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Links > Business Articles > Productivity >

Work Smarter Not Harder

By: Kirsty O'Callaghan, Owner, Unity Words

What does working smarter, not harder really mean? Is it about being more effective and efficient? KIRSTY O’CALLAGHAN reveals tips on how to spend your workday so that you are producing the highest quality results while not feeling drained and overwhelmed.

Most business owners have heard the quote “work smarter not harder” and sound out a resounding “YES”. After all who wouldn’t want to jump on the bandwagon of doing less and gaining more? But this is not what ‘working smarter’ means.

If this is you, you may have taken this phrase the wrong way and it has led many to facing the door of failure rather than success.

The recipe for success may lie more in the quote by Napoleon Hill: “Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit”.

Take time to talk to any person who has achieved a level of meaningful success in their business and this is what they will tell you:

  • Running a business is challenging
  • Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart
  • It takes hard work and perseverance
  • You are constantly reinventing and improving your business, plans, vision and goals to keep up with trends and customer needs
  • Don’t be afraid to fail
  • Be disciplined and work harder than everyone else
  • Learn as much as you can, as fast as you can
  • Always go the extra mile
  • Your biggest asset will always be networks, strategic alliances and referrals – this takes time and nurturing

So, how can you turn this possibly limiting thinking around, expand your business in a smart way and feel you are working smarter and not harder while still putting in 101 per cent effort?

Here are some tips to get you headed in the direction of working ‘smart’.

Have clear objectives.
Avoid spending time and effort on some side issue that doesn’t contribute to achieving the goal.

Beware of perfectionism.
Studies show that it requires 50 per cent more effort to squeeze out an additional 10 per cent improvement in quality. Learn to recognise the point at which “Good enough is good enough”. Then stop.

Avoid procrastination.
Do the worst first. You can turn a mildly unpleasant or uncomfortable job into one you truly dread. Don’t make a job more stressful by putting it off repeatedly until you have a crisis on your hands. As Nike says: “Just do it”. Get important and difficult tasks out of the way first thing in the morning when your energy is high and unexpected issues haven’t taken over your day.

Stay organised and prioritise.
It’s unnecessarily stressful and time wasting to have your work scattered all over the place. Keep related project pieces together where they are easily accessible and daily prioritise tasks. Always have your work area de-cluttered and make it an area you feel good being in.

Avoid distractions.
Think about your typical workday. Do you allow yourself long stretches of time in which you can truly sink your teeth into a project, or do you tend to only work in small blocks of time between interruptions? Are you constantly flicking back and forth between projects and your email or social media sites?

Multi-tasking is a myth.
Despite what you may believe, you can’t multitask. Anyone who has ever tried to talk on the phone while responding to emails should understand.

Create a ‘not-to-do-list’.
Energy spent doing tasks that are not in line with business goals is a recipe for failure. You should consider which tasks you spend time on regularly and then weigh their impact. If the impact is minimal, or if they distract you from things that will have a greater impact, consider whether there is a way to automate or delegate them. If not, consider whether you can remove them from your to-do list altogether.

You need to constantly be questioning how you are spending your time and what would be the best use of your time right now.

Is there a more efficient way that will produce the same or better results for you and your business? If you could put in one per cent extra effort than your competitors to gain 50 per cent more productivity where are you going to focus that one per cent?


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