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4 Tips for Working Smarter, Not Harder

working smarter

Have you ever wondered why you aren’t as productive as you could be? If so, you’re in the right place because we’re looking at a few surefire ways to boost productivity. There’s lots to cover, so let’s get cracking…

The Basics

Let’s turn to the experts to get an accurate insight into how best to up our productivity game. Throughout this article, we’ll refer to this book, Stop Spending, Start Managing: Strategies to Transform Wasteful Habits, where several experts offer pearls of wisdom on different areas of productivity.

One of the first points discussed in this book is the mentality surrounding productivity. Typically, in business or work settings, we believe that the more time you contribute to a project, the more productive you are. I.e., if you work more, you get more done at, right?

However, contrary to this popular belief. Instead, the authors suggest shifting our focus to managing our time better rather than spending more time. After all, productivity isn’t simply the quantity of work done but output quality. This leads us to our first point. For example, you may spend eight hours at your desk on a project and only get two hours of actual productive work – and, as such, those wasted six hours could have been put to better use!

This begs the question: how can we work smarter, not harder?

1.   Self-Reflect and Set Goals

We often jump into projects without getting our ducks in a row. However, research shows that impatience in starting a project can actually be a barrier to productivity.

So, rather than learning things midway through a project and winging it, usually, it’s better to spend a bit of time researching and creating an outline first. This might seem obvious, but research shows that planning and goal setting leads to more productive outcomes.

In fact, researchers suggest that self-reflection and goal setting could increase long-term engagement with a project and strengthen better work habits. Similarly, in another study on student productivity, researchers found that self-reflection helped students self-regulate their studying and develop strategies to increase productivity.

To put this into practice, try writing your goals for the day. Then, you could evaluate what you did and consider what you could do better to increase productivity.

2.  Cooperate With Teammates

The next point concerns the way we manage our workflow.

Working in isolation is often detrimental to productivity. In fact, we think that former Hewlett-Packard CEO Lew Platt said it best when he said:

“If HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.”

By this, we can assume he was referring to the fact employees typically work singularly, without collaborating with other departments or making the most of their internal resources.

In light of this, turn your attention to your own workplace. Are you making the most out of your teammates’ expertise? Do you consult in-house documentation? What, if anything, are you doing to foster more effective collaboration? Once we consider these questions, offices are more likely to stumble upon methods, strategies, and info that makes working much more manageable.

On top of that, the authors also say that barriers to productivity come from ideas not being taken seriously. How often have you been in meetings where someone suggests an idea that seems to be swept under the rug? When we hear thoughts and feedback about our work on a micro-level, are we actually considering them? Sometimes, our pride can get in the way of seeing things that prevent us from getting the most out of our work.

3.  Filter Out Distractions

This next point may seem contrary to what we’ve just discussed. But, bear with us. While we need a thorough understanding of the project at hand, we don’t want to waste time on unrelated factors.

This comes down to simplifying and drilling down on what really matters by narrowing down the essence of our task and removing unnecessary distractions.

Suffice to say, we live in a world cluttered with distractions that can hinder our productivity. Interestingly, research shows that workers were more productive when removing distractions like social media from their working environment.

Another, albeit less obvious source of distraction, sometimes comes from efforts to be more productive. For instance, unnecessary workplace meetings can result in ‘information overload’ wherein less information is absorbed from such meetings than the reverse.

So, take some time to think about what distracts you. Then, if possible, remove it from your workspace.

4.  Take a Break

On the topic of information overload, research suggests that our productivity levels fluctuate throughout the day as workers experience mental and physical fatigue, which can compromise their productivity.

The study shows that workers need regular breaks to ‘restore their productive faculties.’ Recovery in this context refers to the idea that our body needs regular intervals to return to its base levels. When employees did this, the researchers found that they showed increased motivation, attention, and productivity.

While taking a break, consider playing brain-boosting games like solitaire. While this might seem counterproductive, research implies that games like this can develop higher-order thinking skills, including mathematic problem-solving and comfort with delayed gratification.

If that’s the case, why not try a derivative of solitaire, such as FreeCell or Spider? Of course, we’re not suggesting that you use these as a distraction! Rather, these could be worthwhile activities during your scheduled breaks.

Are You Ready to Get Productive?

That brings us to the end of this article, but before you go, let’s review:

Are you:

  1. Setting goals and learning from mistakes?
  2. Effectively working with your teammates?
  3. Filtering out distractions?
  4. Taking enough breaks?

That’s it, folks – we hope you’ve learned a few techniques for improving your productivity. Good luck!



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