‘Work smarter, not harder’ is something you'll have heard from your colleagues or your boss. Working long hours and accomplishing little will take it's toll. Is there a way to get all the work done without having to spend your Saturdays in front of your laptop?
You may feel like you have not even had a chance to get your lunch yet it's 5 pm and you are not even half way through your to do list. You're facing yet another late night at work. You make life difficult for yourself by overloading your task list, and rush to complete as much as you can. Even if you do finish everything, it might not be to as high of a standard as you'd like.
Working smart means prioritising and doing things one at a time. It is about staying focused with one thing, taking timely breaks, managing your time effectively, and not getting distracted. Here are some tips to ensure you are working smart, so that you can reach your full potential within the workplace:
- Prioritise your workload. Write a realistic to-do list for the day or week of everything you would like to achieve. It is a good idea to put these in order of approaching deadlines or larger projects in order to complete all of your given tasks. Try not to start one thing without finishing the previous thing, as distraction in other areas of work can make life confusing. Time management is key. Be strict with yourself and your time, and you will get more done.
- Do the hardest job first. We tend to put off the hard jobs on our to do lists, when we should be doing the opposite. You are fresher at the begining of your day so use that energy to tackle the hardest job first. Once you do it, the rest of your to do list will fly by.
- Don’t waste previous work. If you have previously completed a piece of work and your new task is similar, do not waste time starting all over again. Use your previous piece of work as a template for your new project. Use your templates and improve on them in order to reach your goal in a timely manner.
- Make time for breaks. Overworking yourself will not do you any favours, and taking on too much work is a leading cause of workplace stress. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, take a break. Fresh air and taking a short walk can increase productivity and reduce stress levels, making sure you feel refreshed and ready to work when you return. Try to take your lunch break away from your desk, not staring at a computer—get up and stretch. According to lifehack.org, taking a ‘microbreak’ between 30 seconds and 5 minutes can increase mental sharpness by 15%. Try to be active during these breaks, a bit of exercise will go a long way. You've heard of the phrase 'the best time to relax is when you don't have time for it'—maybe it's true?
- Reward yourself. Rewarding yourself on doing a good job increases motivation and productivity. Reward systems can be specific to you, your interests and the activities you love doing, but never get a chance to. For example, if you complete x amount of tasks within the week, then treat yourself to lunch with your friends or a night out over the weekend. Rewarding yourself will also build on your self-confidence, increasing the likelihood of trying new things within your work. Want that new shirt or dress you've seen? Target yourself on completing your work and treat yourself to it!
- Learn to say no, and stop aiming for perfection. As mentioned previously, taking on too much of a heavy workload can cause stress within the workplace, preventing you from working to your full potential. If you already have numerous tasks or a big project that needs to be done, say no to any more work until you have completed current projects. Try not to spend too much time dwelling on something that doesn’t seem perfect. According to ‘The balance’ - constantly reaching for perfection often leads to poor relationships with colleagues, irritability, procrastination, low productivity, depression, stress and anxiety.
- Practise mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Stress causes numerous negative aspects within the workplace including lack of productivity, lack of concentration, irritability and more. To work smart, you must ensure your mental wellbeing is at a constant positive level. This doesn’t have to be practising yoga in the middle of an office, there are now apps that teach you subtle relaxation techniques to ensure you remain calm and collected throughout the day. Calm breathing techniques are proven to help with focus and attention, for example.
Feel Stress Free is an app by Thrive, developed by leading UK psychologists and psychiatrists using clinically proven techniques to reduce and build resilience to stress, anxiety and mild depression. Typically used as a prevention tool, it is a beneficial to use the app throughout the day. It includes various different techniques ranging from breathing exercises to progressive muscle relaxation. The techniques can be carried out for as long or as little as you wish, making it perfect for a commute to work, your lunch break or even on a microbreak.