Early in my career I thought that being busy was a sign of importance. The busier I was, the more unmissable I would become to my team and the organisation. But that meant that I was spending a lot of time doing stuff and running around… and not really getting much done. One of my managers told me “Work smarter, nor harder.” I’m sure you’ve heard that adage before.
Here are my four tips on how to work smarter, nor harder, be more productive and get more done in a shorter time.
- Use positive procrastination. Yes, that’s a thing. A colleague told me how when she receives a project, instead of jumping straight in and starting, she thinks about it for a while. “I percolate ideas and thoughts and resist the temptation of starting. When I’m finally ready to start I found that I have more and better ideas than I would have had without this process.” I have started using the same approach and find it very useful. In fact, I put the projects on my notice board and look at them often, think about things and sometimes jot down ideas.
- Make it visual. As a visual practitioner having a picture of a project or a task is a great way to see the bigger context, prioritise and focus on what’s important. I have this up for a couple of days and continuously refine it.
- Call a friend. The value of talking something through with a thinking partner is incalculable. Often, just the process of talking it through and hearing yourself say it, is enough to identify gaps in your thinking and lead you to new ideas. If you have a partner who is skilled at asking good questions, they are worth their weight in gold! Need to know how to ask great questions? Here’s a useful article.
- Use the energy when you have it. I’m a firm believer of the practice to schedule work based on when you have the energy to do it. Daniel Pink’s book “When” talks about identifying when during your day you have the most energy and allocate tasks to those times. My best product time is in the morning, so I schedule the most challenging tasks for then. After lunch I can’t think anymore, but then I have a peak of energy in the afternoon. After 19:00 I’m usually exhausted. Read here how to do it.
What are your secrets to productivity? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.