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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, and help you manage your time better.  Working smarter, not harder means using your time and focus more effectively, enabling you to make faster progress on your most important projects. 

If you want to improve your productivity at work and get things done faster, 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 definition of working smarter, not harder.  For me, working smart not hard means improving your time management skills so you can prioritise effectively, eliminate procrastination, and achieve bigger results in the simplest, easiest, and most productive way. 

In this article, I’ll share seven productivity tips for working smarter, not harder.  

Read proven productivity tips to help you be more productive

How to work smart, not hard

To work smart, not hard it’s important to set measurable goals to achieve.  When you are clear on your goals, you can identify your most important activities.

Identifying your most important activities helps you plan your day and stay focused.  To start working smarter, create a simple to-list of your three most important tasks to work on each day.  Creating a simple to-do list ensures you stop working on too many things and avoid multi-tasking.

To start working smarter, not harder set better boundaries and eliminate distractions.  Removing distractions helps you become laser-focused on your biggest priorities.  

To work smart, not hard each day, use my tips for better daily planning.

Why is it important to work smarter, not harder? 

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

Learning to work smarter, not harder can make you more effective and productive.  Working smarter also leads to increased focus and performance. 

By working smarter on a small number of priorities, 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 have too much to do, and too little time to do it in, it’s essential to prioritise and reduce the number of activities you do each day. 

Being able to work smarter, not harder is about setting up your day so you’re clear on your most important priorities.  Once you’re clear on your priorities, you can identify your number one priority.  

Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.  To increase productivity and manage your time better, spend time on your biggest priorities and cut out everything else. 

Read my step-by-step guide for effective daily planning and download my Free 1-Page Daily Planner. 

2. Establish time deadlines

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

You can’t work effectively and productively if you give yourself too much going on each day.  When you have impossible deadlines and long to-do lists, it forces you to work harder, and longer.

If you want to work smarter, be realistic about the deadline required for each task.  To be more productive, give yourself extra time to complete the work in.

Set effective smart goals to be more realistic and timely about how you manage your time.

3. Work smarter by saying no more often

When you are clear about your priorities 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 long to-do list, start working smarter by creating a list of activities that only you should do.  When you utilise capabilities you can achieve faster results in less time.

People waste valuable time on activities that are not essential and that they’re simply not very good at.  Look to delegate certain activities to free up more time.   

The key to working smarter, not harder is to maximise your strengths and leverage your time.

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

You can increase productivity and get more done when you focus on progress, not perfection.  You can waste time trying to make everything perfect.  

Perfectionism can cause you to work harder, not smarter by constantly making perfect things that could be done in half the time.

To avoid perfectionism, focus on making progress towards your goals instead.  Do the work to the best of your ability and move on.   Alternatively, do the first part of a project that you’re great at and find other people to work with you on the rest.

Read also: 4 simple ways to overcome perfectionism 

5. Plan in advance

Weekly planning and daily planning make it easier to work smarter, not harder.  Creating an effective evening routine helps you identify your biggest priorities for the following day and frees up valuable time.

Rather than wasting hours without a clear list of priorities, setting your day up the night before increases focus and direction.  Having a clear direction and focus every morning helps you work smarter, not harder.  It also boosts self-esteem and confidence.

Read also: 6 tips to plan your week effectively 

6. Protect your time 

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

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

To increase productivity, take regular breaks and learn to work in blocks of time.  You can also boost energy by reducing multi-tasking and taking the time to walk or exercise.

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

7. Focus your time on results

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 work smarter and increases productivity.  It also helps you leverage time because you become fully focused on the result.  

Focusing on results, not time spent, will help you achieve a faster, and better result. 

This mindset cuts through inefficiency and improves confidence and motivation.


Improved time management and increased productivity will help you work smarter, not harder.  Weekly and daily planning will also help you prioritise effectively and start each day feeling focused.

To work smarter, not harder, set clear goals, identify your most important activities, and work on your biggest priorities first thing each day.  To work smart, not hard the key is to do less stuff and focus more on your biggest strengths and opportunities.  Working smart is about being more effective not efficient.  

Use these 7 tips to start working smart, not hard today.  When you start working smarter, you can increase your productivity, manage your time better and make faster progress towards achieving your goals.

Now I’d love to hear from you.

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

How do you prioritise your time and stay productive?

Let me know by leaving a comment

More productivity tips 

7 simple tips to overcome distractions 

10 tips for managing time effectively 

The importance of time management: 10 ways it matters

How to prioritise work and stay focused 

6 benefits of setting short-term goals 

6 benefits of accountability coaching 

10 benefits of time management 

About Mark Pettit

Mark Pettit is a time management coach and accountability coach based in Colchester, Essex, UK.  He provides time management coaching programs and accountability coaching programs to business owners and entrepreneurs in the UK, US and Canada.

Mark also writes about time management, productivity and goal achievement.  Each month, over 10,000 people read Mark’s articles to help them achieve their goals faster.

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Thanks for reading.  I am fortunate to share my work with over 10,000 people every month.  You can get more actionable tips in my popular weekly email newsletter. 

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