5 Ways to Work Smarter

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog may have noticed something unusual about last week’s posts. Namely, that there weren’t any. There are two reasons for this blip in my posting schedule.

  1. Procrastination.
  2. Zac Efron.

It’s been insanely busy at work right now so after a longer-than-usual day at the office last Tuesday I returned home exhausted and unmotivated. I knew I owed the day a Tips Tuesday blog post but kept putting it off as the evening wore on.

And then my channel surfing struck gold with Zac Efron’s 17 Again. As mindless and juvenile as this movie is, I simply could not tear myself away from the screen. C’mon, he’s delightful.

The end credits rolled, I took my dog out for a pee and collapsed into bed. I was drifting off to sleep when I suddenly remembered I hadn’t done a lick of writing. Shit. By this time I was too tired to get out of bed so fell asleep filled with Efron-induced shame.

And it’s scary how quickly procrastinating can snowball as soon as you fall out of a routine. The end of the week came and went with no “I’ve Never Club” post either; and this time I couldn’t blame it on Zac.

Being organized and working smart are effective remedies to procrastination. A key principle in simple living is the idea of spending more time on the priorities in our life (family, friends, self-care) but cutting back in other areas. There are different ways this can be achieved—moving closer to work to save time on commutes, watching fewer hours of Zac Efron movies each night or by working fewer hours to name a few.

Working fewer hours can be a tricky one for a number of reasons including the perception that it is synonymous with working less. It can mean that. But I prefer to approach it as working smarter, not less.

Here are a few tips that have helped me organize my work life in order to ensure things get done when they’re supposed to.

  1. Plan ahead. At home I have a two-month dry-erase calendar hanging above my desk. At work I have a three-month calendar and a twelve-month calendar. Mapping out all your appointments and plans will allow you to visualize your days and weeks so you can schedule appropriately (and remind yourself of what’s coming up).
  2. Organize your workspace. When I was younger I spent a summer working as a gardener for a woman named Thea Ritgen who taught me this valuable lesson. The tool shed was a disaster and although I was eager to just find the equipment I needed and get to work, Mrs. Ritgen made me stop and organize the shed first. And she was right to do so. In the end it saved me so much time and frustration trying to find tools. So before you launch into a project, take some time to organize your space; putting files in folders in your desk and in your computer, clearing the space you need, getting that glass of water or cup of coffee and setting up your playlist.
  3. Use a To-Do List. I’m an obsessive to-do lister. So much so that I’ve recently painted an entire wall in my apartment with chalkboard paint and use it as a giant to-do list.

    Yes, my to-do list includes a turtle. Don't ask.

    Creating a list of everything you want to accomplish helps on a few levels.

  • It organizes your thoughts and makes your day/week seem more manageable than if it’s all buzzing around in your head.
  • It helps you remember what needs to be done.
  • It allows for that great sense of accomplishment when you stroke an item off your list. (In fact, my colleague Andrew recently revealed that he’ll retroactively add items to his list that he’s already done just so he can then cross it off – I’m glad I’m not the only one).
  1. 4. Use a Knock-Off List. Everybody has those little tasks that only take a little time to complete but seem to hang around to-do lists because we never get around to them (replying to an email, phoning a friend, hanging a picture, making a photocopy, etc). Move these items into their own “knock-off” list and devote an hour each day to knocking off these simple tasks.
  2. 5. Be specific. A common mistake with project and time management is not paying attention to the details. It’s not enough for me to add “blog post” to my to-do list. I also need a separate list with the specific tasks involved in that project (write first draft, proofread, find photos, create post, add tags, publish, notify on Facebook). When you break a project into all its various tasks you’ll get a better sense of the kind of time commitment you’re looking at.

__________________________________

Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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