12 Productivity Tips to Help You Work Smarter Not Harder | Toggl Blog
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12 Productivity Tips to Help You Work Smarter Not Harder

Jacob Thomas Jacob Thomas Last Updated:

Do you want to be more productive? Then you need to work smarter not harder.

And this blog is stuffed with 12 juicy tips to help you do just that!

Keep reading and you’ll discover why strategy is the foundation of productivity, how to increase your speed on tasks you’re asked to complete on a regular basis, why multitasking is the basically the devil in disguise and what to do instead, and more.

Strategize to Work Smarter Not Harder

Working smarter not harder doesn’t just happen. It takes a bit of thought and dedication. But don’t worry, the results will most definitely be worth the extra brain and willpower.

Let’s talk about a few ways you can strategize your work for success:

Know Yourself

What tasks do you really enjoy and which do you loathe? If the answer to that question isn’t abundantly clear, think about which assignments you usually start immediately after receiving them and which you tend to push off.

If there are tasks you consistently place on the back burner, it probably means your subconscious mind is screaming, “Ahhhh, not again!” This leads to procrastination, which is unproductive.

Beyond just the jobs you like and dislike, you also need to know when you, personally, reach peak productivity. Do you wake up, mind ablaze, ready to take over the world before breakfast? Perhaps you should use this to your advantage and allow yourself to work first thing in the AM.

If, on the other hand, you require a more leisurely introduction to your day — a quiet coffee at the kitchen table, a long hot shower, a peaceful drive to the office — then schedule your morning accordingly.

There’s no “right” way here. It’s about knowing the way you tick and accommodating your own unique preferences. So keep it real, brah!

Commit to a Plan

Have you taken the time to look within; search that pretty little soul of yours and understand what tasks you love and hate, and when your brain is most productive? Great, now it’s time to create a plan and stick to it.

Plan out a morning routine for yourself that you can commit to. Brainstorm ways you can use the following tips in this post to regularly increase your productivity. Decide to structure tomorrow before you bid adieu to today.

All these things come together to create your unique plan to work smarter not harder. But they’ll only be able to coalesce into a true, productivity increasing strategy if you think it through and commit to accomplishing it every single day.

Craft Milestones

You need to clarify distinct milestones — both for each individual project you’re working on and for larger, overarching company goals.

For example, if one of your current projects was to, say, write a new blog post for the company website, you could set a few milestones such as outline, first draft, editing, final draft, artwork, and posting. Just make sure each of these milestones has an understood due date.

Crafting milestones for overarching business goals is similar. Let’s continue with our above example and say that, rather than just posting one blog to the company website, you’re in charge of your company’s entire blogging effort.

You would first want to conduct audience research, craft a blogging strategy, create a content calendar with specific blog topics, begin writing content, etc.

When you set milestones, it allows you to stay focused on the task at hand as well as assess your progress on each individual project or company initiative. These both, in turn, allow you to work smarter not harder.

Look to Increase Your Speed

Now that the foundations of working smarter not harder are in place, it’s time to look at a few practical ways you can increase your productivity. Let’s start with some tips on upping your speed. That’s right, we’re about to turn you into your company’s version of Usain Bolt!

Remove Distractions

Got distractions? Get ’em removed — STAT! Nothing kills productivity like a constantly pinging phone, irrelevant social media post updates, or consistent email alerts.

In fact, studies show that it takes the average human brain over 25 minutes to refocus on a task once it’s been interrupted. Crazy, right?

So shut the phone off (gasp!) and log out of your email (the horror!) when you sit down to do your important, brain-heavy work. Everything will be waiting for you when you resurface. Promise.

Get Tidy Now

Maintaining a clean workspace — both in the physical sense and the digital — is another great way to increase productivity and work smarter not harder. Why? Because excess clutter has been proven in numerous studies to negatively impact worker mood and increase stress.

Plus, it’s much easier (and quicker) to find things if they aren’t hidden under stacks of paper and last week’s lunch wrappers, or scattered across your computer’s hard drive all willy-nilly.

Do yourself a favor and make a tidy desk and proper digital file organization a priority. The extra time it takes is a pretty small price to pay, all things considered.

Use the Right Tools

The proper use of tools — software, hardware, keyboard shortcuts, etc. — can greatly increase your productivity at work. After all, that’s why people created these gadgets and gizmos in the first place.

The trick is finding the right tools; the ones that do what you need them to and fit your preferred workflow. Sometimes this takes a bit of experimentation. Fortunately, many companies offer free trials of their solutions so you can try them risk-free.

To get you started, here’s a quick list of our favorite tools:

  • Trello is an easy to use project management app that allows you to see an entire project in one quick glance. It’s easily customized and is perfect for the lone freelancer, a whole department, or even an entire company.
  • Insightly makes user-friendly CRM software. Available via their website, smartphone app, or Google Chrome extension, the tool allows users to better track their communications and offers many handy integrations.
  • Toggl is a top-rated time tracking app for both computers and mobile devices. For those looking to invoice clients more accurately, increase productivity, and/or help grow their entire business, we definitely recommend this tool.

