1. Know your goals. If you are clear about what you want to achieve, that’s a great start. People who don’t define their weekly, monthly or yearly goals end up being the busy fools, frantically racing from one task to the next without really knowing which one is their priority. Having clearly-defined goals eliminates this possibility. Knowing what you are aiming for helps when deciding what is your top priority and what you should be working on each day. Once you decide which tasks have priority, the next step is to schedule them.
2. Schedule your time. My number one tip for beating procrastination and staying focused is to use your calendar. What gets scheduled gets done, or at least doesn’t get forgotten about. Once you schedule something into your calendar, it will get done sooner or later. So often people complain that urgent daily tasks push out what they had scheduled. This may happen at times, so when it does, reschedule your planned task for tomorrow or your next available slot. But remember to always ask yourself which task has priority. Sometimes tasks appear urgent but they could actually wait for tomorrow.
3. Turn stuff off. Ever get disturbed by a text message while you are writing a report, or by an email notification while concentrating on important documentation? If you want to be smarter than others, the wisest solution is to switch off your phone and gadgets and close any programs on your computer that you are not currently using.
4. Use a task management system. You need a place to store and prioritize your tasks. Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list. If you do, you will always be reacting to the work other people want you to do instead of what you have planned to do. Use a task list and your calendar to schedule the work you choose to do.
5. Work with your energy. Some of us are night owls, while others are early birds. Know which one you are and work with your energy and focus. Plan the difficult work for the times when you have the most energy. The post-lunch slump is never a good time for brainstorming important projects. Most people are more alert and focused in the morning.
6. Get enough sleep. Sleep is vital for focus and productivity. If you want to work smarter, make sure you are getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep affects the neurons in the brain and makes Jack a dull boy!
7. Get plenty of exercise. Branson’s number one productivity tip is exercise, so make it your first priority. Exercise creates energy and focus. It reduces stress and increases well-being. Try to get some exercise daily — not only will you work smarter, you will feel great too.
8. Drink water during the day. Because our bodies are said to be made of 70% water, being low on water will affect every cell in your body. If you want to work smarter, you better be sure the cells in your brain have enough water. Dehydration will drain your energy and affect your brain’s ability to focus.
9. Don’t skip meals. Lack of energy and low blood sugar are two states you want to avoid if you are trying to focus and get things done. Regular meals throughout the day will reduce the possibility of an afternoon or midday slump, or a slump at any time of the day. Eat a substantial breakfast and try not to eat too large a meal in the middle of the day. This will maintain your energy levels throughout the day and keep your brain on high alert.
Try any of these ways to work smarter and you will get a lot more work done while feeling more focused, energetic, and maybe even happier, too.