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Ten Steps to Working Smarter, Not Harder

"Small ills are the fountains of most of our groans. Men trip not on mountains, they stumble on stones."

Chinese Proverb

Time is finite. There are only sixty minutes in an hour, twenty-four hours in a day. You cannot increase the total time available, but you can dramatically affect the way you utilize it. Here are ten steps that will enable you to do so.

  1. Be effective rather than efficient.

    Efficiency is doing everything well. Effectiveness is doing well what is really important.

  2. Establish a baseline of goals, objectives, and tasks.

    For our purposes here, let's define a goal as something to be accomplished within a year or longer and an objective something to be accomplished within the year. Both pertain to end results whereas tasks define the steps needed to attain those results. All three are related. Generally you will want to limit your goals to 5 and your objectives under each goal to 3. If you have 3 goals, then you could conceivably have 15 objectives. As a practical matter, however, these will be spaced out over time so that, at any given moment, you will be focused on a smaller number.

  3. Prioritize.

    Prioritizing, either in terms of order of importance (1,2,3) or in terms of levels (most important, important, least important) is essential in order to maximize effectiveness.

  4. Analyze your current expenditures of time, energy, and resources.

    A good way to do this is to keep a time log for a couple of weeks. Pick a period that is fairly typical and include all areas of your life. Then ask yourself, "How does my time expenditures relate to my priorities?" (Steps 2 & 3)

  5. Reallocate your time in relation to your goals and objectives.

    These 5 steps have been about WHAT you can do to work smarter not harder, the next 5 are about HOW.

  6. Delegate what you don't do well, what's boring, or what someone else can do.

    Rid yourself of activities that are unproductive. Get a cleaning service, a software program for finances, hire someone to do the yard work, and then use your extra time towards what you do best!

  7. Be ruthless in eliminating non-essentials and in making your work/living space-time effective.

    Get rid of magazines you don't read, clothes you don't wear. Weed out your files so you can find what you need. Everything that consumes time, space, energy, or resources unproductively detracts from your effectiveness.

  8. Tailor your activities to your work style.

    Are you an early riser? Do you like to get up slowly, mediate, and do creative work first or would you rather defer thoughtful pursuits until later in the day? When is your energy at its peak? Are there times during the day when you just want to be quiet and focused on a single project? Your answers to these questions should be factored into your daily planning.

  9. Build "reserves."

    When faced with more to get done, most people work harder - quality work and enthusiasm begin to slide. Creating reserves of time, energy, space & money provide a psychological buffer. Ways to build reserves are meditation, cat-naps and walks.

  10. If after all this, you still feel pressured by circumstance, ask, "Should I really be doing this at all?"

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