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Today, we’re going to have a look at ways you can improve some essential life skills that will make you better off professionally. And that will also improve your all-round quality of life.
But first, we’re going to start off with a question:
Are you one of those people who find yourselves putting in huge amounts of work but you don’t feel you’re getting as much money or recognition as you should?
If this sounds familiar, the reason may not be the amount of work you’re putting in but the way you’re doing it. In other words, as well as working hard, you need to work smart.
Lots of people work hard, but only a few become truly successful.
And this is where smart work comes in. And to start working smarter, there’s an essential rule that you need to keep in mind. The value of what you produce isn’t about how much work went into it – it’s measured by how useful it is to people.
So if you can get the same end result, and create something of value by putting in less effort and time, then that’s the route you should be taking. And you shouldn’t feel ashamed that you’ve done less work to get there It will mean that the time, effort and other resources you’ve saved can all be put to far better use On the face of it, it seems obvious, but it’s something a lot of people could be doing better.
So let’s dive in, and look at a few tips on how to work smarter.
- 1 1. WHAT THE END GOAL IS? HOW YOU’RE GOING TO GET THERE? HOW MUCH WORK IT DESERVES?
- 2 2. FIGURE OUT THE SYSTEM YOU’RE DEALING WITH
- 3 3. MANAGE YOUR TIME WELL
- 4 4. FIND SHORTCUTS
- 5 5. KNOW WHEN TO ASK FOR HELP
- 6 6. HAVE INTERRUPTION-FREE SLOTS IN YOUR SCHEDULE
- 7 7. AVOID PROCRASTINATION
- 7.1 Which of these tips for working smarter you find the most valuable or do you have any of your own tips that haven’t been covered that you’d like to share?
- 7.2 And, of course, for staying with me until the end, I’d like to share one last bonus idea.
- 7.3 The smart way is to use a cart to carry the cube.
1. WHAT THE END GOAL IS? HOW YOU’RE GOING TO GET THERE? HOW MUCH WORK IT DESERVES?
Before you start any task, it’s important to have a clear picture of what you want to achieve. You’ll need to know what steps are essential to get there; and which ones aren’t necessary, and can be cut out if time doesn’t allow.
Too many people end up spending way too long on minor details that nobody’s going to notice or care about. This is because they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture, and in some cases, because they’re too much of a perfectionist. Now the key isn’t necessarily to stop being a perfectionist – this depends on the task you’re given. Imagine you’re an aircraft engineer, and you’re working on a safety feature of an airplane. This is a situation in which you do want to be a perfectionist because the bigger picture tells you that if it’s not perfect, the cost is going to be huge. And the extra time you’ll spend working on getting it just right is worth it.
But, now let’s compare that with another scenario.
Let’s say you’re preparing a PowerPoint for a work presentation. You know what you’re going to say, but you end up spending hours looking for the right graphics for your slides, even though they aren’t central to what you want to deliver. In this case, you should probably settle for the graphics you’ve got, and moving onto something more productive.
2. FIGURE OUT THE SYSTEM YOU’RE DEALING WITH
Everything we do in life involves a system; from the biological systems that make our bodies work, to systems that govern how money changes hands, to psychological systems that make people take us seriously or not.
If we have a good working knowledge of the system we’re dealing with, we can improve our chances of success. Let’s look at the example of an entrepreneur looking for investors for a start-up.
Some budding business people spend hours making materials for pitches and then delivering them to potential investors. But it all comes to nothing. Their business ideas might be great, and they’ve worked hard on it. But the problem is that they don’t really understand what the investors are looking for, and what’s going to grab their attention and make them sign up.
Then there are other entrepreneurs who study the system.
They understand how investors operate, and they do research on individual investors they’re going to pitch to. The time they spend doing this is a lot more worthwhile than spending endless hours on changing the wording of their pitch. A lot of people who are working hard on something but failing, just don’t understand the system they’re working with.
This is true of your friend who’s an excellent employee but does poorly on job interviews. They probably haven’t looked into how to impress job interviewers and give them what exactly they’re looking for.
And what about that guy in the gym who’s always there, but just doesn’t seem to be able to get into shape? He probably needs to study how fitness training works.
Whatever the system you’re dealing with, understanding it helps you get to your goal faster, cheaper, and with higher chances of success.
3. MANAGE YOUR TIME WELL
Next, you’ll need to manage your time well. Every smart worker knows that time is the most precious resource they have.
If you’re going to create things of value, you only have a certain amount of time to do this, so you need to use it wisely. One thing that a lot of successful people do at the start of the day is to set themselves a list of goals.
They make realistic estimates of how much time they need to spend on each task; effectively, making a schedule for the day. We’re not saying you need to stick to this schedule 100%; you can always modify it here and there. But if you constantly find yourself spending more time than what you’ve given yourself for tasks, there’s something wrong.
In this case, you need to have a rethink things. The key is to make realistic estimates of how long each task will take, and respect those time limits so you fit everything in hat you need. Also, don’t try to multi-task too much. Most people can only handle so many things at the same time.
