You’ve heard it before. “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” But what does that really mean? And when you aren’t getting the results you expect, no one tells you how to “work smarter.” They usually tell you to “work harder.” Let’s take a candid look at what it takes to get great results in less time over the long haul.
First, let me be clear about something: there will be times when you have to work more quickly than you like, stay later than you planned to, or come in earlier than you want to. Those times are RARE. As in, if-you-don’t-do-it-someone-is-literally-going-to-DIE kind of rare. If these times are showing up in your life on more than the rare occasion, keep reading.
Remember, when you are constantly in a state of frantic activity, skipping meals, workouts and otherwise neglecting your physical self, and/or cutting yourself off from the things that bring you joy, you are also cutting yourself off from the energy, creativity, and innovation required to accomplish the very goal you are working so hard on. Mother Nature demonstrates it best: Everything has a season. There are times for exerting effort, and there are times for rest. There are times for creation, building and generation, and there are times for assessment, reflection, and waiting.
If you’re feeling overworked, frantic and exhausted and still not seeing the results you expect, here are Five Simple Steps you can take today toward getting better results that do not include losing sleep and skipping family time.
1. State the Clear Intention
Specifically, what is it that you’re trying to do or create? For example, if you work for the IRS, the desired result might be that every citizen who contacts your office for tax advice is left feeling respected and empowered to manage their tax situation.
We’re really good at stating what we don’t want – “I don’t want customer complaints going to my boss,” or “I don’t want to re-do so many returns.” What would it look like in your office if you stated clearly what you do want?
2. Define the Evidence
How will you know when you’ve achieved your desired result? Perhaps the evidence is something as simple as every customer ends their phone call with, “Thank you so much, you’ve really helped me.” Maybe it’s a measurable number. For instance, if the number of returns that process cleanly the first time goes up by 20%. Either way, create a specific, concrete measurement that you cannot miss so you can acknowledge your achievement.
3. Recognize Your Choices
We often tell ourselves, “I had no choice. I had to do X. The regulation says XYZ . . .” And let me be clear, I’m not advocating breaking laws or violating regulations! But I am saying that many times you do have a choice and may not even realize it. Does the project that you’re working on really have to be finished at 5 pm, or can it go in at 10 am tomorrow morning?
Just because your boss said it had to be done at 5 o’clock, doesn’t mean that is necessarily true. He may have chosen a random deadline to give himself something to track, and if you requested more time, he would be open to it.
Even if the project really is due at 10 am, you still have a choice: you can choose how to get it done…get help; come in early tomorrow vs. stay late tonight; provide an interim solution; etc.
4. Take the ONE Next Best Step
For complex tasks or large projects, it can be easy to get overwhelmed because you can’t see HOW you will complete it. When you have a Clear Intention (Step 1), you don’t have to see all of the steps from beginning to end. You only need to see, and take, the ONE next best step.
Make the best decision you can make and move forward. You’ll notice that in making that step forward, your options will have changed, you will have additional information, and you will be ready to take the NEXT, next best step. (NOTE: If you are unable to see the one next best step, either your intention or your evidence is NOT clear. Go back to step 1).
5. Be Committed but Not Attached
The key to achieving results is to be committed to the Clear Intention but not attached to how you get there. When we get attached to a certain methodology, or the way we think things are “supposed” to happen, we actually make the task more difficult! Remaining committed to your desired result but unattached to the path you take to get there allows you to remain open to new opportunities and resources that were not previously available to you.