5 Ways to Work Smart

How long is a project going to take? What did you work on last week, and how long did it take? What is the hourly rate?

How long it takes to do something is a very important metric in business for many reasons. It is relevant when staffing a project or pricing for a new client. Although striving to work smart is very applicable in personal settings, I am going to focus on business.

There is a great story in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that relates to productivity and working smart. There are two people chopping down trees and one person was sawing and working really hard. The other person was stopping every few minutes to seemingly take a break. After some time passed, the tree of the person who was “taking breaks” fell down first. The other guy working hard was frustrated and asked the other person how he was able to chop down the tree first. He said that every time he stopped to take a break, he would sharpen his saw.

I read this story a few years ago and even worked at a company that valued this concept so much that there was a “Sharpen the Ax” award (they like the ax analogy better than the saw one). The person that week who had come up with an innovative or efficient idea to save time would get a plastic ax. I doubt I will ever forget this analogy.

As technologies continue to change at a seemingly fast pace, it is very important in the 21st century to stay on top of technologies and ideas to be the most productive. Below are 5 ways to work smarter:

1. Incentives

If you are a business owner or manager, it is important that employees are rewarded for saving time on a project. Make sure that your pricing is set up to reward your business for working smart. I am not a fan of hours-based pricing because there is little incentive to look for ways to save time. If a customer were to pay me by the hour, even though I want to do the best job, what financial incentive do I have to find a way to cut my hours in half and get paid less? It sets up a conflict of interest. It is the same for employees. If an employee figures out how to make a task more efficient and the team and company save time and money, this person should be compensated and recognized.

2. Read and Write More

Reading is an excellent way to continually learn new ideas and stay on top of technology. I have personally found that writing and blogging forces me to think and research even more than before. Try listening to free podcasts or master class webinars that are usually free. You may even pay a small amount for an online course or subscription. I am not a marketing guru, but I have learned quite a bit about LinkedIn, Content Marketing, Blogging, and Facebook by courses, podcasts, and reading.

3. Research Tools that Save Time

There is so much technology that saves time. Recently, I started using Bill.com. I was impressed at how much time it would save for a relatively small fee. Bill.com allows vendors to email invoices directly to a bill.com email address. The invoices are saved electronically so there is no filing and eventually it even learns how to code the transaction. The data syncs with Accounting programs such as Quickbooks and Xero and allows for easy payment to vendors without printing and signing checks. They claim to save at least 50% of the time of a normal paper process. There are so many other tools such as Google Drive and Asana that simply save time and improve your organization.

4. Review Your Process

When was the last time your reviewed your processes? If you are growing your organization or there has been any change in the last year, you should review your processes. I think this covers about everyone because nothing stays the same. Even if your organization is exactly the same, your competitors are not. I remember working at a company once that had a large paper catalog they put out each year. The catalog kept getting more expensive and heavier each year even as more people started to rely on websites to research and purchase products. It got to a point that the sales team would research products they were selling on a competitor website because it was faster. The company didn’t want to change their marketing of products, but the competition did, and the organization was behind the e-commerce game.

5. Try something small

I have this Google Chrome extension called Momentum Dash that gives me a beautiful picture and quote each day. One quote recently said “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together” -Vincent Van Gogh. Try doing something a little differently to save time each week. It could be as simple as reading a productivity tip every day or listening to a podcast. Productivity will start with learning through books (don’t forget about audio books), podcasts, or webinars. Think of something you do as a routine and try to automate it. I know this can be difficult, but small steps add up.

Working smart is essential for the success of any business. Look for incentives in pricing and managing to reward working smarter. Read, write, and research ways to save time. Have a consistent approach to reviewing any process. Finally, just start with something small because little process changes that save time add up fast.

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