5 Ways To Work Smarter

As much as workaholics like to claim that they’re superior because they work more hours, don’t listen to them.

Workaholics do work more hours than the rest of us, but they don’t work smart hours. They may sit at their desks forever, but that doesn’t mean that they’re using their time well 100% of the time. In fact, odds are good that the quality of their work is lower because they work in long, uninterrupted sessions that are a big drain on their brains’ mental energy. As the quality of their work drops, so do their productivity and their morale – resulting in one overworked, unhappy worker.

Workaholics of the world: start working smarter instead of keeping yourself up all night working on a project. Here are 5 ways to get started:

Work in Short, Uninterrupted Spurts

Too often, we subject ourselves to long, fatiguing work sessions. This takes that concept and throws it out the window. Working in 20-40 minute spurts with 5-10 minute breaks has helped my productivity out a lot. It allows you to zone in on your work for a short period of time and allows your brain to recover and have a bit of fun after you’re done your work. The allure of the break (where you can do anything you want) will keep you motivated to do your work and will prevent you from getting distracted during your designated work times. The result? Much better efficiency and morale while working.

Focus and Cut Out the Noise

Going along with number 1, you should elimate every distraction possible. Turn off your cell phone, close your email, get off Twitter, stop checking Facebook, stop listening to music, and focus while you’re doing your work. Do your best to not get distracted by the any number of things that could be claiming your attention, and do your work with the greatest attention to detail. You’ll work faster and better if you cut out all the noise – I know, for example, that my writing improves dramatically when I don’t listen to music while I work. As they say – “Distractions are the enemy of productivity”.

Prioritize

I know everyone’s heard of Pareto’s Principle, but I have to harp on it again. For the uninitiated, Pareto’s Principle is the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your work. The conclusion from this is, obviously, to focus on the 20% of the work that brings you the most results and to scale down everything else. Make the most important work – the work that’s absolutely necessary and important to getting your job done – your priority. Choose to get that done every day, and you’ll see your results will skyrocket.

Know When To Quit

Let’s face it: everyone has bad days. You know, the days where you wake up but can’t quite get out of bed, are late to work, feel like a bum, and can’t seem to focus or get anything done. Your day ends up in an infinate downward spiral of doom as it drags on – you start to get frustrated because you can’t do anything well, you become aware of just how bad you feel, and you feel totally helpless. When this happens, you should take the high road and wave the white flag. You’re not doing yourself any favors by producing bad work, and your bad day might be an indicator that you’re starting to burn out. Call out sick, go home, and treat yourself to a day of watching season one of Heroes (or whatever your favorite TV show or movie is) and a tub of ice cream, if that’s what makes you feel better. The bottom line: once you feel your ability to work fall, stop working.

Get Enough Sleep

For some bizarre reason, here in America, we think we’re all special and can feel our best on 4-6 hours of sleep per night. Not true. On average, most of us need at least 7 hours of sleep to function properly (link). I, personally, feel such a difference in my work and mood when I get 8 hours of sleep. When I get anything less than 6 hours, I’m a total zombie, and have to spend the next 3 days recovering from one day where I didn’t get enough sleep, which makes me lose even more “good” working hours! You’re probably the same. Getting enough sleep every night will make sure that you feel your best each and every day – which in turn will make your work better.

Brett Hagberg is a personal development blogger who writes at PluginID, where he inspires others to live well every Tuesday and Thursday. You can follow him on twitter at @bretthimself and @pluginID.