Thirty years ago, working smarter might have meant getting a friend to punch in for you and spending the day transferring random papers from your In tray to the Out tray while sucking back Aspirin and Crystal Lite. But in 2014, no matter what you’ve been up to the night before, there’s really no way to cheat the massive amount of work that waits for you online. If you’re going to get through it, you’ll need some smart strategies to make short work of the pile.
Here are the top 5 ways to work smarter, not harder, in 2014:
1. Start smart. Set up a morning routine that you don’t deviate from, even on the weekend. It doesn’t matter whether you start the day with meditation and herbal tea or espresso and the free newspaper – just do the same things every morning before you start to work. This will automatically cue you that it’s time to buckle down, because you will have already accomplished your personal musts.
2. Check your email. A lot of people will tell you not to do this because it’s distracting. But notice we didn’t say ‘check your email every 20 seconds all day long’. You may have important messages that could set the tone for the rest of the day. Do you really want to miss an email informing you that IT will need to commandeer your computer from 2-5? Deal with your Inbox (added benefit: brownie points, since everyone appreciates a prompt response) and then don’t look at it again until lunchtime.
3. Block your time. Multitasking is the ultimate myth – an unfortunate byproduct of the Information Age; oh look, you have a text …and next thing you know, you’re giving your thumbs a workout while simultaneously trying to listen to your coworker and trying to remember that thing you forgot. The solution? Create set times to check your phone (even if it’s work-related, unless you work in the ER), to work on individual projects, to do admin busy-work. When the time slot ends, move on to the next scheduled activity, even if you aren’t done. It’s okay. You’re never done anyway. This way keeps you sane and calm.
4. Spend time away. We’re not advocating taking up smoking, though smokers do get and take more breaks (it was on Family Guy). But you need to find a way to step away, whether it’s to take a quick nap (ideal) a walk in nature (pretty good) or simply get up from your desk, stretch, and get the blood flowing (a lot better than nothing). Paradoxically, the time you spend away from your desk can be the most productive time of all.
5. Spend more time away. Okay, this one is for people who work for themselves – we had to put one in for you! Real estate coaching guru Joe Stumpf advises his trainees to divide their working lives into thirds: one third in the business, one third on the business, and one third away from the business. Time in is time doing whatever it is you do; time on is spent learning, doing strategy development, training, planning, etc.; and time away is time away. Like, completely away. No phone, no computer, no assistant whispering urgently in your ear. If that seems impossible to you, consider that working toward this will make you laser-focused in the time you are working.
Note: There’s an even easier way to work smarter in 2014 – Academic Ads. We’ll grow your online presence and net you more customers, with no work on your part at all.