Working Hard or Working Smart: The Best Time Management Strategies

Whether you’re working on a government project, writing a book, or slaving away on your side hustle, if you want to create and get stuff done in today’s world, you need to work for it. This is why talk of productivity has become so widespread over the last few years.

While there are many who advocate for ‘hustle culture,’ and many that advocate against it, there’s no denying that if you want results, you need to put the time in. But what is the best way to do this? There are numerous approaches to what the best way to work is, but they boil down to two main concepts: Work hard and work smart.

Being able to manage your time in one of these ways is essential when you want to succeed at anything in life, and it’s vital you take time to figure out which way works best for you and how you’re going to move forward. In this post, I’m going to talk about everything you need to know.

What is Productivity?

First, let’s get on the same page.

Productivity is the process of learning and ‘actioning’ how you spend your time. If you want to work hard, you might focus on working 16-hour days and really just grinding through what you’re doing. For some people, this works. Putting the time in really does achieve results.

If you work 16 hours per day, every day for one year, you’re going to do more in four months than the average person does in a year. That’s a huge step up that cannot be understated.

Of course, there are pros and cons to this strategy, but the idea remains.

On the other hand, working smart could be working four hours a day, but really making the most of those four hours. This means prioritizing what tasks you’re going to complete and when, minimizing the number of distractions you’re subject to, automating as much as possible, and really squeezing the most out of every second.

No matter which way you’re working, you need to have strategies in place to how you’re going to work. If you work too hard, you’ll burn out and lose momentum. If you don’t set up your workspace, you can find yourself distracted for hours at a time.

Let’s explore some strategies you can implement into your own working ethic.

Use To-Do Lists Properly

To-do lists are essential to your success, but you need to make sure you’re using them in the right way. It’s important to get everything out of your head on what you need to do, but don’t let these lists dictate your life and stress you out.

One of the leading ways to do this is to create a ‘master to-do’ list where you write down everything you need to do, but then you only circle the five most important things. Get these done and focus all your attention here before returning to the list and breaking it down this way.

With this, it can really pay off to plan your day. The night before you head to work, make a to-do list and put the most important things you need to be doing at the top and work your way down. This way, as soon as you wake up, you know exactly what you need to be doing and what you need to achieve at work.

Manage Energy, Not Time

Hand in hand with the above, it’s important not to manage your time so much, but more how much energy you have. If you have a marathon race in the afternoon, are you going to use up all your energy in the morning before, or even the days before leading up to it? Of course not, you’re going to manage your energy levels wisely, and this applies to all areas of life.

“There are going to be certain times of the day where you feel refreshed and energetic, and there are others where you’ll feel tired and exhausted,” shares Tina Marie, a productivity blogger at Academized and Paper Fellows. “This is why it’s important to prioritize what your objectives are and what you want to achieve and then invest your energy into those places.”

Minimize Distractions

I cannot stress enough how important it is to minimize distractions in your work life. Research shows that if you’re working on something and a text or email pings up on your computer or laptop, it can take up to 25 minutes to get your attention back to where it was before. Now consider that you’re probably getting buzzed by colleagues all the time throughout the time spent at work, meaning you’re never truly able to reach that full amount of focus.

What’s the point in working 16 hours and tiring yourself to the bone if 14 of those hours are simply full of distractions and you’re not working to your full potential? Why not work six hours undistracted and have the rest of your day to yourself to do all those other things?

Ways you can do this include;

  • Turning off all computer distractions
  • Using “Do Not Disturb” Mode
  • Working early in the morning or late at night
  • Leaving your phone in another room
  • Listening to calm, ambient music you can ‘zone out’ to

Work on How You Work

“There are endless ways to optimize how you’re working that will dramatically improve how you’re spending your time. For example, you can make sure you’re working in a cool room that is properly ventilated. Any room too hot or too cold is simply going to leave you distracted and not at your peak condition,” explains Mark Harris, a tech writer at OXEssays and State Of Writing.

Also consider how you’re working, whether you’re sitting or standing. It’s not good for your body to be sitting all the time since a hunched position will minimize the space in your chest, meaning you’re unable to breathe as deep as possible. Try to vary between sitting and standing at work to make your posture the best it can be.

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Maddie Willis

Hi Katherine, I cannot believe “If you work 16 hours per day, every day for one year, you’re going to do more in four months than the average person does in a year. That’s a huge step up that cannot be understated.” It makes sense when you think about it, but wow!

Jacob Hege

Your tips for minimizing distractions are so helpful as we are working from home – I need to remember some of these more often!