Have you noticed how big a badge of honour being busy is? How many times have you responded to the question ‘how are you?’ With ‘oh I’m really busy but god/ not so bad/ can’t complain’ (I’ll deal with the rest of the response another day). Maybe it’s time to put down your busy badge and look at how to work smarter instead. Thankfully there are a number of easy ways to increase your productivity and impact by making simple changes to how you work. You can also start using the plethora of new tech out your disposal. Here’s what we have been doing at Team GW to help us work smarter…
Colour code your calendar and email inbox
This is something that I’ve been doing for a while. The beauty of colour-coding is that you can visualise your goals and prioritise your tasks quickly. If I didn’t use colour-coding I’d probably spend an extra thirty minutes a day trying to work out what my day was going to be like. You can also integrate your personal life into the calendar and this can help with getting a better work-life balance. Regular and one of tasks and meetings only need to be set up once and it can also help with that sense of achievement when you look at your calendar again at the end of the day.
I’ve also found an added benefit in colour coding; I use it to manage my energy. If I overdo certain aspects of my work I can find myself completely exhausted, so by colouring tasks in that way I can see at a glance whether I can take on more of something in a certain day/ week/ or month.
Use ‘to do’ Apps
At Generation Women we use Todolist and have used Asana in the past. There are others such as Wunderlist and Microsoft to do. Allocating tasks (One off and regular) to other team members is one of the key benefits of these apps. I find the scheduling and reminders functionality of these apps particularly useful. As someone who regularly feels like the memory function of my brain has been lost, this has been a lifesaver! Combining apps like these with color-coded calendars has sent our productivity through the roof and the sense of achievement we get from clicking the ‘done’ button is weirdly satisfying. Plus we work smarter when doing it!
Mindfulness isn’t a fad or some hippy dippy crap, it can be your secret weapon to increase your focus and productivity whilst reducing stress and increasing your confidence. Who doesn’t want that? There are a number of apps that you can use to help. Personally I use Insight Timer which has the benefit of lots of different lengths of guided meditations, and social interaction. You can do a mindful moment or an hour, it’s up to you. If you struggle with sleep at all there’s help for that too. Apps like Calm and Headspace are also worthwhile checking out.
Use tech to track your time
I used to work in Lean Six Sigma business improvement, and one of the best things I learned was to track what you do to see how you can improve. What gets measured gets done! We lose a lot of time each day to pointless tasks and procrastination. When you start tracking where that time goes you can make changes and cut out the dead wood. A lot of smart phones now come with time tracking that keeps an eye on your usage so make sure you turn these on (the results can often be shocking!). Programmes like RescueTime are great for tracking where your time goes when you are working on your PC. Believe me the shame of realising your spent 45 minutes enjoying comedy dog videos on youtube, when you should have been working, makes you stop doing it!
Get networking – Linked in and in person
Building relationships is key to success in your career, and LinkedIn is fantastic for building relationships not only in your local business sector but worldwide and across business genres. It’s quick and easy to make connections. Always make the effort to interact and share so that your profile stays at the top of people’s minds. My top tips are here. Make sure you optimise you’re profile, comment and engage on others’ posts, share good content with your thoughts on it, and you could even try writing a LinkedIn article.
Its also critical to realise that nothing beats building a relationship in person, so branch out in your business and get to know people in other departments. And make sure you take every opportunity presented to you to network and get your face in front of as many people as possible.
Anyone that knows me from my Bombardier days will know I’m a huge fan of a mind-map! I use mind-mapping to get ideas and plans out of my head and into reality. It really helps increase your creativity and productivity, identify relationships between ideas and it can improve your memory and retention of information. The last point means that it is also fantastic for Job Interview preparation. Nothing beats using coloured pens and paper to mind map, but there are a number of great apps like LucidChart, MindMeister and XMind which are worth checking out.
You should know by now that I can’t do a list like this without putting in Journaling. It is one of the best things you can do to improve your mood, to clarify your thoughts and feelings, and can help you stay focused on your goals. It is a tool that I’ve been using and recommending for years and is one of the top ways to work smarter in my opinion.
Don’t just take my word for it though; Emma Watson and Oprah Winfrey are some of the many well-known fans. I find it helps me visualise where I want to get to (and how I’m feeling), reflect and learn from my experiences, and is a great for building confidence. It’s probably one of the most important habits you can develop. I find writing things down in a physical journal works for me but if you want to use tech there are apps like Jour and Five Minute Journal which can help give a prompt to get your thoughts out of your head.
Build in reflection and planning time
We can spend our time hurtling through life without even realising it. Running from one meeting or activity to the next. What would it do for you if you were to stop. Breathe. And thing about what you want to achieve. How you want to show up. What you is important. Making time for reflection and planning is a must. It helps you become more mindful of what you’re doing, to realise your impact on others, assess your values and vision, explore new ideas and goals. Without taking time to plan and reflect on your day it can turn into a torrent of aimless actions and working hard for the sake of it. You can’t prioritise, plan and develop a strategy without giving yourself thinking time. And if it’s good enough for Bill Gates it’s good enough for us, and if anyone knows how to work smarter he does!
Use Design Tools for presentations
The first thing to remember is that your presentation is not the thing people look at, it’s what you say. Having said that, in the professional world there is a certain expectation. It’s good to break out of the standard PowerPoint trap. These are some of our favourite tools that make your presentations look slick, professional and engaging. Canva and Prezi are both free and can give you the edge. In Canva you can easily create your own illustrations and diagrams, and even full presentations. They give you the look of a professional graphic designer! Prezi is great for creating visually stunning presentations that grab the audiences attention. People always ask me what that was when I use a Prezi!
Learn and expand knowledge!
Learning new skills and developing existing ones is easier than ever. Taking a course on Udemy (or even looking on youtube) is quick way to level up your knowledge. You don’t need to do a night class in that MBA you wanted to do after all. In addition, apps like Blinklist let you quickly absorb information and knowledge quickly by giving you the key ideas of books without having to read them in their entirety.
These are just 10 ways to work smarter. I’d love to hear of any others that you have introduced to your working day or any recommendations for Apps or that you swear by. If you manage to work smarter you will save your energy, increase your productivity and makes you more valuable in your organisation. Start now.
If you would like combine these tools and ideas with a supercharged career mindset, check out the Rise and Shine Career Design programme (**Now only available as a digital self learning programme – The Insider**) and our personal branding programme.
You can also sign up for the weekly video newsletter for career tips and much more!