7 Unusual But Effective Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Working isn’t easy.

It’s laborious, takes time, takes a lot of energy, and a lot of the time, it can feel like it’s hardly worth doing.

But, that’s because most of us aren’t working effectively.

We are tied to our jobs and forced to do work to a schedule. The reality is we shouldn’t be trying to work harder, but smarter.

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of working that isn’t beneficial. This is just the way our brains are wired.

It’s easier to continue a habit than it is to change one. We are prone to doing things because we have always done them, not because they are the best way to do them.

We spend a large part of our lives working. It would make sense to want to develop techniques that allow you to get work done quicker, better, and more effectively.

Anyone can work hard, but not everyone can work smart.


Listen To The Same Song On Repeat

This may sound ridiculous, but bear with me for a second.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who likes to listen to music while they’re working. I’m not enamoured with working in silence. I like there to be some form of music in the background.

There’s just one problem:

If a song starts playing that I don’t like, I have to change it.

This breaks the flow of my work, and this situation often repeats itself later on.

What I have found is that by listening to the same song on repeat, you eventually stop paying attention to the music and focus on your work.

The more it plays, the more it blends into the background, and you can concentrate on the work at hand.

An alternative is to listen to classical music if you don’t want to play the same song over and over again.

Either way, you will be able to concentrate more on your work, than you would if the songs were constantly changing.


Exercise

In today’s day and age, we have become more sedentary than ever.

The human body was not designed to be sat a desk for 8 hours a day, and then on a sofa when we get home from work.

Our bodies are finely tuned tools, that need to be moved and exercised.

The saying goes a healthy body is nothing without a healthy mind, which is true.

However, the inverse is also true. A healthy mind is nothing without a healthy body.

Exercise is a critical part of our wellbeing. without it, our body and our mind can falter.

I find that whenever I work out or do any physical activity, my mind is much sharper than it was previously.

I’m able to think through problems quicker and come up with new ideas without too much effort.

You don’t have to go crazy and work out 2 to 3 hours a day, a simple 30 minute exercise routine will work wonders.

You’ll find you’ll be more alert at work and able to perform better than you could before.


Take After A Tomato

The heading may sound ridiculous, but using the Pomodoro Technique is an effective way to get work done.

The technique is simple, yet effective.

You decide on the task at hand, set a timer for 25 minutes and start working. Once the timer rings, you take a short break of 3 to 5 minutes, and then set the timer for another 25 minutes.

You repeat this four times, and take a longer break after the four sets if you haven’t completed your task.

The goal of the technique is to reduce interruptions to your focus and flow while you’re working.

By breaking up your work time into 25 minute chunks while allowing for a break of 3 to 5 minutes in between, you are forcing yourself to work as you know a break will be coming.

It’s hard to work flat out for a long period of time. Breaking your time up into manageable chunks will allow you to work smarter and complete more than you otherwise would.


Give Yourself Less Time Than You Need

This may seem like a stressful way to work, but it’s also a productive way to work.

It’s no secret that we tend to perform better when we are put under pressure.

When I was in school, I always felt I performed better in exams than I did in class based work. I enjoyed the constraints of the exam, where I had to think on my feet and answers the questions against the clock.

In class, I tended to procrastinate until it was necessary to complete the work.

Without any pressure, I grew lazy and neglected to perform to the best of my ability.

When you think about it, why would you perform when you don’t need to?

It’s counter productive. If there’s no reason to push ourselves to work hard, most of us will choose not to.

It’s human nature.

By giving yourself less time than you need to complete the task, you are putting yourself under pressure to achieve that goal.

You are forcing yourself to work hard, otherwise you will not reach your target.

A little bit of pressure can be good from time to time. Limit your working hours every once in a while, you’ll be amazed how much work you can do in a short space of time!


Reward Yourself When You Reach a Goal

This may seem like a common sense approach to working, but too few of us actually do it.

Giving yourself a simple reward once you have completed a task is a surefire way to perform better.

It doesn’t have to be anything major, giving yourself a quick 10 minute break is an excellent reward.

Whenever I complete a task, I like to sit outside and relax for a while. This is my way of de-stressing and focusing if I have a long day of work ahead of me.

It’s no secret that we work better when we have something staked on our performance.

By putting a reward on the line, you are providing yourself with the necessary motivation to get the task completed.

Make your work more rewarding and you will notice the difference in your performance in no time!


Work Outside Of Your Home

Whenever I work at home, I always end up procrastinating one way or another.

Whether it’s watching random videos on Youtube, finding odd jobs that need doing around the house, or simply staring out of the window, I always find a way to procrastinate.

Always.

I’m not a huge fan of working outside of home.

I like my home comforts and being able to wear what I want, but when I need to get something done, I tend to head to a cafe.

The reason?

I work more effectively outside of my home.

Taking myself outside of my comfort zone and into a cafe or a co-working space forces me to do my work instead of procrastinating.

I’m there for one reason and that is to work. I want to spend as little time as possible there so I can get home.

This mindset forces me to work harder, so that I can get home earlier.

There are also no distractions. Apart from people walking in and out, I’m able to focus my mind on the job at hand and get it done, as opposed to letting it wander when I’m at home.

Taking yourself out of your comfort zone, and into an unfamiliar setting, will force to do your work instead of thinking about it.


Stare Out The Window

I know I just said that I tend to stare out of the window when I procrastinate, but, there are times when this sparks a creative burst inside me.

I don’t know what it is, but there is something about looking out of a window that fires up the creative juices.

Whenever I am stuck for ideas, or struggling to decide what to write next, I end up turning to the window.

I do this without thinking. It’s become a reflex, now that I do it so often.

While I may just be staring into space, my mind is piecing together, what to do next, and churning over the thoughts that are flowing through my brain.

It’s impossible to work at 100% all the time. Even the best among us, cannot manage this relentless pace.

Staring out the window helps me to gather my thoughts and decide what I want to run with.

Taking a break from the screen or the notepad is welcome from time to time. Looking out into the world and realising you are just a small part of it, helps to centre me and make me realise my troubles are tiny in comparison to others.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but looking out of the window can help you complete some of your best work.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +398,714 people.

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