Working Smart is Clever For You and Your Team

The expression that we should work smarter and not harder has been around for a long time. Yet still many workers fall into the same trap. They don’t work smarter. This can be for any number of reasons. We are behind schedule. Our goals will not be achieved. Our competition is beating us and so on. The natural reaction is to simply work more hours, put in more time in the hope that all will be well. And it might be. But working smarter is more likely to achieve your goals and with far less stress, effort and cost.

Team work is at the core of any successful project. Of course getting your team to work longer and harder may produce the desired result but not necessarily so. And such tough working conditions can lead to low morale and physical and mental exhaustion. Therefore the work smarter mantra should be encouraged not only in what you do but also in what your team does.

Let’s start with some ideas for your team to work smarter.

  1. Don’t be afraid to sub-divide your tasks. The project will have clearly defined tasks but any team having been assigned a particular task could break down that task into even smaller components. This can make it easier to appoint people within the team to a certain aspect of the task and thus allow for the creation of more specific goals and the monitoring of same.
  2. Don’t be afraid to consider certain times each day when various activities cease. For example you could allow an hour in the morning and another in the afternoon when all project members stop making calls and sending emails. Everyone is 100% committed to tackling the task in hand. This can help build a sense of belonging to the team and see the team working more efficiently.
  3. Give praise whenever it is due and do so there and then. As work progresses, if a team achieves a part of a task successfully, acknowledging that achievement immediately shows support for smarter work. This recognition improves morale encouraging stronger ties within the team and encourages good behaviours.
  4. Involve the whole team in regular efficiency or ‘work smarter’ brain storm sessions.  Make them casual and comfortable and discuss different ways that the team could be doing things better.  Set actions as a result and follow-up on progress.  You could always make 5-10 minutes of every team meeting a mini efficiency brain storm.
  5. Learn to be LEAN.  If you haven’t heard the term before well let me introduce you to it. LEAN thinking is a methodology used to remove waste or wait time for activities.  You can get a trainer in to do a simple 1-3 day LEAN course with your whole team teaching them invaluable techniques that can be continually applied to the work place.
  6. Encourage an environment of continuous improvement, and make sure the management walks the talk. If you want others to be more efficient, don’t do things that hinder efficiency like asking for reports to be reformatted because you just don’t like the look of it.
  7. To avoid working harder and longer, place limits on working hours. Do not allow staff to push themselves long and hard. Prevent exhaustion from happening in the first place. Restrict hours of work and replace the overtime with better planning, team meetings and team building sessions.
  8. Talk about previous projects. Spend time with your team analysing previous projects and cite examples where working harder caused problems but working smarter produced results without friction or problems. Learn from your mistakes.
  9. Management should make clear that they do not support overworking but that they do support working smarter instead of harder. Making these facts public and to everyone sets the tone for the other project members to follow.
  10. Understand that pushing staff to work harder is an excellent way to encourage staff to leave. Talented staff members who are pushed to work harder as opposed to smarter will seek employment where the smarter option is the norm.
  11. In any project where staff are working long hours, there will be a reason why this is so. Find the cause of the need for overtime and remove or rectify that cause.
  12. Managers who have a poor impact on staff members should be moved or counselled or trained to find better ways of working with their team. Keeping such managers in control making the same poor choices does nothing for team morale or effectiveness. Again it means finding the root cause of the problem and fixing it.
  13. Team bonding sessions can take a variety of forms from simple and short games before work to a stay at a training centre with many physical and mental challenges. Whatever format is chosen, use such sessions to help all team members according to their needs. This is where proper assessment of an individual’s strong and weak points will help tailor a program so the individual improves and thus the team does likewise. It’s a perfect example of working smarter.
  14. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. Using team bonding sessions to assess this is a great vehicle but understanding what particular team members do best and not so well helps ensure that tasks are allocated to the most appropriate team member.  If you give the job of typing up the meeting minutes to the person who can only do two finger typing then obviously it will take a lot longer than the speed typist sitting next to him.

Many of the above strategies only work when used together for example it is no good saying to people, you should not work overtime, except we still expect your project delivered on time, and no you can’t have any help to do that.

So now that we have talked about what can happen as a team, what can you do yourself to work smarter?

A major spinoff from the work harder routine is the neglect of other aspects of your business and personal life. People who opt to stay behind and put in even longer hours often find their health deteriorates and that of course means your work schedule gets even further behind. By pouring more time into your project other things get neglected and you are putting out one fire while others spring up elsewhere. And then there’s your personal life. People who work long hours find it often has a cost to their personal and family life. They tend to eat poorly and have disrupted sleep patterns. And when you add health problems like stress and even depression to the list, working harder suddenly looks decidedly like a bad move.

Then to make matters worse, you may not have achieved your work goals anyway. Working harder is not smart. Working smarter is.

  1. The first step in reducing your workload is to find someone who can assist you. It could be delegating one or more tasks at work. It could mean help from home on the domestic front. But if you choose to go it alone you run the risk of burnout and if that happens, the whole darn shooting match is over. You may think you have super powers but if your pride or pig-headedness gets in the way, then you heading for a fall. Let others help you.
  2. Next you need some order in your cluttered life. People who rush into whatever happens next are often the least productive members of the team. Step back, look at all the tasks you need to tackle and then list them in order of importance. What needs to be done first? What can wait till later? Make a list. Each task is listed in order of its priority. Then begin work in earnest working through the list.  Doing the easy ones first is not always the answer, you really need to consider what task is going to get me closer to my goal.
  3. Further to the above, consider whether you really need to do it at all.  Many of us have tasks on our to do list that really only got on there because we thought of something that would be really good to do or have, but in the scheme of things do you really need to do it? And who will know if you don’t?
  4. Look after number one. If your health fails your business fails. Nothing is more important than your good health. If that means better sleep, a healthy diet, sensible exercise, weight control and a good mix of work and recreation then so be it. You’ll achieve much more by being smart than by simply ploughing ahead working harder.
  5. And finally it is time to be realistic. Rome wasn’t built in a day. If your goals are too high, seriously too high, then all you will do is run yourself into the ground and be depressed because you failed. Set goals which are a challenge but which can be achieved. It’s all about working smarter and not harder.

Share these tips with your team and other work colleagues and then together, go out for lunch and enjoy yourselves with the extra time you find.


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