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The key to greater productivity and bigger results is to work smarter, not harder.  Learning to work smarter, not harder can improve your productivity and performance.  Working smarter helps you increase focus and work more effectively on your most important projects. 

If you want to be more productive at work, it’s important to stop working harder and start working smarter. 

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

Everyone has their own definition of working smarter, not harder, but for me it means using your time effectively to achieve bigger and better results in the simplest, easiest and most productive way. 

When it comes to being able to work smart, not hard, there are some simple time management tips you can use to work less and be more effective. 

These include managing your time more effectively, cutting back your to-do list, becoming more focused and prioritising.

In this article I’ll share 7 proven strategies for working smarter, not harder.  These productivity tips will help you work smart, not hard so you can be more effective and productive at work while working less. 

Read proven tips on how to be more productive at work.

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, it becomes easier to identify your most important activities.

When you stick to a schedule so you can focus on one task at a time.  To start working smarter, create a simple to-list of your three most important tasks to work on each day.  This will ensure you stop working on too many things and avoid multi-tasking.

To start working smarter, not harder 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 and productive.

Read the habits of highly productive people

Why is it important to work smarter, not harder? 

It’s important to work smarter, not harder if you want to take control your time rather than letting time control you.  Working smarter, not harder saves time and energy. 

Learning to work smarter, not harder can make you more effective and productive.  When you work smarter you reduce stress and procrastination and increase focus and effectiveness. 

By working smarter on a small number of crucially important activities, rather than trying to do everything, you can prioritise better and improve your time management.  

Read more on how to prioritise your time

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 mpossible 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 love 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. 

Get more articles, tips and tools to manage your time and be more productive on the blog.

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