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How To Work Smarter, Not Harder

How is your time management? Are you working harder and harder but not seeing the results? How could you work smarter, not harder?

Allen F. Morgenstern, an industrial engineer, the creator of a work simplification program, came up with the phrase 'work smarter, not harder' to describe increasing the ability of people to produce more with less effort.

So how can you work smarter and not harder and become more productive, efficient and effective? Here are some ideas that you can try:

Proactively manage the business, your team and yourself. You may find yourself working harder and harder because you are reactive or have a reactive management style. This takes the control away from you and means that your time is directed by others. Proactively manage the business, your team and yourself and you will find you are much more effective. You will then be working much smarter by driving the agenda, keeping the business on track to meet its strategy and managing your team and yourself to deliver the business vision, strategy and goals.

Agree clear business organisational structures, roles and responsibilities. Do you have a clear organisational structure in the business and does everyone understand their roles and responsibilities? Are your staff in the right roles and are they doing the right jobs? If you and others people are unclear, there will be duplication and inefficiencies. Agree clear business organisational structures, roles and responsibilities to ensure everyone is working smarter, not harder.

Look for improvements in systems, processes & procedures. Are tasks taking too long due to inefficient systems, processes and procedures? Take time to focus on improving your systems, processes and procedures so everyone can work smarter. This may be through automation, removing duplication or changing and streamlining processes and procedures.

Identify and stay focused on the organisation's, team and individual vision, strategy, goals, plan and priorities. It is easy to end up working harder and harder if there is no organisational vision, strategy, goals, plan and priorities or you are unclear as to what they are. Equally you may not have your own team or individual goals, plan and priorities to work towards, resulting in you struggling with your time management. To work smarter, not harder, identify and stay 100% focused on the organisation's, your team and individual vision, strategy, goals, plan and priorities and take purposeful action by aligning your to do list to these each day.

Take action to stop time wasting. How are you wasting your time? You may be procrastinating, micro managing, trying to make everything perfect, chatting, surfing the internet, dealing with unimportant matters or one of the many other ways of wasting time. To work smarter, not harder, understand how you are wasting your time and take action to stop time wasting in each area.

Take back control of your time. How many times have you gone into work intending to do certain things but never got round to doing any of them or got distracted doing something completely different? You are probably allowing other people, external events and technology to dictate how you spend your time. To work smarter not harder, take back control of your time and how you spend it by keeping focused on the important things you want to do.

Don't get distracted or allow interruptions. How often are you distracted or interrupted at work? It may be a colleague asking a question, an email arriving, a social media notification or overhearing a conversation elsewhere in the office. What do you need to do to prevent distractions or interruptions? Think about your working environment, how you manage your team and how your technology and communication systems are set up.

Make sure meetings are necessary and effective. What are the meetings like in your business? Do you and your team complain of too many and ineffective meetings? The number of meetings and poorly run meetings can significantly impact the time management and productivity of everyone in the business. Review all the meetings in the business to get to the key meetings that are necessary to meet the business goals and objectives. Also look at meeting effectiveness and make improvements so that the key meetings are effective and productive.

Plan tomorrow at the end of today. Are you ineffective because you don't plan your day, don't have a to do list or just come in to work and decide what to do then? At the end of each day before you leave work, plan what you are going to do tomorrow. This will not only enable you to work smarter but you will have had time to think and plan your next day properly.

Limit your to do list. Do you have too much on your to do list, never get round to doing the important things or never really plan your day? Limit your to do list to a small number of the key things that will enable you to achieve your goals and plan. As well as focusing your mind and actions, you will feel good when you actually complete your to do list each day. Your to do list has a big part to play in you working smarter, not harder.

Delegate and outsource. What are you doing that others could do instead of you? This may be areas outside your expertise, things that take up a lot of time or areas that someone else can do for you. To work smarter, not harder, and to create time to work on the important things, consider delegating and outsourcing tasks.

Stop multi tasking. Multi tasking involves performing two or more tasks at once and switching back and forth from one thing to another. You may think that multi tasking will help you achieve more in your day, but it usually has the opposite effect and reduces your productivity and effectiveness. Avoid multi tasking and give each task your full attention to be more efficient, effective and productive.

Get organised. Are you disorganised? How much time are you wasting trying to find things? Have you spent ages looking for an email or finding a file on your PC? Get organised to be more effective. This can be as simple as removing the clutter in your office, so you know where everything is, or more complicated, such as implementing some new project management software that logs all the tasks, deadline, timescales and responsibilities project by project.

Hopefully the above tips and ideas will help you to work smarter, not harder!

If you want to explore time management further, take a look at our online time management courses.

Author: Liz Makin
Published: June 2021

Makin It Happen has a range of personal development online courses to purchase, created by Liz Makin, including communication, resilience, time management, stress management and coaching. Liz Makin also provides personalised business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services to business owners, directors, managers and professionals.


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