12 Smart Strategies to Help You Work Smarter, Not Harder

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Don’t you think working hard is overrated? As kids, we are taught to work hard and when we grow it is instilled in our minds that working hard gives success whereas working smart can bring success and still let you live your life. Working smart is something that I have learned the hard way and it can make your life much easier. So if you are done working hard, I have for you 12 ways to work smarter, not harder.

What does work smarter not harder mean?

I am a believer in being dedicated and striving hard to get things done but that need not be slogging and burning out yourself. The concept of working hard at times makes you feel if you are not slogging you are not doing right or you are being lazy and not doing enough to reach your goals. But instead of working hard, you can be working smart. Working smart and not hard is not about being about deceiving or tricking others and taking credit for others work. But working smart is working on things that really matter, being effective and productive, and keeping yourself away from distractions to meet goals. You work strategically towards achieving your goals and think out of the box to get things done.

How to work smarter, not harder

Here are 12 tips to help you get smart at work and not waste your time working hard.

1: Batch tasks

A good way to work smart is by batching similar tasks together. This reduces the effort you take to switch between tasks and improves your focus allowing you to work more effectively. Batching is best for tasks that are repetitive in nature and do not require critical thinking. Tasks like making data entries, organizing papers at work, and interrelated activities can be batched. By batching tasks, you save time work more productively, and feel more accomplished.

Depending on the kind and time required for your batch of work you can schedule a few hours at a comfortable frequency or assign one day of the week for the batched task so that on the other days you can spend your time on more critical thinking and creative activities.

2: Make templates

Another effective way to work smart is by making templates. We all have some work types where our responses are the same with a few tweaks like making a monthly report or responding to emails.

For such tasks, you can make templates. For example, I need to make a monthly review report every month at work. Instead of spending time making it from scratch every month. I have a template for the same covering the key points the report should have with the correct font, structure, graphs, and formatting as a Word doc. So I just spend a few minutes filling it with the current data and the report is ready.

Creating templates helps you streamline your work process and be consistent in the way of presenting your work. The first time when you make a template spend enough time to consider all the requirements and later review for any errors as the errors may pass to all the future use of your template. This reduces the fatigue you face worrying about all information being included every time making something and minimizes errors.

Having a template will let you do work faster and more accurately than your co-workers.

3: Follow the 80/20 Rule

The Pareto Principle also known as the 80/20 rule states that 80% of the output or results are achieved from 20% of efforts. So if you spend some time evaluating the key tasks and activities that really drive the results you are looking for, you will be able to find the tasks that are most critical for you and give the most output. You should focus your energy and time on working towards these tasks to get greater efficiency and success. Implementing the 80/20 rule can help you work smarter, not harder, and achieve more with less effort.

4: Block your calendar

Has it ever happened to you that when there is an ultimatum for a project it does complete in the assigned time whereas prior to that it did not seem like getting completed? Well, that is a common phenomenon and explained by Parkinson’s law. It states work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

So if you block a particular time for a task, you are more likely to complete the task in the defined time. You should use the time-blocking technique and block all the critical and important tasks on your calendar.

When you block your calendar you schedule it and you are less likely to skip it. By time blocking you give your focused attention to the work and put your best effort to complete it within the scheduled time block on your calendar. Of course, you should assign a reasonable time to complete the task. But by time blocking you are more focused, overcome perfectionism and avoid procrastination.

To start practicing time blocking and know the tips and tricks to make time blocking work for you read my post Timeboxing at work: An effective way to get the most done.

5: Plan your day with 3 MIT

In order to work smart you should have control over your day rather than letting your day take control over you. You cannot expect to work smart if you start your work day with random tasks and the first urgent task that comes to you. You should plan your day in advance and always have your daily to-do list have 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks). The MITs are generally the critical tasks identified in point no. 3, the 20% effort that brings 80% results, they can also be urgent tasks that must be completed in the day. These tasks are non-negotiable and must be completed by you on the day. Also, you must do these tasks first at the start of your work day, as you feel fresh, energetic, and creative at the start of the day which lets you work more efficiently. Also by completing these tasks in the first half of the day you will feel more accomplished and can spend the rest of the day for mundane activities.

So to work smart definitely plan your day to maximize your productivity. You should read my post How to plan a productive day and 12 tips to boost your productivity at work.

work smarter not harder

6: Schedule tasks based on your energy levels

To be most efficient at work and work smart it is wise to manage your energy levels to make the most of the high-energy period of your workday. Scheduling your work tasks according to your energy levels is a great way to maximize efficiency and reduce burnout. You must identify when you’re most alert and focused, and plan your most intensive tasks accordingly.

