All of us work hard in life – there is no doubt about it. We work hard in our jobs so we can excel at work. We work hard to maintain our relationships. We work hard so we can achieve the best results in our life.
After working hard for an extended period of time, there comes a point when we realize that there’s only so much we can do by working hard. Don’t get me wrong – working hard is important. I’m a firm advocate of hard work – I can be quite the workaholic. I can go on working non-stop to get something done. Hard work is definitely the brick of success.
However, when you have 24 hours a day, just like everyone else, you have to start working smart too (on top of working hard) to get the maximum value for your time and effort. Working hard gives you results, and working hard AND smart at the same time gives you the top results. In this article, I will share 18 of my best, personal tips on working smart. Apply them to your life and you will experience better self-management, higher productivity and more results. Here they are:
1. Get clear on the objective.
Everything has an objective. It’s just a matter of whether you know it or not. What is the end objective you are looking for? The people who don’t know the objective of what they are doing are the ones who waste the most time. If you know your objective, you can be laser-focused and cut right to the chase. The clearer you are, the better.
2. Create a vision.
Now that you know your objective, what is your vision? See the objective as your direction, and your vision as your destination. Knowing your objective lets you know where to travel in, while knowing your vision helps you charge forward.
3. Take the 80/20 route.
There are always many different ways to achieve the same outcome. 80/20 route refers to the route that takes the least effort but gives you the maximum results. What’s the most effective route that will get you from where you are to where you want to be? Take that path.
4. Go for high impact items.
There are endless number of things you can do to achieve a goal. Go for the most important tasks – the ones that cause the highest impact. For example in school, I would not attend lectures if I felt they would not make a difference to my learning. As I develop my blog, I concentrate on the key tasks that make the most difference such as writing high quality content for my readers and spreading the word about my articles.
5. Create structures to maintain your flow.
If you know how motivation works, you will know it comes in bursts and waves. It’s not possible to maintain a 100% full motivated state every single second. Hence, you need to create/leverage on your environment to maintain your flow. Examples are your physical environment, people you hang out with, your routine and communities you are a part of.
6. Stop being a perfectionist.
Being a perfectionist isn’t all that perfect if it prevents you from achieving more. Release the perfectionist mindset. Stop obsessing about the details and specifics; they often take care of themselves.
7. Learn from others.
There are great resources, smart people, direct opportunities and top books around you all the time. Learn to make use of them. When I started out in my personal development industry and with my blog, I read materials from the experts and consulted the top bloggers, which helped me gain important insights immediately. Even today, I continue to do so as I expand my work. There is never a stop to how much you can learn from others.
8. If it works, stick to it.
If there is already a success formula that’s working, then reapply that formula. There’s no need to innovate or reinvent the wheel for the sake of it. Innovate only if there’s value in doing so.
9. Ask for help.
Most of us prefer to do things by ourselves and not disturb others. That’s a great work ethic, but sometimes asking for help gets us further than just doing it alone. People love to help. Many readers often email me at The Personal Excellence Blog for advice/help and I make an effort to answer their questions, because I want to see them do well too. Ask and you might get an answer. If you don’t ask, you’ll never get.
10. Cut out the fluff.
Going for high impact items (#4) means you have to cut out the fluff. There are the things that need to be done, and then there are the nice-to-do things that don’t exactly contribute to anything in the long-run. Don’t do things unless they are absolutely needed.
Is there any way to automate your tasks, especially labor intensive ones? It can be the simplest things such as setting up filters in your emails and using more functional applications that get the job done better. With The Personal Excellence Blog, I’ve automated several processes such as filtering specific emails to respective labels, having my new articles automatically feed to Twitter/Facebook, and having automatic thumbnails for my articles. That saves a lot of time so I can get right to creating quality content for readers.
For the lower impact items that need to get done (such as administrative activities), delegate them to someone else. If you are running a business, hire someone to take care of them.
If something is not your area of expertise or it can be better done by someone else, then outsource it. You only have 24 hours a day; your limited time should be spent only in places where you can add the most value. If you are running a business, examine if there are any aspects of your work (such as accounting, designing, programming) that can be outsourced to others. There’s no need for you to learn and get hands-on on every single thing, especially if it’s not the core of your work.
Sometimes, waiting may be the best solution. Things resolve themselves when you wait for a little while longer. I have experienced fixes that rectify themselves when I waited a while longer. If you are stuck in a dilemma, new solutions may pop in if you pause your steps.
15. Pick your battles.
We often face roadblocks in things we do. Go up against the roadblocks only if they are worth the time and effort. That means you need to consciously weigh out the pros and cons first. Don’t try to ram up against every barrier you face, especially if there’s nothing much on the other side.
16. Always lookout for a better way.
Don’t restrict yourself to a certain set rule of doing things just for the sake of status quo. Study others and learn from them (#7). Review your situation regularly (#18) and look for ways to improve what you are doing. Be flexible to usher in changes that can help you get more results.
17. Stop when you are tired.
I’ve realized from experience that trying to press on when you are tired only leads to slumps and ruts. Resting is paramount to accomplishing more. A tired person can’t do meaningful work. When you are well-rested, you work faster and better.
18. Review regularly.
Do a regular review of what you have done in the past week and the corresponding results. Then analyze the things that are working and the things that aren’t working. With the former, keep them; with the latter, remove them. Very soon you will have a very streamlined list of things that work.