August 31: Work Smarter

Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life. 

In honor of the upcoming Labor Day holiday, here are some tips on working smarter.  Yes, the term itself is a cliché  but there is definitely a difference between working smarter versus working longer hours.

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel – So often, I work with people who seem to have no short-term or long-term memory.  If they did a similar project recently or know someone who did, they don’t reference these past projects but instead start from scratch.  This can make sense if you don’t want other people’s ideas to influence you and if you have that extra time.  However, I’ve seen too many people struggling to finish a project when it would have been  smarter to use previous successful projects as a starting point.  
  2. Keep up with your industry –  Another example of “not reinventing the wheel” is the use of case studies, or keeping informed enough about how other businesses in similar fields have tackled similar problems.  This is easy to find out by going on forums or reading industry news.  However, many people don’t keep up-to-date and as a result, act like they are only ones to face a certain business challenge when 99% of the time, the answers are out there or at least very good suggestions that will save you time and money. 
  3. Pick the “right” career – If you’re not using your best skills, then you’ll struggle.  I knew a woman who wrote a lot for a living. Unfortunately writing was not her strength.  It would take her 3x as long to put together a proposal as her counterparts.
  4. Pick the right team – At any company, you’ll soon identify the go-getters or helpful people who often have the answers.   Rely on these people to help you through major projects.
  5. Executive Summaries – I can’t speak for high-level directors and CEOs since I’m not one. They may not value work/life balance as much. However, they do value their time.  Whenever possible, try to give them a succinct 1-page summary rather than long detailed explanations, unless they ask for it.
  6. Don’t Attend or Call Unnecessary Meetings – Whenever possible, put people as optional attendees unless they absolutely must be there.  And if you’re calling the meeting, have an agenda and stick to it.  If you’re a victim of long, pointless meetings, feel free to duck out by saying you need to attend another important meeting.
  7. Use downtime wisely, i.e. schedule ahead – I don’t blog for a living but as an example, when I have extra time, I write blog posts and schedule them ahead of time.  This post was written weeks ago but you’re seeing it now.  Same goes for work.  Use your downtime to get ahead on projects.  If you’re a good planner, you’ll avoid a lot of last-minute scrambling and headaches. 

If you work smarter, you can manage to do your work well and still have time for the fun stuff in life.  Do you have any good tips for making the most out of your work day? 

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