“I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
This quote is often attributed to Bill Gates, though in reality, it was actually said by the American engineer, FrankB. Gilbreth Sr. Regardless of who came up with this eccentric advice, it is the very definition of working smarter, not harder.
No matter which industry your business is, there aren’t always enough hours to get all the work done. As a result, you often have a work backlog.
So what’s the solution to this dilemma? Do overtime?
But that’s hardly good for your productivity or your health.
According to a Stanford report, “productivity during 60 hour weeks would be less than two-thirds that of what it was when 40 hour weeks were worked.”
So instead of wasting time putting in extra hours when you are already fatigued, there are some proven ways to work smarter and improve your productivity:
1. Create a 'Not To-Do' List
Most of us use to-do lists, and the general consensus is that they are the next best invention after the automatic washing machine.
They are helpful in providing people with a sense of achievement as they happily cross out the tasks that are done.
However, a lot of time, these to-do-lists can become out of control as you add more and more tasks to them.
As a result, you have to resort to multi-tasking and a lot of your energy is redirected to less important activities.
To make good use of your to-do list, you should trim out all the fat and only focus on no more than 5 priority and challenging tasks of the day.
Focus on one task at a time and then move on to the next when it is finished.
In fact, an even better idea is to create a 'not to-do' list that notes down all the non-urgent tasks that can be postponed to another day.
This can help you separate the important tasks from the unimportant ones.
Some people prefer to make both the to-do and 'not to-do' lists separately, while others just like to savagely cut down their to-do lists.
You can do whatever works best for you to be more productive and timely.
2. Measure Your Results
When it comes to measuring productivity, a lot of businesses focus on how many hours it took to complete a task rather than what an individual accomplished in a day.
However, research from the creative artwork platform Behance, says “the pressure of being required to sit at your desk until a certain time creates a factory-like culture that ignores a few basic laws of idea generation and human nature:
(1) When the brain is tired, it doesn't work well;
(2) Idea generation happens on its own terms; (
3) When you feel forced to execute beyond your capacity, you begin to hate what you are doing.”
One way to measure results instead of how many hours you put in is to generate a list of done tasks.
This is just a simple record of everything you completed in a single day.
By looking at the list of these done tasks, you will automatically know how productive you have been and will feel more inspired and motivated once you see how much you were able to accomplish.
Additionally, measuring the results of a day can help you gauge how much work you are realistically able to do in a single day and then plan more effectively for other days.
3. Manage Your Time
Regardless of whether you are a student, an employee, or an entrepreneur, you must have heard at one time or another to manage your time.
Even though it seems easy in theory, not many people are able to effectively manage their time.
That’s because they are not aware of a few basic rules on how to manage their time well.
For example, when you are starting your day, you need to check your to-do and 'not to-do' lists and calculate how much time each task will require.
This will allow you to set a certain time limit to complete each task. Then, all you need to do is follow it.
Another way you need to do that is to switch off all distractions. That means not replying to the messages on your smartphone and ignoring your emails for a time, as well. Also, do not multi-task as it can ruin your focus.
Then, do your utmost to finish the task within the deadline.
4. Say No To Multi-Tasking
All of us have been taught to multi-task. “You can get more things done this way in a less amount of time,” they said. Turns out, they were completely wrong.
Humans are incapable of working on multiple things simultaneously.
“People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves,” said Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT. “The brain is very good at deluding itself.”
All multi-tasking does is switch our attention from one task to another very quickly so that we can’t focus on any single task.
Plus, we put our brain on overdrive so it struggles to cope with the constantly changing attentions.
Hence, the end result is heightened stress levels in people who are constantly running to do multiple things at a time.
5. Automate Tasks
Here, I'm not talking about using technology to make tasks automatic, though that works very well too.
I'm talking about building routines and habits that, overtime, do not require a lot of thinking on one’s part and become almost second-nature to do.
“It turns out we each have one reservoir of will and discipline, and it gets progressively depleted by any act of conscious self-regulation,” said Tony Schwartz in a Harvard Business Review.
That means that if you spend too much time on making decisions on small and unimportant things, you will be left with less will and self-control to make all the challenging decisions.
6. Change Your Perspective about Failure
Edison once said that it was “ten thousand failures” that resulted in the ultimate success of the first working light bulb.
Theodore Roosevelt apparently believed in the same philosophy when he said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”
This means that if you are trying to achieve something, you will encounter failure at one point or another.
However, this should not be your cue to give up. Rather you should learn to accept failure and in the process also learn what caused you to fail.
This can prevent you from making the same mistakes over and over again and wasting time.
On the other hand, failure also gives you ample opportunity to learn new things, which you can implement in future projects.
The difference between great people and ordinary ones is that they keep moving towards their end goals even while others have given up.
7. Ask for Help
Don’t let your pride get in the way of asking for help. If you just sit there and struggle to do everything on your own or sit there in silence, you will lose precious time and will have to place yourself under undue stress.
If there is a job that cannot be easily done alone, you should be transparent and open with your team about it. Communication is key.
So for example, If you are working on a project, you should be able to foresee how much workload will be required and how much you will be able to manage.
That way, you won’t get a nasty surprise when you realize you won’t be able to meet your deadline.
8. Minimize Stress
Stress is the biggest enemy of productivity. Stress can cause physical, behavioral, and emotional issues and can negatively affect your energy levels, motivation, attentiveness, and physical health and wellbeing.
It can cause you to burn out by literally burning your energy reserves and causing you to get into a rut.
The good thing is that alleviating stress can have a positive effect on your productivity.
According to the American Psychological Association, “the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby.”
However, there are some activities that can also increase your stress levels like drinking, smoking, binge-eating, and watching TV for more than two hours.
Another great stress management technique is to increase your sense of control by planning for your work the night before.
This way, you know what to expect in the morning and by sticking to your routine, you can get the job done in no time.
The key to greater productivity lies in working smarter, not harder. By working smarter, you can save your time, resources, energy, and money for all things in life, including your life goals, personal life, relationships, and health.
It is time you quit working overtime and start working smarter!
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