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Work Smarter Not Harder

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May 17, 2023

What a dad thing to say, right? Many of us grew up hearing that sort of advice for mowing the lawn or moving heavy furniture. It turns out, the same principles apply to business and it has nothing to do with higher ed degrees. Here, we review a few ways to trim the stress from any operation and make room for innovation and success.


1. Audit Your Processes

Are you duplicating efforts? Reinventing the wheel? Take an objective look at your day-to-day, month-to-month, and even quarterly and annual processes. You might unnecessarily complete tasks that add no value or could use some streamlining.

It can feel daunting to note everything you do at work, how long it takes, and why you do it. It helps to take a 20/80 approach, and only document the 20% of the steps that complete 80% of the work. Don’t bother getting out your calculator to get precise. Just use the Pareto Principle as a rough guideline for your efforts.


2. Get Feedback

As you begin documenting your processes, begin by simply watching others perform a task. Do you see areas where the current process appears to bog them down? Ask your employees what they’re doing and why.

Your people can offer you invaluable insight into how things operate in your business. Ask for feedback on their processes, their requirements, and their goals. Chances are they have insight you hadn’t considered, which can help you further streamline.

Remember: an optimized workflow doesn’t mean one you’ve pared down, but rather one that prioritizes tasks effectively. More often than not, you can find small details to improve or streamline your processes.


3. Kill Useless Tasks and Automate Where Possible

Based on your documentation and feedback from others, take a hard look at your workflow audit. Eliminate or alter the unhelpful tasks. Just because you’ve done something a certain way in the past doesn’t mean you always have to do it that way. Killing tasks that no longer make sense or improving them can automatically boost productivity.

When you look at the remaining tasks, can you make doing them easier in any way like through automating processes? You can (and should) automate everything from bank payments to invoicing. Regardless of your industry, tools exist that can help with this and many other tasks.


4. Stop Multitasking

Nearly everyone thinks they do more than one thing at a time and operate more efficiently. You may congratulate yourself for tackling your inbox while sitting in a meeting. Or you may decide to sweep the shop floor while the 3D printer finishes printing a model. But more often than not when instead of multi-tasking, you’re really just switch-tasking.

As it turns out, switch-tasking tasks taxes your brain and makes you less efficient.  It also leads to mistakes and can reduce your short-term and long-term memory.


5. Get Chunky

Once you complete your process audit you’ll have a better idea of which tasks you can group together. This can further reduce the lost productivity from refocusing during multitasking.

Where possible, group similar tasks together into “buckets.” Maybe Monday becomes a day to handle all paperwork, sales calls happen on Tuesdays, or use Wednesdays to conduct inspections. Of course, it will take time to adjust to a chunked schedule.

Batching lets you use the same skills and mindset for a longer period of time without interruption or refocusing. By using a popular method of timed batching - the Pomodoro Technique - you also guard against burnout with scheduled breaks.

The technique works because 25 minutes is enough time to tackle tasks and feel productive without feeling like a grind.


Working smarter, not harder requires some planning, but the benefits completely outweigh the time devoted to getting organized.



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