You will spend 1/3 of your life working.
And as if that’s not enough:
Working isn’t easy. But burnout doesn’t have to be the price you pay for success. You should be working to live, not the other way around.
Think about it.
How many people do you see running around exclaiming to the world how “busy” they are? You might’ve been guilty of it yourself.
Man, works been crazy. I’ve just been so busy lately. I don’t have enough time to do X, Y, Z.
No wonder people struggle with work performance.
You don’t want to be busy. You want to be productive.
And the truth is, anyone can work hard, but not everyone knows what it takes to work smart. They don’t teach us this stuff in school. So let’s talk about it.
What does it even mean to work smarter not harder?
In simple terms, working smarter means getting more done in less time. You do this by becoming more efficient and focusing on your most important tasks.
You might’ve heard this referred to as the 80/20 rule.
The 80/20 rule says that 20% of your effort produces 80% of your results.
How can you improve your performance at work, in life, or everywhere else for that matter?
Let’s dive into the action steps.
5 Tips for Working Smarter, Not Harder
Tip 1: Start Time Batching
Do you ever try working on something but find yourself taking breaks to scroll social media?
Do you start making progress on a project, but then get interrupted by the ding of a text message?
Welcome to the 21st century.
And these distractions – as small as they may seem – are enemies to your productivity. Not only do they chip away at your ability to focus at work, but they also make projects take far longer than they should.
But what can you do about it?
1. Put the distractions away and 2. Stop multitasking and start time batching
You see, multitasking ruins your productivity. And this alone is probably one of the most common areas of improvement at work.
I know. That goes against everything you’ve ever been told because people wear multitasking like a badge of honor.
Except it’s not.
In a recent study, a group of psychologists asked participants to work on 2 things at once and switch back and forth between them.
The research was clear. 98% of the people worked best when they were focusing on one thing at a time, instead of multitasking.
But wait, I’m not done.
Research also confirmed that people who multitask end up spending 50% longer on average completing tasks.
It takes you an average of 23 minutes to refocus once you’ve been distracted by another task.
In a nutshell, multitasking makes even simple things take longer. And that’s terrible for your work performance.
So what is time batching and how can it help?
Time batching is grouping similar tasks together so you can focus on one thing at a time. It helps minimize distractions and puts you into what productivity experts call a “flow” state.
So for example, you can time batch everything from answering emails to filing paperwork to making sales.
How to Get Started Time Batching
1. Start grouping your tasks by function or objective. For example, you might save 9:00am – 10:00am for answering emails. During that time, you’ll do nothing else but focus on emails. Then from 10:00am – 1:00pm you might focus on another single task, like making sales.
2. Set a timer. This keeps you on track with your batches.
3. Get rid of the distractions. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb and close those open tabs. Shut your office door or put on a pair of noise-blocking earplugs to cancel out the chatter.
4. Write your batched tasks into your calendar. This gives you a visual representation of how you’ll spend your day and creates a plan you can stick to. It’s also a great way to help you decide on the things to improve on at work.
How do you know if time batching will make sense for you?
Batching might work for you if:
- You struggle focusing on one single task
- Your work environment is full of distractions
- You repeat similar tasks on a regular basis
- You often feel like you don’t get enough done at the end of your day
Tip 2: Get the sleep your body deserves
Let’s face it.
Our society has a major problem with sleep.
The CDC found that 1 in 3 people are sleep deprived. Not only that, but the sleep we are getting sucks.
Sorry, let me rephrase.
We have trouble falling asleep. We hit the snooze button at least twice before dragging our zombie-like selves out of bed. We desperately need caffeine to make ourselves feel normal so we can actually have decent work performance.
Here’s the thing:
When you get good sleep, you feel better. When you feel better, you work better. When you work better, you get more done in less time. When you get more done in less time, you have more time to spend doing what you love…and so on an so forth.
So let me share a quick backstory with you.
For years, I struggled with my sleep. I had a hard time falling asleep and I felt dead to the world once I woke up. Dragging myself out of bed was like lifting a 4,000-pound car.
The worst part?
For years, I accepted that as a part of my life. I thought my destiny was just to get terrible sleep.
Besides…what’s there to learn about sleeping, anyway?
You just drink less caffeine, go to bed on a regular routine, and cut out the electronics before bed, right?
