How to work smart  rather than hard!

By Suganya Manivannan


A common requirement of working men and women is to put in a few extra hours every day. In-between work, family, household chores and your social life, finding time to cram everything you need to do within 24 hours can be a tough ask!

In an ideal world, we would only be working in a ‘9 to 5’ job, and those eight hours would be sufficient to complete everything we need to do in the office. Unfortunately, in today’s rat race, a regular workday is likely to be insufficient to prove your worth.

If you find yourself burning the midnight oil too often, you should know that you’re not alone. However, it is equally important to not neglect your health and loved ones, to climb the corporate ladder.

But can you have it all?

The answer is ‘yes.’ Firstly, let go of the misconceived notion that working longer hours means you are working hard. A good worker knows that it’s not only about working hard, but also about working smart. Following a few simple tips and tricks can help you complete your work, improve your productivity, earn praise from higher ups and still have you home in time for dinner with the family!

And the easiest way to improve your productivity at work is, surprisingly, often the most neglected one!

You have eight hours in the office on a working day. This is heaps of time, if you use it wisely. The number one productivity killer in the office is not making optimal use of the eight hours you spend at work.

Often, when we come to office at 9 a.m., some of us may immediately take a short coffee break, check our Facebook profiles and catch up on some office gossip, or even last night’s cricket scores. By the time we actually settle down to work, it can be close to 11 a.m.! And so we lose two precious hours, of the eight hours we have at our disposal!

Avoid making this rookie mistake. Have your coffee at home, and avoid attending to personal matters of interest as soon as you arrive at work. Instead, your first task of the day should be to check your emails and make a list of all the tasks you need to complete that day. This will enable you to mentally allocate time to complete all your work during office hours.

Moreover, you will definitely feel a sense of accomplishment every time you cross an item off your list!

That, however, does not mean you should not take breaks at all, during work hours. A break is often needed to stretch your legs and avoid burnout. Schedule frequent breaks (perhaps, after every task, or at hourly intervals) to refresh your mind.

Sitting in one place for prolonged periods of time is unhealthy. Take a brisk walk, grab a cup of coffee or use this time to catch up with colleagues. But ensure that you stick to the schedule, and use only the time you have allocated to yourself for the break!

In the digital era, checking emails can become an obsession. Certainly, it can be tempting to check and respond to every email as soon as you receive it, but this is often more detrimental than beneficial. This is because unplanned emails can throw your carefully planned schedule off balance.

Check your mails every hour, instead; and choose which ones need a response immediately, based on their importance and urgency, and those that can wait until you’ve completed your  tasks for the day. Not replying emails immediately increases your concentration, and allows you to focus on and complete the task at hand – without the distraction of mulling over upcoming projects.

One of the primary benefits of preparing a ‘things to do’ list at the beginning of your working day is that it allows you to plan and allocate time for each task. This provides you with an opportunity to plan all your work within the allocated office hours. Set self-imposed deadlines for every task, and aim to complete them within the planned time frame.

You can choose to tackle the larger tasks at the beginning of the day, and work on the smaller items during the lethargy of post-lunch hours. Or you can opt to complete the smaller tasks at the beginning of the day, and focus on the larger tasks when there’s more time, without having to worry about the more insignificant tasks at hand.

Find the method that works best for you, and work against the clock to complete each task.

Finally, learn to say ‘no.’ Unscheduled and unnecessarily long meetings can suck hours off an otherwise productive workday. Before accepting every invitation to a meeting, ask yourself if the agenda can be covered in an email or two. If that is possible, don’t hesitate to ask for the meeting to be moved to an email discussion – your colleagues will definitely thank you for this!

You can have the best of both worlds, if you follow these rules of play at work! And you’ll be surprised at how many more hours you can add to your day, whether this be to work or play!