You’ve undoubtedly heard the business catchphrase “work smarter, not harder.” But what exactly does that mean and how could it help your career?
Though it seemingly defies logic, working harder doesn’t necessarily make you a better employee. It’s less about the hours logged at your desk and more about the quality of work that you do. So how can you ensure that instead of working hard without a purpose, you’re actually working smarter and more effectively? Here are four easy ways:
1. Wake up early.
Do yourself this favor: wake up earlier, and achieve more. As biologist Christoph Randler reported in the Harvard Business Review, early risers are “better positioned for career success, because they’re more proactive than people who are at their best in the evening.” The researcher posits this is largely due to the conscientiousness of early rising paired with the ability to plot a plan of attack for the day ahead.
So, wake up early and take some quiet time to ponder what you’d like to achieve in the day ahead. Or, get mundane tasks out of the way early so that you can focus on the work at hand throughout the day without distractions. Waking up early allows you the luxury of an unhurried start, which can help you remain calm, collected, and productive all day long.
2. Commit to learning.
One of the best ways to work smarter is to become smarter. Continuous learning will help you stay current in any profession, introducing you to new ways of thinking about your work. But that’s not the only benefit: it can also help you stay interested in and passionate about your work.
Consider asking your employer about continuing education courses. Even if that is not a possibility, you can continue your education independently by reading relevant publications, or listening to podcasts related to your field. The more knowledge you amass, the more valuable you will become as a worker.
3. Keep a business journal.
Don’t let good ideas slip away. By maintaining a business journal, you can reap some truly incredible benefits.
A business journal is simply a daily log where you make some notes about your working day. You can note business gains, ideas and progress toward your goals. You can also note personal items such as what went right and what went wrong, your motivation level and what you did during the day other than work.
As time goes on, you’ll gain insight from your entries. For instance, if you notice that you are constantly killing it at work every day that you work out, then maybe you should incorporate more wellness into your routine. Or if you’re noting that you’re miserable and unproductive whenever you have to travel for business, you might be able to see how you can curtail parts of your job that make you unhappy. A business journal can help you streamline your success.
4. Make time off a priority.
According to recent studies, employees in the United States cumulatively leave more than 212 million unused vacation days per year. Unfortunately, working more doesn’t necessarily mean a better quality of work. Time off is incredibly important to helping you remain productive.
When you overwork, at a certain point you’re just spinning your wheels. You’re probably not productive the whole time, so why just sit at your desk not accomplishing anything?
When you take time off of work, be it to engage in a hobby, take a vacation, or even just take an afternoon breather to go see a matinee, you break up your routine in a good way.
You’ve probably noticed that after a break, when you return to work, you have a renewed sense of energy to attack tasks, answer emails, and address work issues. This is because taking a break allows you to come back to your work with a fresh state of mind: it’s like having a clean slate. By taking time off, you’ll be better able to focus on what matters when you get back to work.