I was wrong.
And my arrogance cost me years of great sleep, productivity, and happiness.
Don’t make the same mistake I did.
So for at the risk of sounding completely overdramatic, this book changed my life. It taught me things I never knew about sleeping. I slept better in the 2 weeks after finishing it then I did in the 2 years before reading it.
It’s worth its weight in gold.
And the book covers more than just the traditional sleep advice of having a bed routine and drinking caffeine. The author talks about things like how to set your alarm to match your sleep cycle so you can stop feeling crappy when you wake up.
He also covers things like sleep positions, ideal room temperature, and how much natural sunlight you need every day.
If you’re ready to sleep smarter so you can boost your work performance, then this book is a great choice.
Tip 3: Eat The Frog
Tip 4: Work in Short Bursts With Intense Focus
Wanna hear something crazy?
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time scheduled for its completion. Meaning, if you have 10 hours to complete a project, then you will take all 10 hours to finish it, even though you could’ve finished it in 7.
Abraham Lincoln once said:
“Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening the ax.”
Or as someone jokingly said on Reddit, “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first 5.5 goofing off and the last 30 desperately trying to cut it down with a dull ax.”
Make it easier to improve your work performance by avoiding procrastination and distractions.
Here’s what you do:
Set a timer on your phone for how long you’ll work and how long you’ll take breaks. I personally set my timer between 45-90 minutes for work time then I set it for 10-20 minutes break time.
This allows you to work uninterrupted and make some serious progress in a short amount of time.
And even though you might think the regular breaks would cause you to get less done, you’d actually be surprised at how effective this method really is.
Just make sure to avoid distractions like phone notifications and alerts. Remember, it takes an average of 23 minutes to refocus once you’ve been distracted.
Tip 5: Create a Plan the Night Before and Stick to it
If there’s one thing I can leave you with it’s this:
Write a to-do list and stick to it.
We’ve already talked about the importance of scheduling time batching on your calendar. But I want to take it a step further. I want to talk about why you should write your to-do lists the night before.
Here’s the thing:
Life is too busy to get distracted by all the small stuff. And from the moment you start your day, other people fight to hog your time.
Someone asks you to do this while someone else wants you to do that. The phone starts buzzing and the emails start trickling in.
These things alone can throw your work performance out the window.
I once heard someone say, “If you wait until you wake up to start thinking about everything you need to do – you’re already late.”
Read that again.
So for the next 14 days, I want you to sit down before bed and write down the 3 most important things you’ll focus on the next day.
But, why 3 things instead of 4, 5, or even 10?
Because when it comes to working smarter, it’s not about cramming in as much as you possibly can. It’s about focusing on the 3 things that matter most. You know, the 3 things that make you reflect on your day and feel accomplished.
Remember the 80/20 rule?
It requires a less-is-more approach.
So for example, my day starts with what I do the night before. So I plan my list before bed and as soon as I wake up, I know where I’m going to start, I know what project I’m tackling, and I know what’s most important.
So start planning the night before by having 3 productive things to do. Next thing you know, you’ll wake up with more energy and motivation to get stuff done – because your tasks have already been marinating in your subconscious.
5 Summarized Tips for Increasing Work Performance:
1. Start time batching. Group your tasks by their objective or function. For example, you might answer emails between 9am – 10am then move onto paperwork between 10am – 11:00am
2. Get the sleep your body deserves. I can’t say this one enough as this was a complete game-changer for my productivity and overall happiness. I really wish I would’ve read this book sooner. By not doing so, I cost myself years of mediocre sleep.
3. Eat the frog. This is a productivity technique first popularized by Brian Tracy. It means crossing off the most difficult (and important) task first thing in the morning. This helps the rest of your day flow easily in comparison.
4. Work using a timer. Parkinson’s Law says that our work expands to fill the time we have scheduled for it. You can avoid this by time batching. For example, you can set a 90-minute timer for working on one thing. When the timer is up, take a short 10-20 minute break then repeat with the 90-minute timer again.
5. Write your to-do lists the night before. Life gets busy. This means the hectic morning is not the ideal time to plan your day. So set yourself up for success by writing your top 3 most important tasks the night before.
3 Ways to Improve Work Performance With Additional Resources: