5 surefire ways to work smarter, not harder

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I have a confession to make. I love figuring out ways to squeeze more out of my workday. Yet, when I work harder, I don’t necessarily get more done, I just feel stressed and tired. So I look for solutions that help me do more without the stress.

Lately I found I was spending way too much time answering emails and pushing important projects to the side as a result. I was firing emails back at people like a cowboy entering a saloon all guns blazing. This meant coming very close to missing deadlines a few times and feeling like I was at the mercy of my overactive inbox. I would actually dread looking at my emails every morning because I knew they would shift my focus from my work.

1) Say NO to emails

I decided to remove email alerts and only check messages twice a day—at 12:30 pm and 4:30 pm. If you feel too scared to do this because you just want to see if that one client emailed you back, then you could set up a mailbox for that client so you don’t have to check all your messages. For instance, Apple’s Mail has the Smart Mailbox function, which serves this purpose really well.

Yet Marsha Shandur of Yes, Yes Marsha has an equally effective, maybe even cooler solution. “If you set up a recipe with IFTTT—If This Then That—you receive a text every time you get an email from a specific person with a specific word or subject line in it. This eliminates the need to check email all day.” Thanks to Marsha, I just signed up to IFTTT and am excited about the possibilities it offers to save time, not only with my emails.

2) Lists are WAY underrated

One thing I have been doing for years that seems to keep me focused is to write up to-do lists the night before, prioritizing between must-dos and nice-tos. Then when I arrive at my computer in the morning I don’t have to dig to remember what I’m there for.

Adding to this smart idea of lists, Yvelette Stines, writer and educator says to give each task a time frame, and put a check beside each one once it’s done. And Businesswoman Susan Burnstein uses what’s called the Pomodoro Technique, which entails working in 25-minute bursts. She says it works like a charm for productivity boosts.

While we’re on the topic of time, are there certain times of the day when you are more productive?

3) Find out when you’re on fire

Michelle Warner, entrepreneur, says to figure out what time of the day you’re most focused and creative and schedule the work that requires the most creativity for those times. “I’m a morning person so I prioritize my day to do all of my creating in the morning,” she explains. “Then meetings, email, administration tasks and other things I don’t need to think about, get done in the afternoon when I’m more restless.”

I’m with Michelle. If I can be creative in the morning and do the heady stuff at that time, well, the afternoon pretty much takes care of itself.

4) Put a lid on social media

Of course, one of my favourite time monsters is social media. I’m actually afraid to calculate how much time I spend tweeting, checking likes, and trolling my media feeds in Feedly. Although I’m almost certain I’m not the only one who shares this obsession. Marsha of Yes, Yes Marsha cites Amber McCue’s Clone Camp as helping her take control of her social media once and for all, and the simplicity of her approach might surprise you. “She taught me that taking social media off your phone could give you back hours,” says Marsha.

5) Healthy eating; oh yes that’s a goodie

Sometimes, we’re so busy looking for an app to boost our productivity we forget that what we eat makes a huge difference in how we approach our tasks. Carla Golden, a massage therapist, nutritionist and educator says to eat for high-energy, which for her means eating a low fat and high-fruit diet. “This keeps me going strong from 7 am to 10 pm with no afternoon slump,” she says, adding that she usually gets four more hours out of her day than other people she knows with a similar age and lifestyle.

So there you have it folks. Any stories about how you save time and don’t burn out? I’d love to hear them!

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