‘Work smarter, not harder’ is a sentence you might have heard before. But how does it work? Like, duh, everybody wants to work less hard, but it’s kind of hard to figure out how to work smarter.
The moment I moved from being a newbie to a more experienced entrepreneur in my idea? The moment when I stopped working 13 – 16 hour workdays and started working smart. I figured out I needed a few time management and productivity hacks to survive my working life haha. In the early stages of working for yourself you might think that you’re the best entrepreneur ever when you make long hours every day, but along the way you find out this is not how it works. You’ll feel burned out, overworked and under paid. The fix? Work smarter not harder. Now, I start my work day around 5 AM, work till 11 if I want and enjoy the rest of my day. And seriously, I get the same amount of work done as any other 16 hour day!
My favorite time management + productivity tips
A great start to working smarter? My suggestions:
Start to see 1 day as 6 mini days. How you do this? By dividing the day in blocks of 1,5 hr. 5×90 minutes is 7.5 hours, ≠ one working day. Try to start your day as realistic as possible by scheduling the biggest tasks in the morning, and no more than 5. If you schedule more than 5 big tasks, you’ll probably end up failing, working waaay more hours and feeling frustrated.
The ultimate hack? Schedule your tasks within the 1,5 hr, if you need more time, schedule either 3 hr or 4.5 hr and as soon as you don’t finish a task within the time, move over to the next task. Don’t work more minutes on the previous task in order to finish it. At the end of the day (or I finish them at the end of the week, so I can take some time off on Friday after a week of hard work and all tasks done!). You’ll feel better if you finish most tasks of the day, you will probably feel like a bad entrepreneur when you’re all week behind everything. If you do need to finish the task the same day, you can work a little bit longer.
Schedule time in between tasks. I used to lack this, which meant I was always behind my schedule and I was always late at appointments. Now I schedule between 5 – 15 minutes in between my blocks and I always schedule a break. Because my to do lists used to be so cluttered, that there wasn’t even time for a lunch break, how realistic, because I’m definitely someone who needs to eat and I always ended up working over, because I couldn’t finish my tasks in the time I wanted. So stupid! Now I schedule about 1,5 hr lunch breaks, so I can watch a movie if I want to (most of the days I want to). I go to the gym at 7am or after my work day if I finish around noon. Seriously, once you have this under control you’ll find so much more hours in a day to finish most things and stay relaxed haha! If you schedule about 15-minute breaks in between blocks, you have time for coffee, calls and a short walk! You won’t stress as much because you might need 10 extra minutes to finish the task (no stress, you have time!) and if you finish early you can take a few minutes to evaluate the day / week and just breathe for a second and be in the moment (uhh, yeah, it’s possible to do this if you work for yourself!)
Get sh*t done: Daily task planner
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Get it out of your head! Don’t think about all the things you still have to do and don’t start with checking your email first thing in the morning. Start with reading your to do list (you should create this the day before!) and start your biggest task. Work till lunch, and check emails only after lunch. Because email is probably the most used excused when it comes to ‘I’m busy! I didn’t had time yet’, but it’s not an excuse. I do get thousands of emails per week, and I learned to just actually skip this at all haha (people hate me I know). Hiring a VA can definitely help to make the first selection, but I’m pretty sure you treat email like it’s your primary job. But I’m also pretty sure it’s not. Yeah sure, I do get my information via email and I do connect with people via email. It’s the way I collaborate with most people, how I get new clients and how I do most of my salesy/PR activities. But my primary job is writing, creating and photographing. So I often start my day with writing, and after that I’ll see if I have some time for replying to emails!
Multitasking: just don’t do it. We don’t need to talk about this. You think it works like a charm, but it doesn’t. We’re not made to do this. Try focusing on one thing at a time and you’ll see soon how good that works!
A good system is more important than you think. Clean and declutter as much as possible, so you know where you can find everything but it doesn’t distract you. From documents archived on alphabet to a new notebook: it will save you so much time when you know where you can find your stuff!
Leave some time open for unexpected matters. Maybe 90 minutes a day?
Don’t clutter your calendar. Note down only important dates and meetings, so you see in one sec. what today’s about. Maybe get a second calendar for different matters? And don’t write to do’s in your agenda!
If you work with people like VA’s, designers or colleagues: discuss how to work. For example: I always ask my colleagues to call me for tiny questions instead of emailing. It will take longer to answer their questions and I’ll feel super demotivated by opening my inbox and seeing 1.000.002 new emails. Same with CC’ing and important matters, have your email etiquette in order!
At the end of your work day: clean your working space, write a to do list for tomorrow, clean your cups and turn off your computer.