Don’t Forget the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle after the Italian economist who discovered it, states that approximately 80% of results come from just 20% of efforts. This is great news!

It means that you can (and should) spend more of your time on the tasks, projects, customers that really matter. The 20% that account for roughly four-fifths of your outcome.

Once you discover what exactly accounts for 80% of your results, you can double down on it and really increase productivity. This principle is one of the absolute best ways to work smarter not harder.

Just Say No

Go on, just say it! Now that wasn’t so hard, right? Unfortunately, most of us have a hard time putting those two little letters together and verbalizing them in the form of a word. Especially when new opportunities come our way.

But the truth is, whether our proclivity for “yes” is due to FOMO, a fear of hurting other people’s feelings, or something completely different; it’s bogging us down, decreasing productivity, and making us “dumber” workers.

So if you really want to work smarter not harder, learn to say no. And keep saying it until you’re only working on the projects you want.

This tip can be seen as an extension of the last one, the 80/20 rule. By saying no to the kinds of projects, clients and opportunities that never seem to pan out well for you, you’ll have much more time to focus on the ones that do. Go for those big wins, my friend!

Side note: if you work for a company rather than for yourself, you’ll be more limited on what you can actually say “no” to… So unless the thought of the unemployment line fills you with joy, consider saving most of your no’s for your personal life.

Forget About Multitasking

Multitasking is a no-win game. You know it and I know it, too. That doesn’t mean we actually refrain from doing it, though… Responding to emails during company meetings: check. Filing reports while watching cat videos on YouTube: definitely check!

The truth is, most of us can’t seem to stop ourselves from multitasking. And that’s exactly why many of us aren’t nearly as productive as we’d like to be.

But this post is about how to work smarter not harder. So we’re about to dump a few hard-hitting, multitask-busting tips on your face. Right now. Ready?

Work in Parallel

Working in parallel is a sneaky way to overcome the multitasking hurdle without actually multitasking and smashing your productivity with a Thor-sized hammer. Curious? Internalize this bit of wise wisdom:

Rather than doing multiple things at the same time, group certain tasks together and accomplish them simultaneously. For example, you could respond to customer emails and then write that report your boss has been hounding you for all week.

But, after reading this blog, you’ve become much too smart for that. Instead, you decide to write the report first and send it to your nagging superior for review. Then, while you’re waiting for feedback, you respond to emails.

Do you grasp the utter brilliance just now displayed? The key to parallel work is to approach your day strategically and best order your assignments to maximize productivity. In our example, you were able to get more done in less time because you properly planned.

It’s a Delegation Celebration

Another way to slay the multitasking dragon is to do less. Yup, it’s much easier to focus on one task at a time when you don’t have a million things needing to get done right now, at this very moment.

So what can you delegate?

If you’re the marketing director, you might be able to better maximize your time by assigning social media duties to one of your employees. And most sales guys shouldn’t be wasting time filing expense reports.

Every company is different. But if there’s a logical way you can shift some of the workload off of your plate and onto someone else’s (without completely overwhelming them of course, you jerk!), it’s definitely worth considering.

At The End of The Day

So far we’ve hit you with 10 face-melting productivity tips to help you work smarter not harder. Can you handle a couple more?

Stop Thinking About Work

Unless you’re at work. Then you should definitely be thinking about work!

But once you clock out for the day, let your mind relax. Focus on your family, your hobbies, your herb garden in the backyard… Whatever tickles your fancy.

You see, our world is all about the hustle. And having a strong work ethic is an amazing quality that will take you far. But studies show that focus, productivity, and overall satisfaction increase when we give our minds a break.

So take it easy, tiger. It’s ok to think of non-work related things and even take some time off now and then. Maybe use some of your vacation time and finally take that dream trip to Paris! When you get back you’ll be able to work better and harder and enjoy yourself more.

Back Up Your Work

Have you ever been hard at work on a project, only to have it suddenly disappear in a cloud of metaphorical digital smoke? It’s one of the most frustrating things that can happen. It’s also a fantastic way to torpedo productivity.

Fortunately, many software and other business tools have autosave functions to protect from this very disaster. But not all of them do…

So get in the habit of routinely saving your work and backing up your hard drives on a regular basis. Every day if you can. Sure, it might take you a few extra minutes, but it will save you a ton of hassle and furious feelings if the worst ends up happening.

Ready to Work Smarter Not Harder?

Of course, you are! And the 12 tips in this post will help you do it.

Always keep in mind that productivity starts with strategy. You need to figure out the way YOU work best and capitalize on your preferences.

Then look for ways to increase your speed at certain tasks — whether that means investing in specific tools, committing to removing distractions, or doubling down on the 80/20 rule.

Also, multitasking is for losers. Seriously, those who multitask lose WAY too much time every day. And they’ll never get it back. Don’t be like them. Instead, work in parallel, and delegate like the freakin boss you are.

Finally, allow yourself to step out of the office — both physically and mentally — and enjoy everything else life has to offer. Just make sure to save and backup all your hard work first!

Put these 12 tips together and you have a full proof plan to work smarter not harder. Now there’s nothing left to it, but to do it!

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