If you’re anything like me, you have a million things to do on any given day. You’re taking care of people, you may have a house to run, you might have a job. As with just about any other person in the modern world, you are probably short on time. Asking more from yourself on top of all of this might seem crazy, and you may be hesitant to try. Fair enough, I say, but hear me out.
Have you ever heard someone say “work smarter not harder”?
This is one of those things that you’ve probably heard a thousand times, but have you ever really explored what it means? Working smarter instead of pushing yourself harder is simply aiming for maximum efficiency in your work. It’s streamlining your work process and your priorities so that you can achieve more in the same amount of time.
Working harder doesn’t work if you’re already working as hard as you can.
As humans, we have limitations. Some of those are because of reasons like health, energy, stamina. Other people or responsibilities may impose limits upon us. We may only have a set amount of time that we can work as a result. Now sure, you can run around trying to work as quickly as possible and keep pushing yourself to do more, but what is going to happen eventually? You will exhaust yourself, and that will most likely set you into a bad cycle. Many people find they push too hard, tire themselves out, crash into inactivity, feel guilty and then start pushing themselves too hard again. It’s like trying to get somewhere by stalling and restarting your car over and over and over; not a very efficient way to get where you’re going.
It can be tempting to start expecting less of your quality of work in order to cut down on the time and effort you’re exerting, but cutting corners is seldom a good idea either. Most of us know how it feels when we are on the receiving end of work that has not been done properly. It does not feel good to the recipient of the work, but in fact it also usually feels equally bad to the person performing the work. You want to find the satisfaction of work well done, and cutting corners will not produce work that meets your exacting standards.
Working smarter requires a total mindset change.
You need a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve, and I’m talking end term goals here. What are the things that are most important to you? What things are you going to look back on when you’re in your golden years? Where do you hope you will be? What will you be doing? What will you have achieved? Everything you do today points forward to your end term goals. Your end term goals define your path, and once you have a clear picture of those goals you can start crafting your way forward with confidence.
With your vision clearly in view, see where you can simplify and pare things down.
Once you’ve considered your end term goals, you’ll be seeing more clearly. If you have a clear vision, you’re in a better position to be able to recognise and start removing things that are obstacles on your path. For example, my end term goals involve having raised good, productive, loving and healthy human beings and with that goal firmly in mind I am able to trim away things that are not going to lead to that achievement. This thought allows me to begin simplifying the way I’m feeding, clothing and caring for my children. I am empowered to trim away many things that society may expect for my children, but which as a parent I know will not actually help them to become good adults. Because any simplification saves time, this eases my workload considerably.
Keep in mind your true priorities.
Whatever your responsibilities are, to the extent that you’re able, make an effort to prioritise your work so that you are hitting the most important things with the most consistency. Prioritising allows you to make progress in the areas that are most important to you, even if you’re unable to perform all of your tasks every day.
Now, it is true that we don’t always run according to just our own personal priorities. As adults, especially women, we often have to contend with others’ expectations and priorities for us. You may have taken on the responsibility of being a homemaker, for example, but your husband might have a different idea of what that means than you do. Sometimes we are free to define our own responsibilities, but more often we have to honour the wishes of our loved ones as well. In such a case we have to take extra care to systemise these tasks so that they take as little of our time as possible.
One thing I find very useful when I have a full day of work planned is to alternate the type of work I’m doing across the day. If I am doing a mix of active, physical work, creative work and brain work, I will take 15 or 30 minutes intervals alternating each type. I find that this keeps me from becoming quite as fatigued as I would otherwise. While I’m doing physical work (housework, generally) my brain is getting some down time. While I’m in the office paying bills, I’m generally sitting comfortably, so my body is getting a rest. This dovetailing is a useful means of doing two things at the same time – resting from one mode of work while you are engaged in another mode of work.
What we’re really trying to achieve by working smarter instead of working harder is improving productivity. Increasing efficiency is very important to this process, but it can’t help you if you haven’t already made a commitment to yourself to show up to the work table every day. So that’s my final word of advice here today: be present and ready to do the work. You have a vision and a pathway in view, but you have to commit yourself to walking it and staying on it. Once you do, you will see that many things begin to fall into place.
If you would like to learn more about how to define your path or how to streamline your priorities, please subscribe below. I’m going to be diving deep into all of the obstacles and issues that you, as a multi-faceted and busy person, are likely to experience as you set about creating the life you want.