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5 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Try these work strategies to relieve stress.

No matter how hard we work, it seems like there is never enough time (or energy) to get all the important work tasks done. Rather than worker longer and longer hours, consider working more strategically - smarter, not harder.

Here are some ways to work smarter:

Have a Plan. Just like every organization needs a business plan, an efficient worker needs a work plan - a well-thought-out scheme to help guide and direct work activities. Schedule your tasks throughout the days, weeks, and months, but do it ahead of time.

Set Goals. As a part of your work plan, you should set concrete and measurable goals. Goals should specify which tasks are to be completed and a time frame for completing them. Rather than setting firm deadlines, which can lead to pressure and stress, allow a period of time to reach goals (For example, while an ideal date for finishing a report might be August 1st, you might set August 5th as a "realistic" completion date, and August 10th as your "dropdead" deadline.). Also, take time to reward yourself for goal attainment.

Organize Your Work Day. Develop a consistent daily work schedule - and stick to it! If a typical workday consists of some writing tasks (emails, reports), one-on-one meetings, and processing data/recordkeeping, set aside specific times each day to accomplish each category of tasks. The regularity of a consistent schedule ensures that each category of work gets completed, and makes it less likely that tasks will be overlooked.

Delegate Effectively. Learn which tasks can be delegated and which need personal attention. The worker who tries to do everything himself or herself not only is overloaded and overstressed, but is doing a disservice to subordinates, by not allowing them to be challenged and grow by taking on important duties.

Don't Make Work Harder Than It Actually Is. Much time pressure is self-induced. We set unrealistically high goals or standards for ourselves and feel like we should be doing more. Remember that tasks get completed in a step-by-step fashion. Focusing on each step, rather than on the entire project, may cut down on feelings that we are "overwhelmed."

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