For example, if you’re a morning person, you might want to tackle your most mentally taxing work first thing in the day. Alternatively, if you’re an evening person, you might want to schedule your most critical assignments during those hours. If you schedule your work with your body’s natural rhythms, you’ll be able to work more efficiently and accomplish more in less time.

7: Organize your workspace

Organizing your workspace is a good start toward working smartly. A cluttered desk is not only distractive but also reduces your productivity. You do not want to waste your time searching files, documents, and stationery to get distracted. Don’t just limit yourself to organizing your workspace but also organize your workflow and the way you work. For more details on getting organized at work read 18 tips to be organized at work. A clutter-free and organized workspace will make you more efficient and reduce overwhelm. To start organizing your work space you should read 14 Tips to organize your work desk.

8: Get clarity

Many times I have seen at work that after spending time and energy on a task it happens so that the work is not of a desired expectation. It is a good practice to get all the information about a new work or project before you spend your time working on it. Ask questions to get complete clarity in order to meet the intent of the work.

You should know before starting the work:

  • What is the ultimate motto of the work?
  • What is expected from you?
  • What is the timeline?
  • Who are the other members of the work and what are their roles?
  • Who should you reach for any roadblocks?

Once you have good clarity on the work that needs to be done you will be able to work more meaningfully towards it and with less overwhelm of making the right choices.

9: Prioritize work and delegate

One of the most effective ways to work smart and not hard is to prioritize work. You can be overwhelmed with your To-Do list and every work may seem important. You should evaluate your To-do list to identify tasks that are critical and urgent and attend to those on first priority followed by those that are critical but not urgent. 

The least important and urgent task can be delegated to others. It is wise to spend your time on things that bring value to your work skills too and help you upgrade, spending time on mundane tasks will not allow you to grow. So learn to delegate and if required outsource tasks to make yourself available for new opportunities. Establishing a system of delegation also helps to build trust and confidence within your team, which is essential for a positive and productive work environment.

P.S. You may like to read How to prioritize work tasks

10: Use a work planner

I can’t emphasize enough having a work planner, especially having a dedicated planner for the office. It helps you stay on top of tasks by letting you break down your goals into manageable tasks for each day. It lets you stay on track and meet deadlines, but it also ensures that you prioritize important tasks and avoid feeling overwhelmed to remember all the things that need to be done. You can make quick notes during the day and have minutes of meetings to stay on top of things. You need not have an expensive planner but a simple notebook can help, you can read my post 10 ways to organize a notebook for work to get started.

However, for a few years, I have been using this digital work planner. It has everything you need to work smart.

11: Reduce time on email

The amount of time we spend on email every day is insane. Answering emails does not necessarily drive our work forward. Yet most professionals are overwhelmed by email. It’s easy to spend hours sifting through messages, responding to inquiries, and sorting through spam. However, reducing the amount of time you spend on email can actually help you work smarter, not harder. You can set aside dedicated time each day to handle emails and organize your emails to prioritize messages based on importance. You should start by decluttering your inbox, to find help to do the same read How to declutter email quickly. Followed by organizing your email and using it more productively. You can read my post Best tips to improve email productivity for practical hacks to do the same.

12: Progress with technology

Technology has made some tasks much easier. In order to work smart we should adapt to the advances in technology and make the best use of them.

There are many software and tools available that help in automizing tasks so that you don’t spend repeated efforts on them. You can use remote working tools to collaborate, increase the efficiency of work and work across the network to leverage opportunities. You can better present and analyze your data with just a few clicks instead of spending hours to understand it. You can also optimize and streamline your workflow with project management software to be more productive and better monitor the tasks.

You should not refrain from learning new advancements that help in better management of work but make progress with the right tool as the primary purpose of all these tools is to make life easier for you.

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work smarter not harder


So, these are the 12 ways that help you work smarter, not harder. Implementing these strategies and focusing on working smarter will increase your productivity, reduce stress, and help achieve your goals faster. You can use the extra time you saved to live the life you love and get the much-needed work-life balance.

Related posts you may like:

10 Ways To Make An Effective To-Do List

12 effective strategies to deal with negative coworkers

12 Master Lists you must make to be organized at work

10 self-care at work tips for your wellness at the workplace

10 Things You Must Do To Be Successful At Work

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