6 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

In a time of great competition, individuals and organizations set themselves apart by being super productive. They work hard but more importantly, they work smart. They come to work with a problem solving mindset and try to add value in every situation. They over deliver for clients, go the extra step for students, and delight a user group. Here are six ways you can be super productive by working smarter, not harder:
1. Offer solutions, not problems. I’ll never forget when faced with an enormous challenge at a previous job, I went running into my manager’s office in a panic. I asked her how we should handle the situation and her response was simple, “Come back to me with a solution.” She had more faith in my ability to problem solve than I did. Later after the conflict was resolved we debriefed and she explained that she would always rather be presented with a few solutions rather than problems. I knew the client and understood the issue better than anyone else on the team. Trust that you’ve been hired because of your skill set and be confident in proposing solutions to challenges before just going to a manager with a problem. Think through a few scenarios and be prepared to discuss options.
2. Be resourceful. Between Google, LinkedIn and your co-workers you have the best resources you could ask for. Before I ask a question, I first think could this be answered by doing a quick Internet search or looking at company resources available to me? Even if it takes a bit longer to find myself, the act of researching is powerful. I usually end up finding a few other pieces of information that prove to be useful in this quest for information. If an online resource search isn’t the right move, turn to people in your network. Is there someone I know or work with that has tackled a similar challenge or project? Is there someone I know that has a skill set I could learn from to be successful? Keep a list of people, projects and resources for quick reference when needed.
Never say “I don’t know”, instead try “I’ll figure it out”. Most people don’t like to hear the word no. Especially in a client-driven industry, you have to find a way to answer a challenge or question, or someone else will. Its OK to not have all the information up front, but be resourceful enough to know you can figure it out. As Bill Murphy Jr. says, “Resourceful people turn challenges into advantages.”
3. Add value. Super productive people look for ways they can add value. They don’t do the minimum and check the box, they think, “How can I make this report better, how can I get it done faster, how could I make an experience delightful for a customer or learner?”
Adding value can also mean finding new opportunities and making connections. Help connect the dots for clients or students where they may not have the knowledge to do so. Adding value and connecting the dots may sound like extra work, but doing more than expected will build your network and create a positive feedback cycle in surprising ways.
You can add value to your organization through your own professional development as well. Have you or your company identified a skill gap that you can fill? Find a course, read an article and start researching ways you could provide value through learning a new skill or set of resources.
4. Its OK to double dip. No, I don’t mean in the french onion dip. Double dipping gets a bad rap in business and education, but when done with smart mindset it is incredible efficient and productive. Its all about re-purposing time, content and work product when possible. If you are working on a project that requires a great deal of writing and research, turn that content into a blog as well and share it on social media. If you visit a city for a conference or meeting, research any partners in your network that may be local to the area to meet up with. If you find a great resource for one project or lesson plan that you think could be useful for other members of your team, share it! If you develop great language for a proposal or project that could be modified for reuse save it in a best practices folder.
Doing great work doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch each time. Use what you have and continue to improve on it. But please, still refrain from double dipping at the football party.
5. Continuous improvement. After each project I try to do a personal debrief on my efforts. I think through my challenges, input and success on the project. What could I have done better? What skills would have more adequately prepared me? What process worked well? What should I continue doing? Then I take this debrief to the team who worked on the project and try to also get feedback from the client or partner. After spending time to learn and identify its extremely important to apply your findings as well. Without application the improvement cycle is broken. Allowing for time to debrief leads to increased productivity in your process and outcomes, which means less time spent on challenges in future work.
6. Personal management. Super productive people use a variety of tools to prioritize their work, stay on task, work productively and encourage reuse. Our team has been using tools like Google Drive and task lists to avoid being overwhelmed. As Covey outlines there are habits that highly effective people adopt to increase their productivity including being proactive and finding time for self-renewal.
How are you working smarter? Leave your thoughts on a smart mindset in the comments below.
Image credit to http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-think-work-smarter-not-harder/.

Caroline Vander Ark

Caroline is President of Getting Smart.

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1 Comment

Andrew Samuelsen

These are all great ways to work smarter. I especially like the first one for its simple yet powerful significance. So many people sharpen their skills in identifying problems, but few focus on providing real solutions. Those who makes solutions are so valuable! As I review the list the rest all kind of flow from the first--coincidence?


Caroline Vander Ark

Thanks for the comment Andrew! Appreciate your mention of providing solutions - its been a real focus for me lately when a challenge is identified. I do think that shift in mindset is powerful and can change effectiveness.

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