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Work Smarter Not Harder – Ten Tips to Help You
By Victoria Munro          

Working hard probably won’t yield the results you want! We all have a limited amount of time and energy, and by working smart rather than hard we will achieve more and have time and energy to spare.

1. Define Your Goals and Keep a Laser Focus
Keeping clearly defined goals before you helps you focus on what’s important. Prioritize: Decide daily which activities are most crucial to achieving your goals. Spend a few minutes each morning determining your number-one goal for the day, and then write a realistic daily to-do list. This will help clarify important tasks.

2. Schedule Regular Appointments with Yourself
If you’re going to maintain balance, keep on track and move your business forward, you need to set regular appointments with yourself. In your calendar, block out uninterrupted times to think, review and plan. Unless you’re in a crisis, don’t allow day-to-day tasks to take over this time.

3. Know Yourself: Build on Your Strengths, Work Around Your Weaknesses and Avoid Your “Stressors”
Spend most of your time working in the areas of your strengths - what you’re good at and feel fulfilled working on. Develop these strengths further. Often, doing what you do best is a “high-payoff activity" in your business. Whenever practical, seek to delegate tasks in your areas of weakness.

Are you an early bird or a night owl? What time of day do you work at peak performance? Schedule your “high-payoff” activities during these times. Know and honor your own limits. Understand what causes you undue stress and avoid this whenever possible.

4. Take Regular Mini Vacations and Give Rewards
We work more efficiently when we take short breaks or “mini vacations” for a few minutes every hour or forty-five minutes. This refreshes us, clears our minds, and increases vitality and the ability to concentrate.

Value yourself enough to plan rewards or treats for yourself at the completion of difficult tasks. This could be something as simple as a latte at the corner coffee shop, a walk in the park or a shopping trip.

5. Prevent Procrastination
When you find yourself procrastinating, seek to understand why. Asking questions like: “Is this project really in line with my goals? If I do it, what’s in it for me? What will happen if I fail to do it?” The answers can be very revealing. Acknowledge that continuing to avoid tackling the project may cause you more stress than making a decision and doing it, or deciding not to do it and accepting the consequences.

6. Make Your Work Space Work for You
Since you spend a significant amount of your time in your workspace, make it as pleasant as possible, and create an atmosphere that is conducive to productive work. Surround yourself with things you enjoy. Eliminate or at least minimize any distractions.

Organize your desk so that piles of papers do not surround you. Make sure that your phone is located in the best possible place. Invest in a comfortable headset. Keep your daily planning tool close at hand.

7. Decide What to Delegate or Outsource
When your business is small, outsourcing can be a lifesaver. Concentrate your energy on your “high-payoff” activities. It can be more cost effective for you to work in the areas of your greatest strengths and consider hiring an answering service, a bookkeeping service, a virtual assistant.

8. Manage Interruptions Skillfully

Constant interruptions will kill any hope of effective time management. If interruptions are a normal part of your working day, become proactive and plan ahead to avoid them. Be ready to differentiate the important from the urgent.

Designate “phone-free” periods during the day, when you allow calls to go into voicemail. Close your email editor or turn your sound off so that you’re not tempted to check when you know an email has arrived.

When you stop a project you’re working on to respond to an interruption, take a few seconds first to make a note of where you are and what you plan to do next. This will help you bounce back more quickly after returning from the interruption.

9. Become Phone and Email Efficient
Schedule specific times each day for checking voice mail and making phone calls. When leaving a phone message, be clear about who you are, the purpose of your call and the best times to reach you. When you make a call, stick with your purpose for the call and avoid unnecessary chatter.

Turn on spell check in your email editor and keep email messages succinct and to the point.

10. Learn When and How to Say “No”
We all want to please people and want them to think well of us, but be careful not to say “yes” to requests too quickly. Commit to never giving an immediate response, but request some time to think about it. Weigh the cost and rewards. Ask yourself, “Will scheduling this cause undue stress?” “Does this align with my goals?”

Take one or two of the tips above, perhaps areas you’d like to strengthen, and try them out.

About the Author: Victoria Munro is co-founder (along with husband Dave Block) of Make-it-Fly® LLC, a company dedicated to creating success for small-business owners through creatively designed programs and tools. Victoria has started and run nine different businesses. To receive FREE business success articles with tips to help you with your business, sign up for their award-winning ezine, “In-Flight Refueling,” at:, and receive a free copy of the eBook, Get More Done in Less Time: 101 Quick and Easy Time Tactics & Tips.

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