How to Work Smarter, Not Just Harder

The following post is from Sherri of Serene Journey and Zen Family Habits:

work smarter
source: Corey Leopold

If there’s one thing successful people know how to do, it’s manage time.

Successful people are driven, motivated and have an unquenchable thirst for getting what they want. Successful people also never shy away from work – easy, hard, mundane, whatever. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a successful person continuously wasting time or shying away from doing something for the sake of avoiding work.

It’s been my experience that successful people (truly successful people) are also smarter than most. I don’t mean they got the highest marks in school or that they have an above average I.Q. What I mean is they find ways to work smarter, not harder.

What do I mean by this? Working smarter can include things like working within a framework of clearly defined goals, objectives and directions. Working smarter also includes using tools that already exist as opposed to re-inventing the wheel and becoming proficient at delegating where it makes sense.

Here are 7 ways you can start working smarter, not just harder, and getting ahead at work or in life.

1. Start with a clear vision.

Without a clear vision, you’ll find yourself working around in circles. You’ll do a lot of “busy work” and work that will likely be thrown out in the end because it’s not in line with your ultimate goal. To have a clear vision start by taking a few hours over a couple of days to really understand where you’re going, what you want and how you’re going to get there. With this basic road map in hand you’ll be doing work that matters and that’s important … smart.

2. Get more bang for your buck.

By now you may have heard of the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. Basically, it states that roughly 80% of the output come from 20% of the input. If you know where you’re going and where you want to be, what is the least you can do to get there? To put it another way, what can you spend 20% of your time doing to get you to 80% done? That’s using the Pareto principle and working smarter rather than harder. When you figure this out, you’ll find you’re more efficient at what you do and more effective at getting things done.

3. It’s about progress not perfection.

This is key for me. The inverse of the 80/20 rule I mentioned above is spending 80% of your time getting only 20% of your stuff done. Not very smart. If you find yourself getting hung up on the perfection of every little thing, it’s time to start focusing on being okay with “good enough” and not perfect. Move a task along and keep it going. Simply making progress is a lot smarter than striving for the fictional perfection.

4. Outsourcing and delegating should be your best friends.

After you’ve wasted 3 days getting the perfect logo for your business, ask yourself, “Was that really the best way I could have spent my time?” If you’re not a graphic designer or even remotely competent in the field of graphic artistry, consider outsourcing that task. What took you 3 days to do would likely take minutes or hours for someone who does this for a living. Contrary to what you think or believe, outsourcing and delegation don’t make you a failure. Delegating tasks means you recognize your strengths and are also realistic with what you may not be so good at or how your time could be better spent. Nobody knows everything about everything.

5. Swallow your pride and don’t be shy.

To repeat my last point: nobody knows everything about everything. Another way to work smarter comes down to swallowing your pride and asking for help or guidance where and when you need it. Not confident in the ways of email marketing? Ask someone. Not sure where to get a logo designed? Ask someone. Even if the person you ask can’t help you, they may be able to point you to someone else who can. Don’t be shy; speak up and ask. You might just be surprised at how friendly and helpful people can be if you simply approach them.

6. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Take some time up front and do a bit of research. What tools are already out there that could make your life a whole lot easier? Who are the top people in your field, and how can you learn from them? There are a lot of great resources out there accessible to you. Look around, talk to people and — again — ask for help.

7. Sit on things for a bit.

As a society, we are accustomed to instant everything. Admit it, if you send an email and you know the person is at their desk or has their phone on them, more often than not you expect an immediate response. Avoid getting caught up in the immediacy of everything and acting hastily. Take a bit of time and sit on something for even a day. It could be the difference between a terrible decision and a fantastic one. Don’t be afraid to go against the norm on this one. Waiting could really pay off for you.

There are a lot of things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your time as well as the efficiency with which you do things, which leaves you more time to reap the benefits of your hard work rather than getting stuck on the hamster wheel of always needing to do more.

What advice can you give people to encourage them to work smarter and not just harder?

Sherri is a work-at-home mom to two young boys and has been married to her high school sweetheart, Gwynn, for 13 years. Read more from Sherri at Serene Journey, where she shares simple tips to enjoy life, and at Zen Family Habits, where she talks about all things family.