5 incredibly effective ways to work smarter, not harder

Written by Saadia Iqbal ·  3 min read >

When you are always in the hustle mode, it can be pretty hard to achieve a work-life balance. Every other person I meet is juggling their work obligations and personal life and sadly, I am stuck in the same situation. Getting my eyes shut is becoming tricky, especially when I have so much to do.

It is easy to adopt the habit of working hard but then you get so caught up that you can’t stop thinking about work. Those who freelance on the weekend know what I am talking about. Once Friday hits, it’s time to work for someone else. It feels as if life is revolving around a working pattern and there is no end to it. In such circumstances, it is often hard to work smartly.

Aren’t you tired of this routine? I know I am! Just because you work more, it doesn’t mean you earn more too. Maybe you are just wasting energy on something that is not bringing enough return. It took me a lot of time to realize this. Before hard work gets the best of you, it’ time to kill two birds with the same rock.

Here are 5 incredible ways to get more done in less time. Let’s work smarter and not harder.

1. Take More Breaks

Stephen Covey in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ tells the story of a woodcutter whose saw gets blunt over time as he continues to cut down more trees. If he had used a sharp blade to cut trees and sharpen his saw meanwhile, he could have saved time for himself and cut more trees. So, what’s the analogy? By sharpening the saw, Covey means you should preserve and enhance your best asset. That means we need a balanced program for self-renewal in our physical, mental, spiritual and emotional life. When you take some time out to sharpen the saw, you save yourself from getting burnt out doing the same job.

On average, the human brain can remain focused for 90 minutes only and needs 15 minutes to recharge. If you really want to get more done in less time, take short breaks after every 90 minutes. By doing this, you allow yourself to be ready to work in full potential in the next 90-minute period.

2. Create a routine and stick to it!

Hallie Crawford, a speaker, author, and a certified career coach says human beings and their brains are creatures of habit. With an established routine, we can carry out more tasks and faster than otherwise because we don’t have to think about what to do or prepare for the task. We simply work on autopilot.

So, plan a routine. Write everything down, starting from what time to wake up, exercise, shower to what tasks to do today and everything in between. Your focus should be on building a routine and habit that you don’t have to decide every day. You just do it. No wonder why famous people like Mark Zuckerberg wear the same clothes each day. They eliminate everything silly and focus on using their energy on important things.

3. Track where you waste time

We try implementing new solutions instead of uncovering the problem. Before you experiment a new solution to improve your productivity, first figure out what things do you waste time on. For instance, have a look at how you spend your time every morning when you are getting ready for work. You probably waste a lot of time picking clothes. Instead of doing that in the morning, why not pick the clothes the night before? Or you could just pick what to wear throughout the week on Sunday. Keep going and you will identify lots of similar stuff that eats away precious time. I realized I spend too much time checking my Facebook before starting work. What I do now check my news feed during my commute. Once I reach my home, I stop using Facebook.

4. Stop multi-tasking

Like me, you probably believe that multi-tasking means you get more work done. But science says otherwise. It says that humans are not capable of doing multiple things at the same time.

Earl Miller, a neuroscientist says that people cannot multi-task very well. Those, who say they can, are deluding themselves. The human brain is pretty good in misleading itself. When we multi-task, what we really do is shift our attention from one task to another very quickly. In the end, you are not paying attention to anything. The human brain, in fact, has to struggle when it is multi-tasking.

So my friend, next time you try to multi-task, remember what science has to say. I know you want to get both the tasks done but stop. Instead, take a deep breath and focus on the thing that is most important right now. Once you are done with it, move on to the next task. In that way, you won’t compromise quality.

5. Build habits that help you start working

When you don’t have a priority list that tells which task to perform first, you tend to procrastinate and waste your time. The best way to overcome this procrastination is to build a routine to tell your mind and body that it is time to work. For some people, it could be putting away their phone, stretching or having a cup of coffee. Once it ends, it means you need to start the work now. The weekday problem is solved, what about the weekends? We all are tempted to let go of our routine on the weekends. If you feel the same, then create a weekend routine too.

I will conclude by saying do what you love. Agreed, not all of us are privileged to get our dream jobs but that’s OK. You can still follow your passion. When you do what you love, you will feel inspired, more fulfilled, challenged and of course, productive. So if you love to cook and somehow you ended up in the tech world, keep cooking on the weekends. Now, who is ready to adopt some new habits to work smarter?

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