Learn How To Work Smarter Not Harder With 4 Easy Tips

January 28, 2017

Multitasking, productivity and efficiency are skills we need to be progressive bloggers.Check out these 4 Work Smarter, not Harder Secrets You Wish You Knew One Year Ago and learn how to work smarter, not harder with these easy hacks.
Working smarter not harder is something I endorse and work towards achieving. It can make you:
  • more productive,
  • allows you to progress, and
  • free up more time to do the things you love like spending time with your family or traveling. 
As a blogger, you might be a stay at home mom or a dad who only has time to blog after pulling your 9 - 5. 

Time is an expensive commodity we all wished we have more of.  As a woman, I buy into the multitasking gambit, but it doesn't work in all situations plus it's tiring.

“Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.” 
― Brian Tracy

Find a Working Strategy

I've tried many things to be more productive, but many of them didn't work. I wouldn't say they were failures because I've learned from them. And because of this experience, I'm able to move forward with the strategy that works best for me.

My new mantra is "Progress over productivity and perfection". I've always practiced putting my best foot forward with the skills and abilities possessed at that particular time. As a result, I have many draft blog and social media posts on my laptop taking up valuable space. 

This is so because one, I doubt the quality of the end result and want my blog to look perfect. Yet, no blog is "perfect" or complete. Due to technology and emerging blogging techniques, there are always tweaks to make. Spending valuable time worrying about them is counterproductive and non-progressive. Two, I'm my harshest critic. There is always room for improvement and I'm never satisfied with my finished product.

From these stances, my mantra is born: Progress over productivity and perfection.

I'm easily bored and lose interest in things quickly, so if I don't get it done straight away it's left undone. No matter how many to-dos I add it to.

Here are a few things I've been doing and will continue to do: 

  • I look after my number one resource: myself. I exercise, take naps and get involved in things I love. You should too. It's scientifically proven that taking naps
  1. aids the learning process and retention and
  2. help to avoid burnout.
  • I work at my time management skills by timing myself at tasks.
  • I use keyboard shortcuts.Like Ctrl + A = Select All
Using keyboard shortcuts can help you ave time allowing you to be more productive and efficient.
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." -Mahatma Gandhi

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." -Mahatma Gandhi

4 Work Smarter, Not Harder Tips

So pairing my new mantra with working smarter and not harder I've come up with 4 strategies to help me stay on course. Feel free to use them too.

  1. Do not open emails first thing in the morning. 

Opening an email leads you to:

  • click the link within, 
  • which leads to reading the post, 
  • which then takes you to sharing on social media and if you're like me you want to see the notifications on Twitter and Pinterest. 
And the cycle goes on and on. One thing leads to another and you're off trying to root your android smartphone. Yes, I do that. I'm yet to brick one, though.

So, I'm applying a Tim Ferris technique of checking my email twice per day at designated times. For me late morning around 10:30 and late afternoon about 3:30. 

Remember, you can't be everything to everyone. Nor can I for that matter. Progress over perfection and productivity, right?

Now is not the time to be a perfectionist. It's time to grow, learn, evaluate and make mistakes. Make progress and stop worrying about perfection.

2. Make a fresh list every morning or do it at the end of your work day. 

I find that creating a to-do list helps. 

What I did was start with a physical notebook, ruler, a black ink and a red ink pen. I date my page and add tasks to the list. As soon as I complete one I use my ruler along with my red ink pen to cross it off. I'm not saying I complete all the tasks every day, but it helps me to keep focused. 

There are times when I revisit previous days to remove an item. At the end of the week, I make a new list with all the tasks that were not completed. Further, re-writing keeps them fresh and relevant in my mind.

After writing manually every day you'll become better and more comfortable. At this juncture, you can graduate to an electronic to-do list. I use two Chrome Extensions to keep me on track: Momentum and Infinity. 

How To Work a To-Do List

The trick to a to-do list is not to pack it with tasks, but with tasks that are SMART. 

  • Specific. 
  • Measurable. 
  • Achievable. 
  • Relevant. 
  • Time-bound. 
For example, don't write, "Create a post about working smarter". Creating a post involves numerous steps.

  • Researching. 
  • Drafting. 
  • Gathering image(s)
  • Making the image into a graphic that will enhance your post. 
  • Compressing the image. 
  • Make versions of the image for social media properties. 
  • Adding internal links. 
  • Proofreading and editing the post. 
And many other things that are related to getting your post to the public domain.

