I LOVE WORKING HARD! … said no one ever.
TRUTH: I'd much rather work smarter, not harder. I see so many people running around saying how “busy” they are, but honestly, I don't want to be busy. I don't want to manifest that quality of life for myself. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind rolling up my sleeves and getting dirty, putting in long hours, but IMO, work should be fun.
We spend so much of our lives doing it, it should be boosting our mood, elevating ourselves (and society), and moving toward the greater good. When we take the idea of “working hard” it feels like we are automatically condemning ourselves in a tug of war between happiness and the hustle... no thank you. I think the two should be integrated, not battling it out for the limelight.When we take the idea of 'working hard' it feels like we are automatically condemning ourselves in a tug of war between happiness and the hustle... Click To Tweet
What does it mean to work smart?
I think it varies from person to person depending on their unique personal mission statement and definition of success. Truthfully, there are probably infinite definition of what it means to work smart, but for brevity sake, I'm going to break it into what I think are the two most common camps:
✔ For some people, working smart means leveraging external resources – aka outsourcing.
✔ For others, it means having a deep understanding of oneself and working accordingly.
I think the most all inclusive way of defining working smart means truly knowing yourself and your strengths, so you can build a productivity flow and network around you to fill in your weak spots and in turn, reach goals in the most efficient way possible.Working smart means truly knowing yourself & your strengths, so you can build a productivity flow & network around you to fill in weak spots & in turn, reach goals in the most efficient way possible. Click To Tweet
6 Tips To Work Smarter, Not Harder:
Track Your Time.
One of the easiest ways to build self awareness is to literally track how you're spending your time. While batching tasks, and creating to-do lists are great… they don't really mean anything if they end up taking over your day and ultimately killing your productivity. By bringing awareness into how long it's actually taking you to get a task done, you'll start to develop a deeper consciousness to actually become intentional with your time.
For example: My blog consulting sessions say 45 min or an hour. Since I track my time, I know I typically run 15 or 30 minutes over. So I always schedule an hour buffer after a client appointment to give myself space to run late or decompress before heading into the next thing. This also helps me during my time with clients to intentionally ask myself “is it worth going down this unexpected rabbit hole, or do I stick to the agenda?” Since I've been working 1-1 with clients for five years now, I can usually decipher how long a detour will take and process whether or not it's worth it in just a few seconds.
This is basically like batching on steroids. Batching is when you lump like tasks together to save time on switching tasks. For example, one day a week or month I do all my photo shoots for the upcoming week, rather than doing one shoot each day. With time theming, stepping up your batching a level by creating a theme for the day, week, month, or quarter. This allows you to cut down on decision fatigue.
For instance, you may notice you're favorite bloggers do entire months on self-care. This allows them to solely focus their efforts for an entire month, and just like batching saves time, this allows them to save time and energy by focusing on a singular topic. Similarly, if your theme for the month is “making money” you could prioritize all decisions and opportunities that come your way with by asking, “is this a money making effort?” if the answer is no, you'd skip it until a later date.
Find Systems That Work
There is no need to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch. There are so many resources and tools out there to save you time and money, so find the system that'll work for you. For example, there was a time, where I manually manipulated every photo I posted from scratch. It took hours and hours… and then I bought some lightroom presets and filters for an app on my phone and voila! I can edit 150 photos in 20 minutes instead of 2 hours. Another small upfront investment that changed the game for me was purchasing a Trello course that came with board templates (try it free here!). Instead of trying to build something from scratch, using their templates allowed me to hit the ground running with my organization and streamlining.
Leave yourself a note
If you stop a task before completion, leave yourself a note! That way when you return to it, you don't have to double back over work you've already done, or waste time trying to figure out where to go next. You'll be able to see exactly where you left off, and if your note is detailed enough, you'll know the exact next steps to jump into!
Nope, that's not your global positioning system! It's an acronym for goal, purpose, scope. This will allow you to look at the bigger picture and ensure that whomever you're delegating tasks to is on the same page as you. A great way to truly understand it is by asking:
✔ THE GOAL: “What does the work look like when completed?”
✔ THE PURPOSE: “Why are you even working on this?”
✔ THE SCOPE: “What steps need to be taken, what deadlines need to be met, budget restrictions, available resources, how much involvement from all parties involved, etc?”
Revamp your email strategy
I'm a recovering email addict.
I used to check my email 500 times a day. But today? I don't even have it on my phone. Truthfully, I haven't had it on my phone since 2014, but even so, I found myself in my inbox far too many hours of the day. It'd be noon and I realized I had accomplished nothing other than looking at my inbox. So I revisited my inbox strategy. Today, I check my email three times a day. Every single message is immediately dealt with (meaning I get to inbox 0 every day). I either:
1) Read & respond:
If I have the brain power in the moment, or if it's pressing, I will read and respond right then and there… if I don't have the brain power to respond (or if it isn't pressing) I…
2) Boomerang it.
Boomerang is a handy little Google Chrome plugin that allows you to literally “boomerang” an email back into your inbox at a later date/time. That way on one day of the month, I can respond to all the guest post submission request or the like. It's a great way to tame the inbox without losing anything.
Archiving is one of the most underrated gmail features I think. Basically once I respond to an email, I archive it. If there's an email I don't need to respond to, but don't want to delete, I archive it. This allows me inbox to literally be CLEANED out every day.
Working smart comes down to finding the most efficient and effective way to reach your goals! It's not going to look the same for everyone. The key really is to have awareness about your strengths and how you're spending time so you can build a system that supports you.
Ready to reach more of your goals? Grab TCM's Goal Setting Guide!
This post was originally published on 4/16/18. Last updated 1/10/20