Working smarter not just harder

Published 2:25 pm Sunday, June 5, 2016

Working harder is what may have gotten you ahead in the past. It is still important to work hard and have a good work ethic but working smarter will bring longer lasting positive results. What are some of the practical things you can do to work smarter on your job? Some ideas are below.

1. Get organized — Make a “to do” list and a “don’t” list. List important things to accomplish during the work day and also list those things you shouldn’t waste time on. Stick to your list and check things off when done. It will give you a feeling of accomplishment.

2. Take notes — Always keep a pad and pen handy or use your tablet or cell phone to jot down ideas when they come to you. This is a great way to work creativity into your life both work and personal.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

3. Develop an “elevator speech” — Know who you are, and always be ready to explain what you do, what is important to you, etc. Practice it, shorten it and sharpen it.

4. Always be open to learning — You can learn from other people, younger or older than you, those with more or less experience than you, etc. Don’t dismiss simple things like reading and listening. Always take advantage of training opportunities to learn new skills or enhance those you already have.

5. Develop a network — Attend events that will provide opportunities to meet new people and make connections. Collect business cards from those you meet and hand out your business cards. Instead of the station “WIIFM” (What’s in it for me), tune to “HCIH” (How can I help?). Hone your listening skills. Don’t do all the taking when you meet others. Networking is not a waste of time but instead is a rich resource you can use all your career.

6. Set priorities — Assess what needs to be done. Everything is not a top priority. Avoid only reacting and responding, putting out fires. Plan ahead and allow yourself some “thinking” time. Set goals that are realistic and complete tasks on time and accurately. Don’t overload yourself.

7. Learn to say “No” — Avoid over scheduling yourself and be realistic about what you can accomplish. There is always something to be done. In most professions you will never get through. Sometimes you just have to make hard decisions as to what is really important and what you are good at. Decide what is really important to you. Don’t second guess yourself.

8. Communicate effectively — Good communications will assist you in accomplishing more as well as solving and avoiding problems. People are not mind readers. Effective verbal and written communications continues to be a challenge to many people and are two of the most lacking qualities in applicants for jobs. Communication is a two way street. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. You should listen twice as much as you talk.

9. Delegate to others — Delegation is an effective tool in working smarter. It requires trusting others and recognizing that someone else can perform a task successfully. You can’t do everything yourself. Asking for help is not a weakness but instead shows strength.

10. Stop being a perfectionist — You can prevent yourself from achieving more due to an obsession with perfectionism. Stop obsessing about all the details and specifics. Determine what is really important and focus on those things. This requires work on a changed mindset.

11. Automate — Review the labor intensive tasks you have and determine if there are ways to automate processes. Don’t live in the past but be open to new and better ways to accomplish your duties. Always be flexible in order to usher in changes that will help you get more results. Hire a tech specialist to assist you in reviewing processes for improvement.

12. Pick your battles — You may win a battle and lose the war. Don’t obsess over things that in the end are meaningless. You will face roadblocks but you should determine if going up against others is worth the time and effort. Consciously weigh out the pros and cons.

Working hard in life is important but it is not enough. If you want to excel in your job and in life, learning how to work smarter should become a priority. There are many resources available to guide you through the maze of combining hard work and smart work to be successful. You can engage in both to increase your productivity and improve your future success. Working hard is not a relic of the past but can be the spring board of entrepreneurial and creative thinking. We’ve been trained to never be satisfied with the conventional ways of doing things and to constantly be looking for a better mousetrap. Applying maximum effort to everything you do will help you reach your goals and be successful.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@