Whenever you're feeling consumed with work, it's easy to put your head down and push yourself by working harder. But the best response is always to work smarter — not harder.
Here are five ways you can work smarter and not harder:
1. Check your email only once a day.
All of our inboxes are full, and, let's be honest, we will never get caught up! So instead of spending all day long trying to get ahead, limit checking your email to once a day. It doesn't matter when, but it shouldn't be a constant part of your day. Now, there may be times when you are waiting for an important email. In that case, you can check-in frequently to see if that email has arrived, but don't get caught up in the other messages you see when you login. Those can wait.
2. Work in blocks.
How many times a day do you repeat steps because you didn't make a plan that's efficient? There are always processes no matter the type of work you do, so try to lump similar steps together. For example, as a writer, I try to create outlines for my writing projects during one block, then do the writing in another block, and the last block is when I do editing. If I don't break it up this way, I spend way more time on my work. Think about what things you can do in your job that helps you not to go back and repeat the same steps over and over. This also helps you to stay focused because your mind isn't hopping from one thing to another.
3. Set a timer.
We all have a little competitive streak. When we don't time ourselves, it's easy to get distracted and get behind with work. On the other hand, when we don't limit ourselves we work too much. Setting a timer gives us a feeling of racing against the clock or gives us the boundaries we need to stop working!
4. Delegate the hard things.
Nobody is great at everything. Often, the hardest we have to work is doing things outside of our expertise. If it's doable, delegate the tasks that you don't do well and free yourself from the time and responsibility they require. One thing to remember about transferring responsibilities is the importance of delegating to someone who is the right fit. If you delegate to someone who isn't experienced or efficient in the task you assign, then the cycle of working harder instead of smarter will continue.
5. Keep a list of things to do later.
We all have to-do lists, but it's easy to get off track. Instead of letting yourself go a million directions at once, keep a list by your desk of things to save for later. When you get an idea or an urge to switch directions, write down the idea instead and come back to it when you have time. The key to working smarter is to stay focused as much as possible!
Tell us in the comments, how do YOU work smarter instead of working harder?