You’ve heard the saying, “work smarter, not harder,” but have you actually figured out how to do so? Being a hard worker is not a bad thing–but working hard all the time can easily lead to feeling burnt out. By training yourself to work smarter and faster, you can do more done at a decent pace and it’ll lead to an overall improvement in your work quality and balance.
Wondering how exactly you can work smarter and faster? Here’s what you can do.
Try the “workplace popcorn” method
Joel Runyon, found of Impossible X, writes a lot about what he calls, “workplace popcorn.” The idea is that you create a list of clear actions (so no vague intentions) that you need to do that day and then break the list up into equal sections based on how long each task would take to complete.
You then choose three different locations to work from, whether its different places in your office (if you can move around at work) or if you work from home and can go to three different coffee shops. You then go to the first spot and complete all of the tasks in section one on your list. Then you go to spots two and do all of the tasks in list two, then spot three and do all of the tasks in list three. Runyon says it’s important not to drive between each location because it’s important to get some physical activity in each day, and walking or biking between the locations is a great way to fit some activity into your day.
“When you’ve completed everything on your to-do list for the day, you are done working,” writes Runyon. “Relax, kick back, and live your life. Don’t take work home with you because that won’t help you get more done – it will just wear you out.”
Find your structure
If the workplace popcorn method doesn’t work for your work situation, use the ideas from it to figure out a better structure that works for your personality. Most people work better when they have some kind of structure or guidelines that help them stay organized. Think about the where and the when of when you are most productive and plan your day around that.
If you have to answer e-mails and make phone calls, don’t just do that that continually throughout the day. Doing so usually slows people down, so you should instead plan out period of time for doing those things and only do them during that time you block off. Finding a way to structure out your day will help you work faster and smarter, so this should be the way you start every day at work.
Take a nap
Seriously. If you work long hours and are trying to find time to fit in studying or memorizing something for an upcoming meeting, presentation or test, taking a nap is actually a great idea. When you try to work fast and smart, you need to make sure you get in some breaks to help maintain focus, so a nap is a great idea. In fact, studies show that taking a nap after learning information speeds up the process by which information is retained. Meaning, taking a nap could help you better remember things.
The best time to nap, according to research, is between 1pm and 6pm, which is probably around the time you start to feel exhausted or burnt out anyway, so why not take a nap and use it to your advantage?
When we procrastinate, we put tasks off for another time simply because we don’t want to do them, even though we have the time. But procrastination is not efficient because we’re essentially borrowing time for our future, as we will still have to do those things at some point.
“Many of us put things off because we resent having to do them in the first place - especially if we feel like it is someone else's responsibility,” writes Lahle Wolfe, founder and CEO of LA Wolfe Marketing.
Wolfe suggests that procrastinating often has an emotional attachment which is causing us to avoid doing something as opposed to just being lazy. Maybe you are avoiding having to talk to someone so you continue to put off the task that requires you to do so. Or, maybe you don’t think it’s your job to do something so you are frustrated that you have to do it. In that case, Wolfe suggests assigning the task to the person you think should be doing it, or talk to your boss about it and tell them whom you think the task is better suited for.
If you simply don’t want to do the task because you hate your job, then it’s time to find another job. And if you’re really just too busy to get to the task, Wolfe advises that you tell your boss no next time you get assigned more work than you can do.
“If you are really just too busy to get something done then you are not procrastinating — something else is going on. You may need help meeting your work goals or better organizational skills — you may even just need to learn to say "no" to new assignments until you are caught up,” suggests Wolfe. “If you have taken on too much at one time tell your boss, ask someone for help, or sit down and see what tasks you can delegate.”
And on that note, it’s time for you to get back to work! It’s not enough to brainstorm or think about a challenge, you have to buckle down and do. You can’t just keep reading articles on how to be more productive or how to work faster and smarter – it’s time for you to go back to work and put these ideas into action! Good luck!