5 Ways to Work Smarter - Not Harder

We spend a lot of time changing your habits around how you work (and play) and because these habits are so major, I want to give you a few tips. These are five of the best habits to master if you haven’t already, some of the most common habits of successful people. It’s by no means an exhaustive list but might point you in the right direction. Full disclosure though, what works for me might not work for you, so remember, Test > Log > Improve > Execute.

1. Create Leverage

As an entrepreneur, we are here to build. By definition, we are here to bring people together to build a great world. That’s the smartest thing to do in your life. We should leverage each other. The person who locks himself away and claims that he doesn’t need help might get results. But probably won’t achieve much.

I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts.” – John D. Rockefeller

A smart person, on the other hand, will leverage other people’s experiences. Surround yourself with kick-ass people. Talk about ideas, not other people. Work with mastermind groups. All kinds of people, each with a distinct and valuable perspective are critical to success. A collaborative framework promises maximum use of resources. Feedback will help you build frameworks for managing yourself. By doing this you can learn from others experience and you can avoid the pitfalls that have already become them. Saving years and delivering enormous results. Across the board, extremely productive and accomplished teams capitalize on the power of community.

Have an open mind. Tinker and play as much as possible to create as many opportunities as you can. Aggressive trial and error can yield many unseen opportunities.

Read to lead. Take smart notes and review often. Have a system for collating your information, build a second brain and reference it often. And while we’re on the subject, when you have a system, stick to it. Productivity can no more be achieved by collecting productivity tips than wealth can be achieved by collecting money-saving tips. Or health can be achieved by collecting health tips.

Create processes and procedures for all the noncomplicated repetitive tasks you carry out regularly. Automate these items on your to-do list so you can focus on what’s important. By completing your tasks early, and avoiding the hustler mentality you can put your feet up and focus on creating macro improvements. Being a good leader does not mean jumping whenever someone calls. Instead, it means focusing on your most important priorities while having the systems in place to deal with everything else. If you are the go-to person for every project and problem, your system is fundamentally broken. The most successful people manage themselves. Ask yourself, and others, effective questions to make sure you’re playing to your strengths, lifting others up and in turn being lifted by them.

2. Create Momentum

It’s easy to get sucked into an endless cycle of email and obligations. To avoid falling into this trap. Start the day with your highest priority task. Not necessary the most difficult as some would advise. What’s your Big 3 this week? What task can you do right now that will deliver the most value to you and your community? If you believe that you will almost certainly achieve each and every item on your monstrous plan for the day, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Break big daunting tasks into smaller, less daunting ones to create small wins each and every day. And take a moment to savour those wins. Set measurable goals and hold yourself accountable.

Building momentum is like building muscle. As you begin to flex this muscle, you start shifting the tide. You’ll go from being addicted to busyness to being addicted to focus, productivity and creativity with a whole new level of momentum. It fuels motivation. It keeps you going. It drives you. Without it, you can’t go anywhere. If you aren’t motivated by what you’re working on, the end product won’t be very good.

We all have different strengths and weaknesses. It makes sense to focus on growing and cultivating your strengths. Trying to fix all of your weaknesses is a waste of time. But, we’re all bad at evaluating our strengths. We’re much better at knowing what we’re not good at. Reward yourself with constant feedback on how you’re doing.

3. Increase your Focus

Study’s have found that the brain’s information storage capacity may be around a quadrillion bytes. It can process calculations to the equivalent of 1 exaFLOP. That’s equivalent to a billion billion calculations per second. Our brain’s marvellous. But there’s one thing that computers are far superior at and that’s multitasking.

Our focus is severely limited, and when we try to execute multiple tasks at any one time it quickly goes into overdrive, severely limiting your capacity to make informed decisions. We become agitated, confused, and nothing gets done at the end. To get things done quickly, effectively, do one thing at oat time. Then move on to the next.

Take the time to reflect at the end of the week and understand what your primary goals are. Understand your macro goals and your Big 3 for the week ahead and channel your energies into achieving them. If you don’t have a big 3 or can’t verbalise your goals, it’s time to stop what your doing. Take a step back, take a breath and focus on getting your priorities straight.

Here’s a quick exercise to plan your year ahead. Block out an hour on your calendar, close the door, put your phone into airplane mode and grab yourself a pen and paper. Once you’ve got that taken care of you a can start to map out your year. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Capture the Three Words that you want to embody over the year ahead

Take a sheet of paper and start brainstorming some words that will best represent where you want to be in the year ahead. Take 20 minutes to do this. Set a timer if you need to.

2. Capture the big projects you want to accomplish in the year ahead

Take the second sheet of paper and brainstorm all of the major projects you want to work on over the next twelve months. These projects can be personal or professional (or both). Write anything that comes to mind on that paper. Take another 20 minutes to do this.

3. Assign the top projects to the months of the year best suited for them

The third sheet of paper is the key. It’s going to be your initial map for the year. For the final 20 minutes write down all 12 months of the year on your sheet of paper and then assign your most compelling and fulfilling projects to them. Keep in mind that some may take more than one month to complete, some may take less.

