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If you want to be more effective at work, it’s not about working longer hours and adding more items to your to-do list.  To be more productive and achieve bigger results the key is to work smarter, not harder and manage time effectively.

Working smarter, not harder is about having a clear strategy to prioritise your most important activities so you end each productive day feeling feeling satisfied rather than overwhelmed, overcommitted, frustrated and overworked.  

When it comes to being able to work smart, not hard, there are some simple time management skills you can use to be more effective at work including manage time more effectively, cut back your to-do list, be more focused and work in blocks of time.

That’s all good advice, and you’ve probably tried some of those time management tips

But, if you want to achieve bigger results in less time, you know you need to work smarter, not harder to achieve the results you want.

We all hit a point where there just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything so we need to learn how to start working smarter.

In this article I’ll share 7 proven strategies for working smarter, not harder, so you can be more effective and productive at work while working more on the activities that produce the biggest results and less on the stuff that doesn’t.  

How to work smart, not hard

To work smart, not hard it’s essential to have clear goals to work towards.  When you are clear on your goals, identify three core activities to work on each day and then try sticking to a schedule so you can focus on one task at a time.  Create a simple to-list of your three most important tasks to stop you working on too many things and to help you avoid multi-tasking.

To start working smarter, not harder it’s important to set better boundaries, manage time more effectively and become laser focused on only a small number of activities that will really help you be more effective.

How to work smarter, not harder

If you want to work smarter, not harder, ensure you control your time rather than letting time control you.  Working smart means getting clear on your strengths and your biggest opportunities and maximising your time in those areas and delegating other activities.  This time focus will help you achieve your goals in the quickest way possible.

If you feel like working harder isn’t working any more and you are being efficient not effective, simplify your focus by leveraging time and technology to produce bigger results quicker.

Work smarter by focusing on results

Instead of time and effort put it, the focus is on results and leveraging your time to achieve the results.

By developing this simplified way of thinking, communicating, and achieving, you’ll break through complexity and start working smarter, not harder.

Use goal setting to work smarter, not harder

Think about your ideal future in terms of the specific, measurable goals you want to achieve.

Goal setting helps filter out a lot of busyness activity that keeps you in a work harder mindset.

When we have bigger goals, it forces us to develop better mindsets, habits and time management strategies.

Bigger goals provide us with the focus and opportunity to think about how we spend our time differently.

Rather than working harder, it becomes about working smarter.

Your future goals force you to eliminate certain activities and focus on working smarter, managing time, collaboration, developing better habits, building teams and creating bigger relationships.

We all reach a plateau with our time that we have to progress beyond.

Work smarter, not harder: 7 ways to work smart 

To start working smarter, not harder, use these 7 ways to work smart.

1. Improve your time management skills

If you find yourself with more work than you can actually achieve in a day there are 2 options:

Being able to work smarter, not harder is about setting up your day so you’re clear on your most important activities, identifying your number one priority and then using time blocking to focus.

Remember Parkinson’s Law where work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

If you give yourself a full day to complete a project, you will spend the full day on that project.

2. Extend your time deadlines

“There are no impossible goals, only impossible deadlines.” – Dan Sullivan

We often give ourselves impossible deadlines to complete projects and tasks forcing us to continually work harder.

Instead, be realistic about the specific deadline required for each task and try to work smarter and give yourself just that little bit of extra time.

 Set effective smart goals to be more realistic and timely.

3. Work smarter by saying no more often

When you are clear about your unique strengths and the results you’re best at delivering, you get better at learning to say no more often.

Rather than working harder and having a massive to do list of stuff, start working smarter by creating a list of activities that only you should do and find other people to work with or on the other activities.

Many people waste a huge amount of time on activities that are not essential and that they’re simply not very good at.

Understand your capabilities.

Work smart, not hard by understanding where you’re most productive and focus on being effective rather than efficient.

4. Focus on progress not perfection

People spend huge amounts of wasted time on making everything perfect.

They are simply causing themselves to work harder, not smarter by constantly changing and updating and making perfect things that could be done in half the time.

Rather than being happy with a completed project, they spend endless hours editing so it’s just right.

Do the work to do the best of your ability and move on, or do the first part of a project that you’re great at and find other people to work with you on the rest.

5. Set up your day the night before

Creating an effective evening routine that gets you clear on your three most important activities for the following day can free up huge amounts of time.

Rather than starting the day, and wasting hours, without a clear list of priorities, focus areas and action steps you know exactly what to do.

Having clear direction and focus every morning helps you work smarter, not harder.

Following up with setting up each day the night before compounds that focus and increases effectiveness.

6. Protect your greatest resource, your time 

If you do not get enough sleep, exercise and relaxation, you will find that your work becomes less and less productive.  If you are fatigued, exhausted and feel tired all the time you simply won’t be productive or effective.  You may begin to work longer hours, which is the exact opposite of being productive and effective.

Working less, getting better sleep, eating healthily and creating more time for rejuvenation increases productivity and is one of the best ways of working smarter, not harder.

When you’re working, take regular breaks, learn to time block to reduce multi-tasking and take time to walk or exercise if you’re having a particularly stressful day.

These are some of the simplest ways to work smarter, not harder and improve your work-life balance.

7. Focus your time on results, not time and effort

When it comes to productivity many people are focused on the time and effort taken to complete a project rather than the result itself.

Focusing on achieving a specific result helps you leverage time because you become fully focused on the result.  

If we can achieve a result quicker than expected then great.

This result mindset cuts through inefficiency and improves confidence and motivation.

When we are working on a bigger project that may take a week to deliver, some people get to the end of a day and think about how much more there is still to do.


When you understand that time management is important it’s easier to work smarter, not harder.  By setting measurable goals and identifying your most important activities you can simplify your time and be more productive.  To work smart, not hard the key is to less stuff and focus more on your biggest strengths and opportunities.  It is about being more effective, not efficient.  

Use these tips to work smart, not hard today.  They will help you make the progress you want towards achieving your goals.

Now I’d like to hear from you

What’s your number one tip to work smarter, not harder? 

Let me know by leaving a comment

More productivity tips 

10 tips for managing time effectively 

The importance of time management: 10 ways it matters

About the Author

Mark Pettit is a small business coach to business owners who want to simplify their time, energy and focus so they can multiply their freedom, impact and results. 

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