If you need to work smarter instead of harder, try these four simple tips:
1. Follow the Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule)
This idea, credited to Vilfredo Pareto, states that roughly 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. Evaluate everything on your plate and identify two or three projects with the biggest impact. Focus on those. Do you have a lot of tasks that don’t have a clear benefit? Stop doing them.
2. Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good
No one is sure who said this, but it’s very true. Sometimes, in trying to perfect a project, you wind up wasting time, missing deadlines, and losing out on other opportunities. Only make things as good as they need to be, then move on.
3. Let Your Tools Do the Work for You
Did you know your email client can schedule meetings, book meeting rooms, and create lists of action items for you? If you haven’t taken the time to keep up with the latest features in whatever software you use every day, do that now. You may be amazed at some of the time-saving features in the latest release. Even if you don’t work on a computer, think about ways your tools could save you time. For example, you may be able to sew twice as fast with a new sewing machine, or prep for the dinner service in less time by rearranging your kitchen.
4. Don’t Confuse Time Spent with Productivity
There’s a reason that Henry Ford, who was famously obsessed with efficiency, supported an 8-hour week: people accomplished more. Humans get tired and when we’re tired, we make mistakes. In fact, Ford found that when working 60 hours a week, worker productivity turned negative. If you’ve put in an honest day’s work, go home. Eat something healthy, go for a walk, get some sleep, and come back refreshed in the morning. That’s often the most productive choice you can make.