Memo to myself: Work smarter not harder this year!
As we settle into a new year at work and get “back to normal” after uninterrupted time with family and loved ones I have made myself just 1 promise this year (not a resolution because those never have any weight with me) and that is to WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER in 2017. I’m sure you’ve heard this adage before and like me have questioned if this is even possible, well it is as I am just now discovering.
How do you define working smarter and not harder however and does this mean that because we’re not working ourselves into a zombie-like state that we will not succeed this year? Traditionally working hard has long been considered the cornerstone to achievement in the workplace – “You have to work hard if you want to succeed in life!”, “You have to burn the midnight oil to reach your dreams!” & my personal favourite “You gotta hustle baby!” These principles have been drilled into our psyches from a young age while in school – “You have to study hard if you want to pass!” and so we condition ourselves into believing that if we don’t work hard we are bound to fail, not reach our goals and ultimately not achieve anything in life!
So if this is the secret to success why then do so many people, myself included, at times fail miserably? Sometimes failing because we missed the mark by just a few inches and left to bite the proverbial dust. I have tasted this failure all too often. So does this mean that I didn’t work hard? That I did not give it my all? No would be right because hard work has until recently been something I prided myself in. And so I learnt, 12 hard-working years later that the recipe of success is to work smarter & not harder which correlates to making smart choices and acting on those immediately.
Now I am in no way undermining the efforts of those successful entrepreneurs, musicians, actors, regular nine-to-fivers who work hard as we all work tirelessly no doubt about it, however when you have just 24 hours in a day and you’re spreading yourself thin, there comes a point when you realize “There’s only so much I can achieve by working hard!”
Below are a few tips on how you can work smart, apply them to your life and hopefully they will benefit you and save you some time & energy:
- Get clear on the objective – Everything has an objective. It’s just a matter of knowing what it is. People who don’t know what the objective is i.e the expected outcome of what they are working on, are usually the ones who waste the most time. If you know the objective you will be better equipped to achieve this with laser-cut precision.
- Create a vision – Now that you know what the objective is, you have to work on your vision. See your objective as the direction and your vision as your destination.
- Never give 100% rather take the 80/20 route – There are many different ways to reach the same objective. The 80/20 route takes the least effort but gives you the maximum results. It asks that you take the most effective route to get you to where you want to be.
- Create structures to monitor your workflow – If you know how motivation works, you’ll know that it ebbs & flows and is not possible to maintain 100% motivation 24/7. Hence, you need to create workflow structures to help you maintain your output levels.
- Stop being a perfectionist – The world will not stop spinning on its axis if your document is not in Calibri 12, with neat borders & text boxes and your headers colour co-ordinated according to your perfectionistic personality!
- If it works, stick to it – If you already have a formula that works for you, don’t change anything about it! Be it a daily routine that gets you to work on time or having lunch at your desk, which will save you time & afford you the opportunity to complete pending tasks, then stick with the tried and trusted. Anything to get you to leave the office on time everyday is a winning formula in my books.
- Delegate – This comes down to trusting your colleagues, team &/or department to manage themselves and take on tasks knowledgeably. I mean isn’t this why they were hired? Don’t feel the need to control everything by yourself. Learn to delegate tasks and simply oversee the functions of each one.
- Automate – Working smart means automating your emails after work hours! In my previous post about unplugging I mentioned Arianna Huffington’s mantra, “At the end of the work day, pick a time where you just unplugg! Switch off everything & tackle any emails or crisis the next day!” Once you apply this rule to your life, your colleagues & business partners will learn that you are not on call 24/7 and will eventually respect that at this particular point in the day you are to not be disturbed.
- Wait – Sometimes being patient is the only solution. Things resolve themselves when you just take a moment and step back from the chain-letters of emails flooding your inbox. There is no need to reply instananeously to an email, wait for your colleagues responses before typing out a response in haste. In doing so, you save yourself the possible embarassment of speaking out of turn or making assumptions that will be difficult to talk yourself out of.
- Pick your battles – Some things in life just have to be conceded and that’s okay, there are roadblocks which you just can’t get through and you need to weigh up the pros and cons of these situations and acknowledge if it is worth your time or not. If it is the latter then don’t dwell on it, let it go to the cosmos.
Whatever you promised yourself this year remember that life is short and work is just one aspect of it, so never lose sight of what is really important to you!