There are a few truths in life. In fact, as I tell many times to my students, the answer for almost every question is: it depends, meaning there’s almost anything to be considered black or white. But the fact that we all have 24 hours a day to invest, spend or waste is one of those truths. Therefore, if there are many of things waiting to be done, we need working smarter, not harder.
Everything has not the same value
First thing in working smarter is saying no to what doesn’t matter or where you won’t make a great contribution.
How many times you spend hours in meetings deciding about something that doesn’t really matter to you, and you could easily delegate? Therefore, if you have nothing valuable to add, just quit and let others take over.
At times is our ego what prevents us to quit. Somehow, we feel we should make our point without even think about it. Some questions arise: should I make a contribution? Why? Do I really have something relevant to say? Does it deserve my time?
By eliminating the noise, we can focus on what really matters and, by the way, we’ll have less in our plate.
Prioritize according to your objectives
Maybe you should take care of something. When? What is the cost of opportunity? I mean, if you invest your time in doing something different, would it bring you closer or further to what you want?
Working smarter also means not losing perspective and stay on track. Having time to prioritize and plan according to your goals is a key issue when we talk about performance. That’s why investing some minutes every day to decide what goes next is a good idea.
An aside before continuing on this topic: to become an outperformer you may need to be equally efficient and effective. It is not only about accomplish a purpose or producing the expected result (an incandescent light bulb illuminating a room is effective); it is also about going a step further and working adequately to producing it (a LED bulb is effective and efficient).
Think about the outcome
Perfect is the enemy of good, and not all the works require the same level in their delivery. Thinking about the outcome gives you the baseline to put your efforts on. What do you exactly need to achieve? How much time will you invest? Do you have the skills to deliver in the level you want, or do you need to enrol others to help you?
Talking from experience, working smarter is also about stopping at the right time. If you are a perfectionist like me, you should learn when to stop (still work in progress). A beautiful side effect of this is that your brain will also feel less pressure, and therefore you could develop your creativity and your thinking out-of-the-box skills.
And what about time management? It is important, but once you do your homework deciding on what and how you will be working on next. Don’t miss the opportunity to clear your mind (and your agenda) from what shouldn’t be there to focus on what really should have a place there before following the well-known tips to increase productivity.