My father lived through the Depression; my mother was the daughter of immigrants, and neither one held a high school diploma. They both made their mark on the word through perseverance and endless hard work. In fact, I was always taught that the only way I would achieve success was through long hours and hard work.
Coming from Chicago, the epicenter for unions and blue-collar jobs, it’s been difficult to shake the ideals I’ve been raised with, but our culture’s reverence for hard work has transitioned since we’ve entered the digital revolution. In the last 25 years, we’ve begun to trust and even rely on technology to more effectively communicate, manage our time, and help us multitask. Today, leaders must recognize the difference between working hard and working smart; not just for themselves, but also for those they lead. Here are a few tips to reduce your work stress by increasing your productivity:
Prioritize everything that needs to be done. Before plunging in headfirst, allow yourself ample time to determine how every detail is accomplished on time and accurately.
Create a daily checklist. Write down a checklist every morning and follow it. This will prevent you from losing focus, and can include your ideas and thoughts on how to better your department or a particular project.
Ask the right questions. Before you jump into a project, fully understand what is required of you by asking what, who, when, where and why. Understand the strategy behind the request and determine if it meets the company’s mission. Don’t be an order taker, but an influencer that can exercise your expertise to make the project more successful.
Organize your email requests. To avoid endless emails from an individual that monopolizes your day, create a special inbox where their emails will be automatically directed. Once this new inbox is set, you can access their emails when it is convenient for you to review.
Learn to say no. This can be difficult if you’re new on the job or just an affable person, but over-scheduling yourself does not do you or your direct reports any good. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a single day. If you are asked to accomplish a task in an unrealistic timeframe notify the requestor that this situation will be handled but you won’t accept last minute requests that are not a priority in the future.
The benefits of working smart are profound: better health, sometimes better pay, a pleasurable work/life balance, more energy, exceptional productivity, and work satisfaction. The most successful people work hard, but also smart and develop systems every day to make their workplace and daily lives more efficient.