Kiss Your Long To-Do List Goodbye: 7 Ways You Can Start Working Smarter, Not Harder
When it comes to working smarter and not harder, everyone knows the usual tricks: Manage your time, take strategic breaks, get enough sleep. And that’s all good advice, but you’ve probably asked yourself if there’s more you can be doing. After all, you’re already using those strategies, and you still find yourself with more work than you can possibly do in one day.
Luckily, a user on Quora had the same question, and the community came together to discuss more uncommon ways to working smarter and not harder every single day. You’re definitely going to want to try all of these.
1. Weigh Your Options
Hard workers want all the possible work to be done, while smart workers don’t bother with most of the work they should do. Instead, they brutally focus themselves only on the tasks that bring the biggest long-term impact, and those are all the tasks connected with creating, delivering and capturing as much value as possible.
Have a million items on your to-do list? Stop thinking you need to finish all of them—instead focus on the things that are crucial to your job performance and your company’s success. Sure, it would be nice to get to Inbox Zero, but is that really more important than finishing up that critical investor report right now?
2. Write a Bad First Draft
I aim to do something/anything poorly and then edit and iterate those that need it. By aiming for a poor start, you get it out on the screen as a brain dump and are then far less likely to put it off, and also the subsequent edits are really simple.
Half of the battle is getting started. So, instead of striving for perfection the first time around, aim to get something on paper, even if it’s not your best work. Whether it’s a presentation or an email, you’ll be surprised at how much easier the editing process is when you return to it later.
3. Go Home When You’re Behind
In the past when I was feeling behind, I’d stay up late trying to catch up. This works if you do it very occasionally, but I did it all the time. That made me tired, meaning more mistakes, less foresight, and less energy focused on the work. Now when I’m feeling behind and tired I go home early and come in the next day raring to go.
As tempting as it is to buckle down and grind out all of that work, it’s really setting you up for burnout in the long run. Take a break, get adequate sleep, and figure out a plan for how you’re going to tackle things more effectively tomorrow.
4. Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage
Remember Parkinson’s Law: Tasks expand to the time allotted. If you have all day to write a blog post, it will take you all day. If you have all day to make sales calls, they will take all day...you get the idea!
By giving everything in your schedule—no matter how small—a deadline, you’re instantly freeing up time for other things. Not only is there beauty in compartmentalizing everything, but there’s something to be said for taking away your ability to procrastinate.
5. Get Writing
Use a white board. Draw a Venn diagram describing your problem. Find intersections, and work on those first. You’ll have bits and pieces of everything, then it’s just a matter of time to put it together.
It’s surprising how quickly you’re able to solve problems when you can visualize them. Step away from your computer screen and start drawing.
6. Talk, Don’t Email
Communicate more by talking rather than over emails with clients, consultants, vendors. Make quick phone calls [and] conference calls. Host virtual meetings, sharescreens, and get issues resolved quickly. A 30-minute meeting session will save at least three to four days of delay communicating over emails.
Give your co-workers, clients, bosses, and, yes, yourself a break from the dreaded inbox by finding a way to talk instead of email. Whether that’s hopping on a quick Google Hangout or (gasp!) picking up the phone, your colleagues and fingers will thank you.
7. Prepare the Night Before
To make the most of my morning, I make sure to prep myself the night before. As soon as I wake up, I know where I’m going to start, I know what project I’m diving into, I know which problem I’m going to be tackling first. If you can set these firmly in your mind before you go to bed, you’ll wake up with far more energy and drive to tackle them—because they’ve been marinating in your subconscious.
This goes out to all the people who wouldn’t describe themselves as “a morning person.” When you wake up, the last thing you want to do is make big decisions about your workload and your schedule before your first cup of coffee has kicked in. Taking even 10 or 15 minutes to decide what you’ll be doing the following day can make a huge difference in your workflow.
What else would you add to this list? Sound off in the Quora thread, or let me know on Twitter!
Photo of man sitting courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily is a writer, editor, and social media manager, as well as co-founder of The Prospect, the world’s largest student-run college access organization. In addition to her writing with The Muse, she also serves as an editor at HelloFlo and Her Campus. Recently, she was named one of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women for her work helping underserved youth get into college. You can follow Lily on Twitter.More from this Author