekend if you have to, but get your filing done, clean off your desk, update your calendar, and knock out all those things that create time wasting moments throughout the week. And once you get organized, create habits that support your staying organized and on top of your world.
- Multi-Task Less: Reading the company newsletter while the copier scans your document: good multi-tasking. Editing a document while having a phone conversation not related to the document: bad multi-tasking. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by doing too many things at once. Do one thing at a time, and do it well.
- Train and Delegate: You are probably doing work that you could delegate to someone else, but you haven’t because you’d have to take the time to train them or because you don’t like to let things go. See Item 1 – this is a perfect example of working hard and not smart. Focus your efforts on the activities for which you are the best candidate and leave the rest to someone else.
- Use Your Vacation Time: Far too many workers and employers equate the number of hours worked with worker quality. Not only can you be a great employee in 40 hours a week, but to stay great you need to recharge from time to time. Time off allows your brain to rest and refresh, and allows you an opportunity to consider new perspectives.
Remember, scheduled pauses, making a plan and organizing may feel like you aren’t working hard, but if you practice working smart you’ll move further and faster forward than ever before.