5 Tips on How to Work Smarter, Not Harder
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Have you ever wondered how certain people get so much done in one day? Is it that they are less busy, or just less distracted? With phone calls, emails, texts, social media, etc., it’s not easy to stay focused, but it can be done with a few tips and techniques.
Here are some time management tools to help you work more efficiently and even regain some free time.
1. Earlier is better. Not surprisingly, many successful CEOs start their day before 6:00 a.m. While most of us are shuffling to get our coffee, they’ve already worked out, showered, and are in business mode. Laura Vanderkam, author of the book, What Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide To Making Over Your Morning — And Life, suggests getting up just 15 minutes earlier every day and gradually increasing the time.
2. Start “chunking” blocks of time. Focus and concentration doesn’t come naturally for many people — it’s a skill to be developed, and you’ll get better at it the more you do it. One popular way to stay focused is to “chunk” or segment your day into blocks of time for different tasks.
For example, block out an hour early in the morning to check and respond to emails. Then block out the next hour to get office tasks done. Be specific about what you want to accomplish, and set a clock or timer for a specific amount of time to do it in.
The Pomodoro Technique® is a time management method created by Italian Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. When Cirillo was studying at university, he struggled with trying to finish his school projects and stop wasting time. He noticed a kitchen timer shaped like a red tomato, and began setting the timer in 25 minute increments. He called each 25-minute session a "pomodoro."
Cirillo noticed that when he segmented his projects into 25 minute intervals — and knew that the timer was ticking — he was better able to stay focused and on task. He refined The Pomodoro Technique®, and now travels the world teaching it to individuals and businesses. The universal appeal of The Pomodoro Technique® is its simplicity. All you need is a timer, a pen and paper.
3. Cut back on meetings. Meetings can be huge time drains. Better to shorten meeting times, and focus on high value tasks, such as completing the actual project. Set limits on meeting times, and consider cutting meeting times back 15 minutes to a half hour — it will force colleagues to get to the point quicker.
4. Take advantage of technology. There are many smartphone apps on the market designed to help busy people work more efficiently and block out distractions. Rescue Time is an app that runs on your computer and records how you spend your time, so you can make better surfing decisions.
Check out Dropbox to store files online, Any Meeting to host a webinar, Basecamp for project management, Trello for keeping track of projects and deadlines, and Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule your social media postings.
For the social media addicted, Get Concentrating is a brilliant app that will temporarily block out social media sites while you’re trying to get work done. And to capture all your creative ideas, download Evernote, a free app for recording and collecting ideas.
5. Learn to delegate work to others. Another trait of successful people is they don’t waste time on projects that aren’t a priority and/or others can do. Analyze how you spend your time, and if it’s worth delegating tasks to others or hiring out. Consider hiring a cleaning service once a week, or automating your grocery shopping with sites such as Stop & Shop’s Peapod service or Amazon’s Subscribe and Save.
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