3 Unusual Secrets For Working Smarter, Not Harder

Dale Partridge
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How can you work less while increasing your income? You want to spend time with your family and friends. You want to go mountain bike riding. You want to watch a movie during the day. You want to have the freedom to do what you want, when you want to.

Over the past 8 months, the search for smarter working has been my obsession. To use my work hours so efficiently that it allows me to spend more time on the things that really matter.

During this process, I have stumbled on a few unusual activities that have jump-started my productivity and decreased my time outlay on work hours.

3 Unusual Secrets For Working Smarter, Not Harder:

1.  I Check My Email Right When I Get Up
I've read at least 100 articles telling leaders to do the exact opposite. As you can see in the image below, I receive lots of email (most of it is from my junk account). But I can personally testify by spending the first 30 minutes of my day knocking out important emails, I have been able to keep the people most important to me happy, the items which need responses are answered, and the stress of needing to reply during my focus hours is removed. Don't fear your email in the morning. Go get it!

2. I Spend Time In Nature At Least 3 Times Per Week
30 days ago I moved from Southern California to beautiful Bend Oregon. But wherever you live, get outside. Whether you hike, walk, bike, climb, or kayak getting outdoors is proven to reduce work-related stress and resets our attention span. But the key is quiet. Studies show that walking in a peaceful park versus a loud city street, is the secret to decreasing stimulation and increasing the brain's ability to rest and refocus. So take a hike, just not on Main Street.

3. I Take 5 Breaks Per Day:
Statistically, the average human brain can focus for 90 minutes and then needs a 15-20 minute or we will reach burnout. I push this even further. I work for 60-90 minutes and take a 30 minute break.

Burnout is a cognitive sign saying you can’t take in more information in this portion of your brain until you’ve had a chance to rest.

My time away consists of anything from playing with my daughter or taking a non-work related phone call to even watching an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. But when the break is over, I jump back into another uninterrupted sprint of productivity. 

What unusual secret has helped you get more done with less time?

PS: I also stumbled upon this interesting infographic on simple ways to increase different types of intelligence. I hope this helps you create the work-life balance you're looking for.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Hey welcome to Oregon! Bend, or Redmond, is a favorite vacationing spot! I also have friends in your area! If you haven’t already done so, you must check out the town of Sisters! I highly recommend Sister’s Coffee and The Depot Cafe (the Hoagie is my fav!) There’s also a great restaurant, the Black Bear Diner, in Madras
    and Redmond. They used to serve the best Huckleberry Iced Tea!

    Besides using similar habits of checking email in the morning, in which I also do my devotions, getting outside, and multiple breaks, sometimes I just need to mentally visualize/prioritize my goals for the day (or week). Other times I write it down so I can cross it off and actually feel like I have accomplished something! Haha! I also have to make sure I get enough protein in my diet. I’ve come to realize that I cannot productively function on too many carbs! Sometimes, though, I just have to play a time-management game to keep my brain on it’s toes!

    Blessings!

    • Thanks for the suggestions, Angel – I have already been to a handful of those, and we love Sisters! Interesting about the carbs comment – will have to play around with that a little. 🙂

  2. Hi Dale, Welcome to Oregon. We spend a lot of time in Bend. It is such a beautiful place with so much to enjoy! Thanks for your perspective. It is sometimes hard to keep on track of what’s important and I think you have some very good points. Happiness is definitely easier achieved when you have a balanced life!

    • Thanks for the welcome, we are completely in love with Bend. 🙂 Balanced life is indeed one of the keys to happiness!

  3. First. Your daughter is adorable : D.
    Second. That is a ton of messages. Wow.
    Third I like the idea of taking breaks.

    I like to only check particular things once a day. Seclude it into boxes so you don’t waste an exoribant amount of time getting lost on anything.

    Thanks for the tips and the cool inforgraphic.

  4. I’ve recently found that waking up early helps me get stuff done rather quickly. I’ve been waking up around 5am-630am and find myself most productive in the early hours of the morning.

  5. Thank you for the article. I work at a job that I can’t stand and the only way I get through it is to take breaks. One of my breaks is to take a nap under my desk with my office door closed (it’s my little way to escape). I work in downtown Atlanta so quiet time outside is a little difficult to obtain.

    • Haha very interesting Shaleen, but I applaud you for doing what it takes to allow yourself to refocus!

  6. Im usually jumping from task to task and tend to stay at my desk throughout the day, it is sometimes hard to leave THIS desk! My little refocusing tip is flipping through your daily blogs, it moves my brain from work to positive life motivation! I wait for your emails daily with anticipation, thank you!

  7. Hey Dale. I’ll try them.. I talk a lot ha ha. When I start I don’t stop and sometimes I sound like the Pied Piper ( have the whole town behind me). Scary huh! So instead of losing precious time chatting I talk about my business and invite people to design their leather belts- I go to my little workshop and custom make each one of them. I deliver they pay and everyone is happy…

  8. Great tips, I do find I work better if I give myself breaks every so often. It helps me not feel burnt out.

  9. Wow. I find that most of what you shared is exactly how I work best too. Connect via email, work in determined spurts, enjoy the breathers in between. Thanks, Dale!

  10. Sometimes I open my computer before I even get out of bed in the morning! I feel insane but it really helps in the exact way you mentioned. Clear out the important and the crap in order to start the day efficiently!

  11. A very powerful tool is reflection.
    Reflection is merely reviewing not solving the problem.
    “I want to accomplish this. So I will do that that and that.
    then I will create “D” and ” xxxx” which I don’t know what they are or what they look or sound like. After that I can accomplish the task with this and or that.

    Just getting a grasp (reflecting on) on the whole project, compartmentalizing but not judging every aspect. Takes away the stress. This can be done in prayer or meditation. I f you embrace the project or mystery you can also do it “in worry” .

    in the action of reflection one has to not solve or take action. This is just a review. If you embed the whole project in your mind. Every action is constructive.

  12. Thank you, Dale. Appreciate the much needed encouragement. And for your screenshot, which included the Youversion app. I haven’t followed you for long, but the Spirit within recognized you.

  13. It’s when I home doing house and home things I loose my focus and things tend to pile up because I work an extremely hectic schedule during the week. As silly as it sounds I get more accomplished if I incorporate cooking. Meaning what ever tasks I’m doing around the house, if I cook at the same time I’m doing other things I get more accomplished. I do love to cook. So I’m thinking it works for me in two ways… the reward at the end of the day of the delish meal I have prepared and the fact that I have to keep going back to whatever it is I’m cooking to tweek, stir , flip or what ever. In my mind I know I have to get back to that pot in x amount of time to do what ever so I need to get what ever task I’m working on started, taken to the next step and so on. Cooking is very therapeutic formemend

  14. FINALLY somebody who isn’t trying to make me feel bad about not working in the early morning (I’m a night owl) and checking my emails still in bed…

  15. Great article david sir and also add 20/80 formula in this artcle that really works for me and save my 80% wasteful affort

  16. Totally with you on these practices. I have reduced my work hours, though I run two companies and have more direct reports than ever before.

    The key is to very intentional about your day. I adopted Ben Franklin’s daily routine (easy to find online) about 3 years ago, then adapted to have my work and my re-creation planned each day.

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