5 habits to be more productive — how to work smarter, not harder

“Work smarter, not harder.”

My dad said this to me so many times as a kid. It was basically my mantra growing up. I was always doing things the hard way. I never thought through how to make things easier for myself. I have always believed that you just roll up your sleeves and get it done. As long as it’s done, I’m good to go. I used to get the worst performance reviews. I wasn’t organized, my work took longer to get done, and I focused on the wrong kind of work (I had no idea that was a thing).

I realized that I needed to change my habits to become more productive in life. I found 5 habits that I needed to establish to become more productive.

1. Close your inbox

Email is a wonderful tool, but it can be your biggest distraction. The most efficient workers set up fixed times in their schedule to check their inbox. I find the best times for me are right in the morning (9 and 10 am) and at the end of my day (4pm). You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done.

2. Remove distractions

Believe me, I understand distractions in the work place. I am a people person so I will always gravitate towards a conversation rather than work on my assignments. You have to find ways to remove those distractions. I invested in noise cancelling headphones so when I needed to work on a project, I would put those in and blast music. Use Do Not Disturb on your phone and other devices and put your phone away.

3. Break tasks into smaller steps

The beginning of a huge project always seems like the time to organize your desk. The bigger the project, the more we try to procrastinate. I use a planner app on my computer that will help me break a project up into smaller steps to work on. You’ll be surprised to see how your motivation is improved when you start knocking those smaller steps out.

4. Weed out non-important tasks

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. If your day contains pointless bits of administration and bureaucracy, weed them out. Do you really need that 30 minute catch-up meeting? Cancel it, or reduce it to a 10 minute standing chat. It’s amazing how often we commit to time-wasting activities simply out of habit. Don’t be afraid to reevaluate your daily habits on a regular basis.

5. Do what you love

This this the last but is probably the most important habit. And yes, doing what you love is a habit you need to form. There is a lot of pressure in our society to do what you need to do to make lots of money even if you hate it. The truth is, doing what you love motivates you to be better. Both in your work and your life.

Once I started following these habits, I would regularly find myself running out of things to do. Then I got to discover the joy of finding things that I liked doing to fill my time! These habits changed my life and my hope is that this changes yours too.