You see, there's nothing SMART about my task. Specifically, how many points will I cover in this post? Let's say I had, "Create a post with 3 - 5 pointers about working smarter". This is a little better, but how will I measure my progress? When will I get the draft up and running? How achievable is this? What do I know about working smarter and not harder? Is this something I have knowledge about? Will the post be relevant to my audience? Will it help anyone; making their lives easier? When is it due for publication? So, my finished to-do should look something like, "Create a 3-5 point post about working smarter for publishing on Monday, January 30". 

But wait, we aren't done yet. The thing is, this task can be broken into sub-tasks like: 

"Research for a 3-5 point post about working smarter for publishing on Monday, January 30"; 

"Draft a 3-5 point post about working smarter for publishing on Monday, January 30"; 

"Gather and edit images for 3-5 point post about working smarter for publishing on Monday, January 30". 

You get the drift. 

And every time I complete a task I cross it out to show it's completed. This method helps me keep track of my progress on this post. How close it is to completion. Also, it helps to motivate me, knowing I've knocked off 4 of a 9 task list.  

"Work Smart: It is not how hard you work, but how much you get done".

Work Smart: It is not how hard you work, but how much you get done.

3. Tackle the most arduous and boring tasks first. 

If you're like me with slow internet, you'll definitely appreciate this. 

Each of us is different and find different tasks difficult and or boring based on our skill set and interest. I'm not a graphic designer and this is one of the most challenging tasks on my list. 

 It's a good job there are tools like Adobe Spark and Canva

When I look back on my earlier posts, I cringe remembering how proud I was of the images created and published. Growing pains right? What they do is help me to improve because I strive to make the next post more visually appealing than the last. This need coupled with my slow net spurs me to create my images first thing in the morning.

What I find boring is editing, especially a long post - one of mine that is. And this is one of the reasons why I have so many drafts. Because I wrote it when I'm proofreading, I read what I know should be there and not what is there. 

I've published a few posts with "insert link" in brackets and I only spot these after I've published. So these tasks are done first thing in the morning or sometimes when I wake in the middle of the night. 

Steps I take to ease the tedium of proofreading and editing are:  

  • reading the post out loud;
  • have someone else proofread it;
  • read backward from the last word in the paragraph to the first;
  • preview the post in my publishing editor; and 
  • take breaks.

4. Implement the Pomodoro Technique

This leads to my fourth point.

Using the Pomodoro technique

Or should I say re-implementing the Pomodoro technique. This technique helped me through college and university while earning my Teaching Diploma and B.Ed respectively, why not use it again? I proved it was more than a theory -  and a very effective one at that -  as many software applications were inspired by it. Why did I stop using this again? 

On average, after about 90 minutes our attention span wane causing us to lose focus. This happens because our brain has gotten tired. Now, we'd need a 15-minute break to renew or revive our mind and body. After this renewal, we are good to go another 90-minute stretch. This has to do with our ultradian rhythms.   

How the Pomodoro Technique Works 

You set an alarm whether an old fashioned watch or alarm clock or a newfangled app for 25 minutes. During this 25 minute period, you are to work on one task. When the alarm goes off you are to stop what you are doing and take a 5 minutes break. That five-minute break is to do anything you like. But, I prefer to do something away from my desk like: 

  • catching a breath of fresh air,
  • exercising, 
  • watering plants,
  • grabbing a healthy snack or 
  • taking a bathroom break. 
Remember, sitting at your desk all day is not healthy.

Focus and flow lead to progress.

Wrapping Up

We all already know how to work hard in life and how to work hard in studies. Make one of your SMART goals this year be working smarter, not harder. 

  1. Check your emails twice a day at predetermined times;
  2. break your to-do list into bite-sized chunks that are specific and measurable;
  3. do the hard and or boring tasks first; and
  4. lastly, apply the Pomodoro technique. 
Multitasking, productivity and efficiency are skills we need to be progressive bloggers.Check out these 4 Work Smarter, not Harder Secrets You Wish You Knew One Year Ago and learn how to work smarter, not harder with these easy hacks.

These all seem like no-brainers but will take some time to figure out. But, once you do, it makes a world of difference. 

One of the most important things you can do with your reclaimed time is to spend it away from the computer and not fill this time with more work. 

You didn't just clear more time to do more work, did you? I hope not.

Over to You!

What strategies are you implementing to work smarter and not harder?  Let's keep the conversation going in the comments.

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