Work Smarter, Not Harder: 10 Ways to Be More Effective at Work

But, what if you focused on the smaller parts of the blog post? For example, you broke into five 200-word sections, formatted it properly, added headings, ran a spellcheck and added images. Suddenly you realize you actually completed a lot in that timeframe.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: 10 Ways to Be More Effective at Work

Work Smarter, Not Harder: 10 Ways to Be More Effective at Work

Regardless of your job or industry, there aren’t always enough hours in the day to get everything done. As a result, you constantly feel like you’re always behind. And that’s just not good for your productivity or your health.

Not necessarily. As Bob Sullivan explained on CNBC.com, “Research that attempts to quantify the relationship between hours worked and productivity found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours — so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study published last year by John Pencavel of Stanford University.”

Trim the fat.

You’ve just been assigned a major project. Naturally your mind is racing with a million different thoughts on where to start and what you’ll need to get the job done on time. As a result, you start creating a to-do-list that is massively bulky.

The problem with these out-of-control to-do-lists is that they’re overwhelming and prevent you from being productive. That’s because you’re multitasking and directing your energy to unimportant tasks and activities.

Instead, keep your to-to-lists lean and mean by only focusing on your 3 to 5 most urgent, important, and challenging tasks for the day, aka your Most Important Task (MIT). Focus on one task at a time before moving on to less critical tasks. When you do, you’ll feel more productive and less anxious.

Lou Babauta of ZenHabits suggests that at least one of your MITs should be related to your goals and you should work on them in the AM Whether if it’s at home or in the office, tackle your MIT first thing in morning.

How to Get an Employee to Work Faster

There is no doubt that the pace of work everywhere has increased. We’re all expected to do more in less time. So what do you do if you have a tortoise on your team? How do you diagnose why he takes so long to get his work done? And how do you then help him understand the importance of picking up the pace — and support him in doing so?

What the Experts Say
A slower worker doesn’t just reduce a team’s productivity — he can also hurt his colleagues’ morale, says Lindsay McGregor, the coauthor of Primed to Perform and co-founder of Vega Factor. “When everyone is under pressure to deliver, anything that is holding a team back can become really demotivating.” Yet scaring people into speeding up will only end up backfiring, says Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a time coach and the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training. “You want to be a partner in the improvement process,” she says, and show the employee that working more quickly is also about making him the most successful employee he can be — which is good not only for his work product but for his advancement.

Find the source of the sluggishness
There can be so many different reasons why someone is slower than you would like. But even if you have an idea of the root of the problem, the best path forward is to simply ask. Don’t go into the conversation with preconceived ideas. Your employee might be struggling with a new task, or be so much of a perfectionist that she’s devoting too much time to certain projects. She might be slow because she’s waiting on late work from other team members, or she may not even realize that she’s not meeting expectations. “Start with assuming positive intent,” says McGregor. “Assume this person wants to do a good job and if they knew how, they would.” If you approach the conversation with curiosity, you’ll be better positioned to brainstorm workable, effective solutions.

Set clear, specific expectations
It may be that your lagging worker doesn’t even realize that he’s slow, in part because he doesn’t understand what’s expected of him. “One of the most difficult things for someone to learn in a new role is figuring out what ‘good’ looks like,” says McGregor. “It takes a lot of effort on the part of a manager to show someone what that is.” Rather than haranguing a worker for a late financial report, sit down and create a specific schedule for deliverables. Give her guidance on where you want her to emphasize her time, and also how long something should take. Someone who is a perfectionist will also benefit from clear deadlines. “People who are perfectionists have a really hard time differentiating between where perfection matters and when it doesn’t,” says Saunders. That means it’s up to you to highlight goals, even if it feels at first like micromanaging.

Eliminate roadblocks and hurdles
There may be impediments to an employee’s workflow that you aren’t even aware of. Getting work done in a timely fashion can be impossible, for instance, if an employee has a steady parade of people coming by his office asking for help or advice. Or you may learn that your lagging employee doesn’t have all the software or equipment that he needs to do his job effectively. “Sometimes systems are outdated, or workers simply don’t know how to use the tools that they have and they need training,” says Saunders. Your worker may be doing some tasks manually, for instance, that would be more quickly done with digital tools. Or she may need regular access to a printer that is all the way across the office. Ask detailed questions about her process, and jointly look for solutions that could help her speed up her workflow. Once you find out where the blockages are, brainstorm ways to clear them and then clearly show your support for those efforts.

Avoid weaponizing data
You may have lots of data at the ready that shows how a certain worker performs at a snail’s pace compared to her colleagues. But such information can be used for both good and ill, says McGregor. If you use such data in the right way — say, as a nudge that focuses the employee on customer results — it may help her improve her work habits over time. “But if you embarrass people with it, or use it for explicit rewards, people will take shortcuts to meet goals in name, but not spirit,” she says. Since you are trying to avoid a confrontational stance anyway, you should also avoid using data as a cudgel to get the results you want.

Divide large assignments into smaller ones
Break projects down into smaller deliverables and check in at predetermined deadlines to make sure everything’s proceeding smoothly. This strategy can particularly help with procrastinators, says Saunders. “Breaking it down into smaller parts can help people that struggle with procrastination to feel a greater sense of urgency and to follow through in a more timely manner.” Research has found that the sense of progress generated by small wins also helps employees stay motivated.



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