There you have it. In one hour you’ve developed a basic map for the year that will help you realize projects that may have sat on the back burner with more focus and attention. Stick this somewhere in plain sight, refer to it often and share it with your co-workers. This will give you a framework for allocating your top three weekly tasks each and every week for the next twelve months in order to realise your goals.

I set up my work calendars to take into account what my monthly goals are for myself and my team. This way I can see that I’m making an impact over the long term. I also make sure I have enough time to achieve everything my team and I planned to do day-to-day.

4. Practice Mindfulness

Of all the routines and habits, the most consistent among successful people is some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice. This doesn’t mean you need to go out into the woods and take a vow of silence, but taking a small amount of time in your day to reflect and express gratitude. For some, it involves meditation but could also be taking a walk, run or simply getting up early to enjoy the stillness before the storm. It’s a “meta-skill” that improves everything else. If you can start your day by practising focus when it doesn’t matter, you can focus better when it does.

With regards to completing things, one of the greatest difficulties that individuals face is having the option to concentrate on the job needing to be done. The brain is continually meandering but with constant repetition, you’ll wonder how you managed without.

Practice patience and don’t take yourself too seriously. The ability to look at situations objectively, especially when you’re at the epicentre of the situation, is a valuable skill. You’re pissed that you lost your most valuable client. You could rant and rave or take a time-out to reflect on the wins, the losses and what you can do better next time. Then put your mind to finding bigger and better clients.

If you laugh at your mistakes first, whoever laughs at you will be late to the party. If you compare yourself to someone else and find yourself wanting, it’s because you’re judging yourself by the wrong standard. A poodle is never going to win in the hound category at the Westminster Dog Show. The only way out of this psychological trap is to lean into your unique strengths and weaknesses, to admit you don’t know everything and accept that you do things your own way. Your goal should always be to become the best you, not a pretty good—or even damn good—version of somebody else. Years of mindfulness practice have taught me that we are not the voices in our heads. Stop listening to the ones in yours and get back to work.

5. Learn to Switch Off

“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” –Jim Rohn

Money is a tool to take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. If your energies are completely focused on the business then your health and relationships will suffer. Invest in your health and wellness and you’ll increase the benefits exponentially when you sit down at your desk with increased focus and clarity. Dedicate yourself to new learning. Einstein said that if someone spent fifteen minutes a day learning something new, in a year he would be an expert. Spend time with friends and family and cultivate the relationships you cherish most.

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More and more people fear that taking their foot off the gas for even a second will only cause them to fall further and further behind. Worry about your business of course, but don’t devote 100% of your life energies to it. Your health is more important to you (and to us) than the business. Often-times the most difficult competition comes, not from the strong, the intelligent, the conservative competitor, but from the man who is holding on by his eyelids and is ignorant of his costs. Any way he can to keep running or go bust. Give yourself a competitive advantage.

Winston Churchill was a mediocre painter and a worse bricklayer, but to these two hobbies, the world owes a great debt. taking a step back from politics between 1929 and 1939 gave him the chance to rest and recharge, Once his calling came he was ready. Part of what made painting such a valuable hobby for Churchill was that it taught him how to be present, how to disconnect. How to lay down his worries, if only for a minute.

Having hobbies provides us with an absence of voices. For people who make countless high-stakes decisions every day, a couple hours without chatter, without other people in your ear, where you can simply think (or not think), is essential. Perpetual busyness is a disease, a terminal one. It destroys your precious time. Being effective is about using every minute thoughtfully and mindfully as you make steady progress toward your dream and it can yield opportunities that we didn’t think of. Tim Ferriss only started a podcast because he was burnt out after finishing The 4-Hour Chef and wanted to work on his ability to ask questions and steer conversations — two things that require one to be present.

Here are some simple things that you can do to relieve stress, and rejuvenate yourself:

  • Spending time with friends, family and loved ones. Cuddling, hugging, kissing and laughter have all been proven to relieve stress by releasing oxytocin and lowering blood pressure
  • Reading a good book. – it doesn’t have to be non-fiction or business books. Getting lost in the sprawling lands of a great epic can be extremely rewarding in its own way.
  • Listen to good music. And dance like nobody’s watching.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Exercise, It might seem contradictory, but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can relieve mental stress.
  • Get creative – Write, paint, draw, DIY or learn to play that instrument. Try as many passions as you can and see what sticks.

Who has the time? You do. If Churchill did, we all do. And if we don’t take the time to restore our minds and body, to get a sweat going, or to tune out the noise, then we risk collapsing under the weight of our obligations and exhaustion.

There’s nothing to feel guilty about for being idle. It’s not reckless. It’s an investment — in you, in your happiness. There is nourishment in pursuits that have no purpose — that is their purpose.

There will be times when you go off track. It’s bound to happen. But applying just a few of these points steer you to success and give you a level of freedom some of you haven’t seen in a long time.