How to Work Efficiently
What Is Working Smarter?
You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: “Work Smarter – Not Harder”, but what does that actually mean? It sounds good, doesn’t it? Anything that has us working less has got to be a good thing. And it is.
Working smarter means working more efficiently and getting things done in less time. Now that doesn’t mean you have to run yourself ragged and work at super-speed all the time. You can’t keep that up for long. If you’re pushing yourself too hard, you’ll eventually start to burn out. That’s not what we’re after here and it is definitely not working smarter.
Before we move into what exactly working smarter will accomplish, let’s take a look at why it is important to focus on it. There are quite a few benefits to working smarter instead of harder. The biggest one is that you’ll end up making more money per hour you spend on your business. That gives you some interesting options. You can spend less time in the office and more time with your loved ones. Or you can turn around and “reinvest” that time into growing your business. It’s all up to you. Most importantly it will make you feel like you’re making progress and moving forward. It’ll keep work fun and interesting. And it will keep you from burning yourself out as we already discussed.
Working Smarter still seems like a bit of an elusive term. Let’s take a look at what it may mean to work smarter, not harder.
Working Smarter Means Working More Efficiently
Have you heard of Parkinson’s Law? It states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. That means it is up to you to control the time you set aside for each task. Working smarter in this case means paying attention to how long things take you and working efficiently.
Working Smarter Means Picking High Priority Tasks
You’re the boss of your business. That means you’re in charge of making decisions. Your most important job is to recognize and focus on high priority tasks. What can you do today that will move your business forward and improve the bottom line. Working smarter in this case means picking the right things to work on.
Working Smarter Means Delegating Some Tasks
You may start out as a one man / one woman show, but there comes a time when you’ll need some help. As your business grows there’s more to be done and you’re the one focusing on the high priority tasks. Efficiency only gets you so far. Working smarter in this case means realizing it’s time to hire a VA or some part-time help in the shop.
Working Smarter Means Automating Some Tasks
There’s some amazing software, apps and tools out there that can make your life easier. They can also save you a lot of time that you can use wisely elsewhere. Working smarter in this case means rethinking how your processes work and being open to the idea of automation.
Working Smarter Means Cutting Out Distractions
Have you ever been trying hard to finish a project by a looming deadline, only to be interrupted every 5 minutes? Of course you have… we’ve all been there. It can be maddening. If that slows you down, so do all the little daily interruptions we take for granted. Things like your computer or phone alerting you to a new email, checking Facebook to see what’s been going on, the phone ringing or your mom stopping by for coffee and a chat since you’re “working from home”. Working smarter in this case means cutting out or at least minimizing distractions as much as possible during work hours.
Working Smarter Means Focusing On Money Making Tasks
Last but not least let’s talk hard, cold cash. That’s why we’re in this… to make money. We’re not always good at keeping our eye on the prize though. It’s easy to get into a routine at work and do stuff, just because that’s how we do it. We get the ad in the yellow pages, we write the weekly newsletter column, we attend the local chamber of commerce meeting, we move through the paces and don’t stop to do the math and figure out if this is actually the most valuable use of our time and resources. Working smarter in this case means taking a long hard look at what is making us money and what isn’t.
You get the idea of what working smart not hard is all about. We’ll go into a lot more detail on what you can do day in and day out to work smarter in the next two sections of this book. It’s easy to see that this is very different from “just” working harder. Yes, you’ll still be working and getting a lot of stuff done. The big difference is that working smarter means you think about what you’re doing and are making smart choices instead of putting your nose to the grindstone and knocking out random things that need doing.
Your workday will fill up with whatever you let it fill up with. Don’t you want to make smart choices and work on the tasks that will move you and your business forward instead of filling it with busy work? Great let’s get started and move into the “Working Smarter Hacks”.
How Working Less Can Improve Your Business
This sounds a little counter intuitive, doesn’t it? Work less and help your business flourish. But it’s true. Sometimes the best thing you can do is step away and take some time off. You’ll find yourself much more productive when you sit back down to work.
No, I’m not saying you don’t have to put in hard work and long hours to get your business off the ground. You have to put in the work, but you’ll get to a point where you’re so wrapped up in your day-to-day tasks, that it’s hard to see the big picture.
Taking some time off, even if it’s just for the weekend, will give you a little distance and help you see what you’re doing and where you should be going. Knowing what to work on next is a powerful thing and something that will greatly improve your business.
But there’s more to this story. How much do you actually get done working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week? You’re not going to be at your sharpest and most productive during most of that time. Are you just filling hours with busywork to make yourself feel better? Working fewer hours and getting some much needed rest may actually result in more important work getting done.
Have you been putting off launching that new product or revamping your sales pages? Are you just too bogged down with social media postings and answering questions by both your customers and your prospects? If those daily-grind tasks are keeping you from working on your “money making “ tasks, it may be in your best interest to outsource some of that work, work a little less, but spend the hours you are at your desk on high value tasks.
Your job isn’t to put as many hours in as possible, staying busy. Your job is to find the new revenue stream, the next group of prospects, the next source of online traffic that will keep your business growing. You’re the brains of the operation.
Give this a try. Walk away from your business for 24 hours. Get some rest, do something for fun. Then sit down and figure out what you really should be focusing on. Write down all the stuff that bogs you down. Even if you don’t have much of a budget for it yet, start to outsource some of these tasks to an assistant or intern. Make it a goal to spend the time you’re saving to make up the money you’re paying your new assistant.
Let’s say you’re hiring someone to help you with social media and customer service and you’re paying them $200 per week. Your first goal is to raise your income by $200 per week. How quickly can you accomplish this? Can you do it in a week? How about a month? Make a plan, work it and see how fast you can get it done.
How To Effectively Use A To-Do List In Your Business
A To-Do list is a great tool to make sure you’re staying productive and getting things done in your business. To make the most of it, I thought I’d share some of my best tips with you today. Yes, just jotting down what you need to get done is better than nothing, but implement these simple hacks and watch your productivity skyrocket.
Start by making your to-do list the day before. I like to write it out before I call it quits for the day. I know exactly where I left off and have a pretty good idea of what’s coming up the next day. This also allows me to get cracking at the first few tasks as soon as I sit down at my desk.
While you’re making your list, mark 3 tasks as high priority tasks. These are the things that will have the biggest impact on your bottom line. They are the first things you want to work on. You also want to make sure that you get these 3 things taken care of no matter what happens during your workday. If you’re using pen and paper, highlight them, mark them with an asterisk or write them on the top of your list. If you’re using an app, mark them as high priority.
Keep working away and make it a daily goal not to stop until every single item is crossed off on your to-do list. Push yourself to stay productive. Yes, I realize this isn’t always possible. Things happen, there are fires to put out and sometimes you’re waiting on other people to do their job. It happens. As a general rule though, don’t stop until you get everything done you set out to do for the day.
Quick Tip: If you keep finding yourself out of tasks on your list by lunch time each day, it may be time to add more to the daily list. If you end up working 14 hour days each day to get everything done, it may be time to lighten the load.
Last but not least take some time to review your to-do lists once in a while. Are you spending your time effectively? Are you working on tasks that help you grow your business and your bottom line? If not, tweak your to-do lists until you’re back on track. Remember, being productive and being profitable aren’t always the same thing.