Almost everyone I know works hard. Most, very hard. If we put as much attention into working smarter, however, we could accomplish more and free up time for other activities. After all, there is nothing more precious for most of us than time. And as we get older we realize that time with family and friends and our own development is a higher priority than spending more time in our work.
The premise of working smarter is based on a simple truth: Not all work yields the same result. The secret is knowing what practices will give us the largest return on our effort. Those individuals who are most productive practice these disciplines.
One: They prioritize and focus their energies. They take the time each day and each week to determine what are the most important tasks to complete and resist the temptation to be sidetracked by other issues that pop up and distract from the most important. They keep the main thing the main thing, stay focused and don't confuse mere activity with results.
Two: They keep track of their main priorities. They have a written or electronic system for tracking their priorities, their obligations and their progress. It is not "all in their head" which usually means we are not paying close attention to what we need to be doing. On any given day or week we ought to be able to quickly articulate what we are working on because we are keeping track of our priorities. Some will say, "But I like to multitask." Multitasking is overrated! Often it is an excuse for not staying focused and research shows that multitasking is actually a detriment to focused work.
Three. They delegate to others those things that they don't absolutely have to do. Many of us find it hard to delegate tasks we have traditionally done. Those who work smart are quick to delegate anything they don't need to personally do to capable people so that they can concentrate on what they do best. This is part of what it means to focus and to understand the unique role that we play and then make time for that role.
Four. They use their calendar to prioritize their work. If you look at the calendar of those who work smarter you see that they have put into their calendar those activities that are the most important to accomplish. They keep those commitments and use their calendar to prioritize their work. They realize that not all activities are equal. They also recognize that they must calendar their most important activities first, before other activities crowd them out.
Five. They understand the value of time
Time is the one thing that we cannot get back. Money comes and it goes but time just goes. It is a precious commodity because it represents opportunities to invest in what is most important to us. Therefor working smarter means that we use time wisely, focusing on what is most important at work so that we have time outside of work to invest in other meaningful activities and relationships. They don't waste time.
Six. They understand the value of relationships and nurture them
Healthy relationships are the foundation of life and work. Those who work smarter actively nurture relationships around them because relationships nurture trust, cooperation and teamwork.
Seven. They evaluate their work regularly
Working smarter means that we evaluate our own work critically and often. Are we focused on the right things? Are we neglecting key areas or are we spending too much time on peripheral activities because they are easier? Where do we need to recalibrate or adjust? Asking the right questions helps us to evaluate our work and adjust where necessary.
Eight. They take regular time to think
Taking time to think deeply about what we do, why we do it and how we do it is a secret of those who work smarter rather than harder. All it takes is the intentionally to set aside time to think! Again, how we spend our time makes a difference in how we work.