So if you’re trying to solve five problems at once, your brain will probably be so overcrowded with random ideas for each problem, you won’t be able to focus fully on any one of them.
Concentrate on one thing at a time, and try to organize your life so that you don’t have too many tasks on the go at once.
4. FIND SHORTCUTS
You’ll also get to your goals faster if you can find shortcuts.
We’re not talking about cutting corners in a way that will make the end result less valuable, or leave somebody else to pick up the mess. We’re talking about getting to the same target faster.
Think about a worker who has to deliver a spreadsheet, and spends a long time creating the entire thing from scratch. While another worker given the same task spends a few minutes finding a suitable template. And in those few minutes, half the job is already done.
The second worker is smarter because they’ve found a shortcut that will give them the same result. In fact, finding shortcuts is something you learn in basic maths at school.
Whatever your area of work, there’ll be shortcuts that help you do your job faster and more efficiently. Spend some time looking into them, because a few hours spent finding them can save you hundreds of hours in the long run.
5. KNOW WHEN TO ASK FOR HELP
You’ll also need to know when to ask for help. Smart workers always know when there’s somebody else who can solve a problem better than them. And they don’t hesitate to ask them. Besides this, they also probably have a network of people they can turn to.
In a lot of cases, this will involve paying a specialist to do something for you. And this might be the most effective solution– like when you need your own website but don’t know how to create one yourself. But sometimes, it might just mean bouncing ideas off colleagues at work.
When you can’t find a fix for a problem, sharing ideas with others will open up new perspectives you hadn’t seen before. And people who frequently bounce ideas off others are generally better at solving problems than those who don’t. And of course, if you’re going to expect other people to be available to help solve your problems, you’re also going to have to make yourself available in return.
When you do this, you’re creating a network that you can make use of when you need help.
6. HAVE INTERRUPTION-FREE SLOTS IN YOUR SCHEDULE
Now, we’ve just mentioned that there are times you’ll want to make yourself available to others. But there are other times when you won’t. In fact, when you’ll want to shut yourself off completely to concentrate on the task at hand.
This might be when there’s a deadline looming, when you’re working on a tight schedule, or when you want to make progress with a longer-term project.
In too many workplaces, people waste time on interactions that don’t get them anywhere. If you’ve got into five conversations about your weekend before you even open up your computer, this is probably the case. And remember that phone calls, emails, and conversations on messenger can be huge distractions as well. So you should know how to block these out.
Some experts even suggest that you should avoid checking your work emails first thing in the morning, and leave them until you’ve got a few key tasks taken care of. But, to be fair, whether you want to do this depends on your workflow, and how urgent those emails are likely to be. But definitely, when you have important tasks to do, the only answer is to knuckle down and focus, and completely shut out interruptions.
Smart workers know how to politely signal to colleagues that they don’t want to be interrupted. And at times they’ll even switch off their phones or the internet so they can pay attention to the task they’re working on.
7. AVOID PROCRASTINATION
Procrastinating means delaying an important task, often by losing yourself in distractions. And it’s probably the biggest enemy of smart working. Everybody on earth has an in-born tendency to procrastinate. But smart workers know how to keep this tendency in check.
So how can we do this?
As we’ve already mentioned, cut off distractions. If possible, totally switch off all social networks. Organize your workplace so it’s tidy and clutter-free. If you’ve got a huge task to do that you find scary, break it down into a list of smaller, more achievable ones. This makes it appear a lot easier to dive in to.
And once you’ve got going, tick smaller tasks off one by one on a list; this will give you a sense of progress. If you can do the hardest stuff first this will make the rest of it seem easy by comparison; and before you know it, you’ll be nicely on track. Take breaks, but give them a time limit.
And finally, train your will power bit by bit. It does take will power to tackle intimidating tasks, but even if you don’t think will power is one of your strong points, don’t worry – it can be trained. Think of will power like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it’s going to get. Build it up over time, and you’ll see yourself procrastinating less and less.
So it looks like we’ve been arguing that working smart wins over working hard, right?
The point is that to be successful, you do have to work hard; but a lot of people do work hard, but forget to work smart. If you can do both, you’ll be giving yourself a huge advantage. And remember, working smart shouldn’t involve taking advantage of anybody.
Working smart means being efficient, not being sneaky.
Let me know in the comments.
Just take a look at this picture.
This illustrates how it’s usual for people to look for a trick, or a supposedly clever way of doing something, when in reality the answer isn’t something magical. It’s just about simple efficiency.
Imagine you have to push a cube. You know that if only you had a sphere, you’d make things move ten times faster. A lot of people spend ages trying to figure out how to turn the cube into the ball. But the smart way isn’t to try doing this, because either impossible or will take a huge amount of work.
The smart way is to use a cart to carry the cube.
Yet a lot of people don’t figure this out, and spend too long trying to turn the cube into a sphere. Instead of searching for a sphere, just outsource a cart. Even if it comes at a price, you’ll be able to carry many more cubes, pay for the cart, and still make a profit.