How to work smarter

How to Work Smarter: 10 Ways to Work More Productively

Are there not enough hours in the day? If you think so, you need to know how to work smarter. Here are 10 ways to be more productive and land a promotion.

Are you feeling more and more pressure at work? If so, you might be spending too much time striving for perfection–and growing ever more stressed when you don’t achieve it. Do you want to know how to work smarter?

To improve your work effectiveness, we have a couple of overarching dispositional changes we think you should adopt, as well a total of ten specific changes that fall underneath one or both of these larger categories.

How to Work Smarter: Set Priorities and Plan Your Time

Here we will discuss some of the key steps for planning and prioritizing the various components of your work life.

Priorities that Define Your Job

Begin by reviewing either the position description from when you were hired or your latest performance program. Does this document align with what you actually do?

If it doesn’t, let your supervisor know you would like to discuss this either at your next scheduled review or at some other mutually convenient time. That person might be too busy him or herself to have realized there has been some drift.

If it does align, at least for the most part, great! You can go ahead and work with this, at least until your next scheduled review.

Maintaining Contact

Whether they’re mandated or not, periodic reviews of your performance can be very helpful in easing stress since they can either confirm that you are on a steady and productive path, or let you know what adjustments you need to make.

In fact, it’s important to maintain contact with all the people you work closely with for many reasons. Among them:

  • Overall conviviality and workplace climate
  • Sharing ideas and possibly orchestrating collaborative work
  • Having people who might be able to cover for you when needed
  • Sharing workplace news

Weekly Planning

For a lot of people, this is a late Friday afternoon activity most of the time. It helps them head into the weekend relaxed, knowing what to expect during the following week. As you know, relaxing is key to productivity.

Begin by reviewing your priority list from the week that is ending. Seeing all you accomplished should motivate you to plan the coming week.

Do you need help creating your weekly list? The Muse offers a list of ten apps to help with this. There are multiple functions available, so there should be at least one that works for you.

Creative Time

Be “results-oriented” and make sure to build in some creative time. Harvard Business Review suggests that you sort the low-value tasks into three categories:

  • Things you can stop doing now with no negative effects
  • Tasks that can be delegated with minimal effort
  • Work that needs to be restructured or overhauled

Creative time is essential to those working in knowledge industries like education, graphic design, non-profit management, and many others–work that takes a sort of “applied imagination.” This is not downtime per se; rather, its focused reflection.

Your Personal Time: “Putting Up Guardrails”

But don’t forget the downtime, either.

Business Insider recommends some late Friday activities that help you establish a mental boundary between the work week and the weekend:

  • Make a point of saying goodbye to your co-workers and wishing them a good weekend.
  • Have an after-work ritual you look forward to, such as cocktails with friends or an activity with someone special.

And during the week, be sure to go home at the end of the workday! If you don’t, you might resent your work the next day, or at least be too tired to appreciate it.

How to Work Smart: Help Yourself

Who ever said that putting pressure on yourself makes you more productive? While some people handle pressure at work better than others (think of ER workers), hardly anyone consciously adds pressure to their work lives.

But a lot of us do it without intending to.

So here are some strategies for working smarter, not harder that should help.

Keep Your Work Space Tidy

This is much easier for some people than it is for others. But a clean and organized office or workspace has a lot of benefits.

If your job involves having other people visit your space, tidiness is not optional. People will think less of you, even if they don’t say it. A messy workspace says that you’re a poorly organized person, and that’s bad for your reputation.

If you are the sole occupant most of the time, it is still not optional–for other reasons. Among the reasons: you just think more clearly and effectively without clutter or, worse, garbage lying around.

Be Sloppy and Chaotic When Starting Projects

People who are creative and productive frequently do “brain dumps” (also known as brainstorming). Just throw all your ideas on a given topic onto a sheet of paper. Yes, we do recommend paper for this.

The process of transcribing your brainstorming into a computer program like Word or Excel is the first stage of organizing your ideas. It’s when you identify things that seem superfluous or irrelevant.

Then Get Really Organized

Not only that, but also you begin to see good ideas taking shape. Then you will need to to give yourself and/or any collaborators the credit for being so smart.

At this point, it’s good to outline what you drew from your brainstorming session and decided to keep. That way you’ll know what to focus on.

If you decide on more brainstorming for specific sections, you can return to the outline to be sure the new ideas conform to the original plan. And if they don’t, either discard them or save them for the future.

Collaborate

Isn’t collaboration a buzzword of the early 21st century? Yes, some of its goals are increased efficiency and generating good ideas. But there’s another that supports this “two heads are better than one” philosophy: dividing up the work.

Here are the Five Principles of Collaboration according to J. Ibeh Agbanyim:

  • Applying Trust
  • Respect
  • Willingness
  • Empowerment
  • Effective Communication.

Agbanyim says that “relationships are built around five principles of collaboration, and when any of them are lacking, human relationships suffer.”

If your brainstorming wasn’t collaborative from the start, consider bringing others on board once you’ve had time to sort and process your preliminary thoughts.

Moving Forward

Now that we’ve discussed two overarching goals for work effectiveness, we’d like to share one more thing with you as you move forward and try to implement our advice: Keep seeking and implementing advice.

Get Regular Advice and Feedback

Yes, the workplace has introverts as well as extroverts. However, none of us works effectively by her- or himself all the time. This is why collaboration and other regular contact with co-workers are so important.

So too is advice from books, websites, and other sources outside where you work. Among other benefits, this can bring in fresh ideas and help us keep our own workplace habits and routines in perspective.

If you would like to receive workplace strategy tips on a regular basis and remind yourself how to work smarter on a regular basis, you might want to subscribe to a regular newsletter that offers them.  This article is just scratching the surface of what you need to know to get promoted fast.

– Your Job Coach, The Promotion Strategist

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