Work Smarter not Harder!

Times have changed and after the first industrial revolution, people started realising that working harder is not going to solve all our problems or complete tasks on time. Instead, working smarter will accomplish multiple tasks within a short period or solve problems with ease. So, how to work smarter and not harder? This concept of working smarter is almost a derivative of Parkinson’s law.

What is Parkinson’s Law?

Parkinson’s Law is the old adage that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. The term was first coined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in a humorous essay he wrote for “The Economist” in 1955. He shares the story of a woman whose only task in a day is to send a postcard — a task which would take a busy person approximately three minutes. But the woman spends an hour finding the card, another half hour looking for her glasses, 90 minutes writing the card, 20 minutes deciding whether or not to take an umbrella along on her walk to the mailbox … and on and on until her day is filled.

Here, I will tell you how to work smarter and achieve what you intend to and thereby, utilise your time efficiently. Before you start, remember that all the points that you are about to read below are just a set of guidelines and steps that may help you out but they are not a set of laid down rules and your efficiency or productivity is based on you.

Plan your tomorrow:

The best way to start your day is to have a plan on what to do for the day. Well, you can’t waste time in the morning doing that and so you will have to plan for tomorrow. Make a list of to-do things for the next day; that can have personal as well as professional work or simply your day at the office. This list may also have the pending tasks of your previous day, however, learn to prioritise which one is important. However, once you reach the office the next day, there will be more tasks waiting for you and that is why prioritising is so important. So, technically, your today starts yesterday.

Prioritise:

One major mistake that we all do is just doing things or working on tasks as they come. Never do that. Once you have made your to-do list, prioritise them by marking their urgency and importance to be completed. Learn to use ITDs (Important Tasks of the Day) as an option to do that. After compiling the to-do list, prioritise them as ITD 1,2,3 etc and it is also important to understand that not all tasks of the day will be ITDs. Hence, use the 75–25 ratio which means you will spend 75% of your time on the ITDs and 25% for the rest of the tasks. According to Parkinson’s law, your work will always expand based on the time available to you and hence playing the 75–25 game is the best way to accomplish tasks.

Stop Multi-tasking:

If you think doing multiple tasks at the same will help you achieve more efficiency then you are wrong. According to neuroscientist Earl Miller of MIT, multi-tasking is a delusion of the mind and has never been proven to be efficient for the workspace. He says “ the human brain has a very limited capacity of thinking multiple tasks at a time and by doing so it ruins a person’s creativity, thought process and eventually kills productivity”. Therefore, if you are thinking that multi-tasking will give you extra time, stop doing that immediately because that isn’t and will never make you efficient.

Focus:

We know, one important attribute of any successful person is that they never lost focus on what they were supposed to accomplish. So, focus on what you want to accomplish and when working on one task; do not think about the next one because that is taking your focus away from the present one at hand. After completing the task at hand, focus on the next one. This increases the concentration on work and helps your brain achieve maximum efficiency by keeping your creativity alive. If you think, at any point in between work, that you are not focussing then take a break and always try to avoid unwanted distractions. One of the things that worked for me while working was to avoid my dear best friend — My phone! I know it is difficult for a lot of people today since our lives have become more virtual than reality but avoiding social media and unwanted phone calls at work is a better to not lose focus.

Take regular breaks:

To be efficient and productive one has to give the brain enough break between tasks because when the brain is exhausted it can’t function efficiently. Hence taking regular breaks will help reduce the stress but remember to keep these breaks short and sweet. Many people tend to get distracted for a longer duration in the breaks and lose time unnecessarily. There are many ways to reduce stress during such breaks and the most commonly adopted method is having a cup of coffee or lighting a cigarette. I will not advise either of that as we all know what kind of health implications they lead to. But one way which has worked out well for me is to laugh out watching a comedy clip and I keep track of the time that I decided the break to be. Laughing takes away the stress and makes you lighter, thereby helping your thoughts flow like a river. While I mention about taking these small breaks amidst your busy schedule at office it is needless to say that a longer break is definitely necessary once in a while. Like a weekend. Take a weekend to spend time with family and friends. Drive to a nearby vacation spot or go for a movie or do something fun. this will keep you going mentally and eventually will also lead to a perfect work-life balance. Having said that most families where both partners are working, inadequate work-life balance is a major issue. Keep that in mind.

Have a positive attitude:

Many of us work in large organizations, companies or IT firms and we always come across issues such as criticism from peers and seniors, unsupportive colleagues and more importantly jealousy towards another employee. Jealousy can come out of two factors: either the person is very efficient, productive and is appreciated by everyone. Otherwise the person is close to a senior to whom you wanted to be a confidant. In any which case, all these issues have one common root and that is not having the right attitude at work. I am not saying that you are at fault always but having the right attitude at work will always have your colleagues back you up and having a supportive team is an important key to being productive. This does not necessarily imply that you have to be flexible all the times but, at times, it may be the need of the hour and you cannot miss the chance of being diplomatic. Whatever you work on, wherever you work in and whomever you work with, have a positive attitude and avoid such petty issues to be cheerful.

Love what you do:

Many of you may say “I don’t like my job because I did not expect this job or this in my job”. Every one of us has gone through this stage and the important thing to remember is sometimes you don’t get all that you want in life. So, it doesn’t mean that what you got is not worth it and sometimes the job deserves you more than you deserve the job. Life won’t stop here and there may be a time when you will get something even better than you ever imagined. And so every job is a class and every task is a lesson; learn it and love what you have learnt because there is someone out there with your qualities and abilities but has not learnt what you have. Therefore love what you do.

Stick to a routine:

You have followed all the steps mentioned above on day one. Now what? It is more important to stick to what you have implemented day after day than just the first day or the initial few days. Sticking to this routine will eventually make it a habit and you will get used to it. This will not just help you in developing a habit but will save you a lot of time. Further, sticking to your routine also means you would have completed all the assignments of the day in time and hence always make sure you leave the office in time. Things that do not have priority today will have a place in tomorrow’s and working extra hours on such a thing is a waste of time. And keep checking your to-do list of the day.

Well, there it is. Working smarter is all about ourselves and the way we wish to conduct our work environment. I won’t guarantee you a victory if you follow these steps but it will definitely make you work smarter than harder as days progress and that is the ultimate goal. With the advancement of technology, we are racing towards a smart world. So why not you!!

Get Smart now!

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Vignesh Chandrasekaran

Vignesh Chandrasekaran

Writing is an art and that makes reading an art too. I read regularly and write once a month and mostly on philosophy, technology, self-help and lifestyle.