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Work smarter, not harder

By | October 30th 2011

By Carolyn Makana

"Don’t work harder, work smarter." Have you heard that saying?

It seems to imply that when you work hard, you’re being less than smart or that you aren’t smart if you work hard in order to succeed. It’s no wonder so many people are attracted by products or services offering shortcuts and easy options! Sadly, those same people are soon disappointed when they find out that hard work is still needed.

Working smart is recognising that while initial hard work cannot be avoided, it can be learned from and obstacles and mistakes become easier to overcome or even avoid in the future.

Working smart isn’t a mystery. Here’s how to:

1) Aim for effectiveness: Sometimes, neatness as an end in itself can be risky. Putting things away just to clear off your desk can cause you to lose or forget things.

2) Be selective: Clutter is rarely caused by insufficient space or time. The culprit is usually indecisiveness, so be selective about what you bring into your office and home. If you know what you value and what your goals are, being selective is not hard.

3) Have a place for everything: Open your mail in the same place everyday so it doesn’t get misplaced. Put unpaid bills together and separate them from paid bills.

4) Have a plan: An efficient worker needs a work plan — a well thought-out scheme to help guide and direct work activities. Schedule your tasks throughout the days, weeks and months, but do it ahead of time.

5) Set goals: These should specify which tasks are to be completed and the time frame for completing them. Rather than setting firm deadlines which can lead to pressure and stress, allow a period of time to reach goals. Also, take time to reward yourself for goal attainment.

6) Organise your workday: If a typical workday consists of emails, reports, one-on-one meetings and processing data, set aside specific times each day to accomplish each of these. The regularity of a consistent schedule ensures that each category gets completed.

8) Don’t make work harder than it actually is: Much time pressure is self-induced. We set unrealistically high goals or standards for ourselves and feel like we should be doing more. Remember that tasks get completed in a step-by-step fashion. Focus on each step rather than on the entire project.

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