Work Smarter, Not Harder: 6 Tips You Can Apply to Your Life Today


As I mentioned in this post, I’m making “minimalism” the word-of-the-year for 2015, and, in general, am making it a priority to get my poop in a group this year. That, of course, is easier said than done. So far, I’ve found these six tips to be essential to making noticeable changes. Read through ’em and weigh in with your opinion in the comments section below!

Make daily to-do lists

I’ve been making to-do lists forever, but they were weekly to-do lists, filling up an entire page of things I needed to accomplish. Needless to say, a whole college-ruled sheet of things to do can be overwhelming. Although I still keep a long master to-do list, I’ve started to write daily to-do lists that only contain 4-5 things. Once I finish those things up, I can go back to my master list and get started on something else. The key is to not load up your daily to-do list with too many things; putting 8 things on a daily to-do list virtually sets you up to fail, since there’s no way you can accomplish everything. Keep it to a minimum and you’ll feel more accomplished–and hopefully be more productive.

Make a to-don’t list

Come up with a list of activities that hinder your productivity and make it a priority to not do them. This could be something as simple as a personal commitment to stop checking Facebook every fifteen minutes. For me, at the end of 2014, I came up with a list of types of projects I won’t be taking on in the future because, in the past, they’ve been overly time-consuming and kept me from working on other, more valuable projects.

Get used to the 3 “-ty”s

  • Ambiguity
  • Uncertainty
  • Volatility

I used to be one of those people that absolutely hated change. But working in IT, you come to realize that the world around you is constantly changing. You either have two options: go along for the ride or get stuck in the past. This is true for anyone in nearly any situation. Things aren’t going to remain the same forever, so you have to change your mindset and learn to flow with it. Instead of being scared or worried about the future, be excited about it! Know that you have the necessary skills to adapt and succeed.

Learn to say “No”

This is a difficult one for me: I have a habit of saying “yes” to every project that comes my way. “You can always do more” is one of my mantras, but there’s a point where you have to stop and realize, “No, I really CAN’T do any more. At least not while maintaining these last precious shreds of sanity.” Last year, 12-15 hour workdays were the norm for me. Even this self-described workaholic was feeling a little tuckered out. Remember, (in most cases), you’re in the driver’s seat and you have the ability to say no.

Eliminate the non-essential

Eliminating the non-essential is one of my big goals for 2015. This objective can apply to just about every area of your life. One big area? Finances. By just paying a little more attention and tracking what you spend, you can really see areas where savings can be achieved–and then you have to decide if those cost savings are worth it or not. A classic example is the overpriced cup of coffee at Starbucks. Could you save money by not buying that venti caramel latte? Of course. Is that venti caramel latte essential? That’s for you to decide! This year, as a small business owner, I’m considering bringing on an assistant to take over tasks that I’m getting bogged down with, as well as looking at new automation opportunities instead of having to do certain tasks manually. This is directly related to the concept of doing less things that create more value (instead of doing a whole bunch of tasks that aren’t essential at all).

Utilize weekends…a little bit

This is definitely up for debate and not for everybody, but it does work for me. You don’t have to work the ENTIRE weekend, but do something, even if it’s something as simple as getting caught up on your emails or writing down some ideas for next week’s big project. I used to have actual nightmares Sunday night pertaining to my always overflowing inbox, but since I’ve been cleaning it out on the weekends, it’s a lot more manageable.

What do you think? How can you apply these tips to your life? What are your favorite work-smarter-not-harder tips?