We all have those days, we get home – collapse from exhaustion and then when asked ‘what did you do at work today’ aren’t able to answer the question properly. Because, even though we ran around like crazy people and were ‘busy’, we weren’t actually productive nor did we accomplish anything we were meant to.
There is a very big difference between being busy and getting stuff done. But how do we differentiate between working hard and working smart? At the end of the day, if you’ve set yourself a number of tasks for the day and not only have you completed them but you’ve smashed them out of the ballpark – then I think you’ve worked smart. Obviously being realistic when creating challenges for yourself is important. You want to create tasks for yourself that are achievable – if you push yourself.
Let’s break down some great tips on working smarter, suggestions that I use every day to ensure that I am efficient, productive and that also make me feel proud of my own accomplishments.
01: Make a List - Check it Twice
How do you plan your day? Do you wing it when you sit down at your desk? Do you make it up as you go along? Or do you go to work each day with set goals, a task list, and focus projects? We all have many hats that we wear in a day. I know that without task lists and my daily planner – I would probably come undone between all of the areas of accountability within my role as Marketing Coordinator. If I think about my days, I know that between 7:30 am and 12 – I am the most productive, so I focus my time on the projects that require the most brain power, like content writing.
As the day progresses, I am very aware that my brain power slowly decreases – so I focus on the more monotonous tasks at during this time.
Being aware of yourself and your energy levels throughout the day will allow you to plan properly. You may also have particular deadlines throughout the day needing to be met. You can easily create daily and weekly planners on programs such as Excel. Stick one near your computer screen and test out different settings for your day until you get the right fit for your role, responsibilities and you. Always make sure that when you’re creating your planner that you allow yourself time to prep and plan for the next day.
02: Break It Up
Ah, the great debate – multitasking. Is it beneficial? Can we safely say that human beings can efficiently multitask? I like to think I can, but it definitely adds a level of unnecessary stress to the day. Juggling tasks divide your attention and increases your time spent on refocussing on a task. I know that for myself, it can take me up to 12 minutes to refocus on a single task.
Think of yourself as a single-core processor! We cannot effectively work on a number of tasks simultaneously – by all means, we can try and admit defeat.
So what’s the most effective time to spend on a single task? I did some research on this and found some great information out about ‘Ultradian Rhythms and Peak Performance’. We are organisms that run in cycles – our brains can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes before it needs a break. The Ultradian Rhythm is represented in both our sleeping and waking lives.
When planning your days and creating your schedules for your work day, try and keep your focus on one specific task for a maximum of between 90 – 120 minutes (trial at different amounts and see what works for you) After this time, go for a quick walk or grab a coffee before getting stuck into the next part of your day. Allow yourself the opportunity to pat yourself on the shoulder and accept that you produced some great work in that period.
03: Do Not Disturb
You’re allowed to be selfish with your time. If you’re anything like me – you want to help people, you’re the first person to offer assistance or to take on extra projects when you’re already drowning in your ‘to-do pile’. People aren’t going to hate you if you say no to assisting them right this second. Unless it is your role to assist people, allow yourself to say no. Being in a team, you help each other and pick up where others may fall short, it promotes a strong culture. But if your productivity is being affected by your generosity, you need to be firm.
I can definitely say I have learned this the hard way! It doesn’t make you a bad person to say no, just like how you respect other people’s time and responsibilities, other team members should do the same.
If there is a particular time of the day where you need 100% concentration, put yourself on ‘Do Not Disturb’. Turn off email notifications, send a broadcast out to your team members to let them know you are in a bubble of focus and just dive into your project. When content writing, I definitely need 100% concentration. So, I generally put my headphones in and send a broadcast out – and before I know it, I have completed a great piece of writing… If I do say so myself.
04: It's Not Me, It's You
Have you ever been so engrossed in completing a project that it is literally taking everything in you to complete and you refuse to leave until it's done? You’ve been at work for ten hours, you’re surviving off of 16 coffees and words are no longer making sense... But you keep working? We all do it.
Walking away and switching off from a project that needs to be finished may seem counterintuitive but it’s actually the complete opposite. Stepping away from the task at hand or the stressful environment will immediately decrease your stress levels and also give your brain a chance to catch up and breathe. Have you ever noticed that when you step away from something stressful and get your bearings that solutions and answers magically pop into your mind? Try it, it may save you a massive headache and give you opportunities for fantastic ideas.
So there we have it, my 4 tips on working smarter – not harder... What other tools do you use throughout your day to increase your efficiency and productivity?
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