How to Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Must-Know Tips

It’s very common for someone to reach the end of the work day completely depleted of any energy. We know that, when this happens, it’s someone’s personal life and goals that will suffer the most. You feel you work hard and get things done, but after a journey of work, you can’t do anything else. What you need is to work smarter, not harder.

This doesn’t mean you’ll stop being as productive as you are now (in all honestly, you’ll probably be even more). But you’ll be able to do so in more effective ways.

The fact is that over time we develop bad habits or keep doing tasks one way even though that process can be streamlined and the work can be done more easily.

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We’ll go through what techniques can be adopted for a more efficient way of working, but it’s also important to pay attention to effectiveness because you aren’t in control of every factor. This is especially true when working in a team or for someone directly. Working smarter is all about valuing your energy and optimizing time. Let’s figure out how.

What is the meaning of “work smarter, not harder”?

It’s not easy to give this expression a clear definition. Everyone can interpret this concept in the way that adapts best to their goals and needs. But basically, this means using skills to minimize tasks or the time spent working on them. You want to work more effectively and stop wasting time.

By not wasting time with unnecessary tasks or steps, you prioritize your needs and build upon your strengths and weaknesses.

Your energy and time at work are used more effectively. To follow through with this motto, there are several strategies that help identify and prioritize the most important tasks.

Not only is your productivity level improved, but you’re also working towards increasing motivation at work, turning yourself into a more valuable asset for the company, saving energy and avoiding burnout, and boosting your own self-esteem.

work smarter not harder spelled out in wooden

How to work smarter, not harder

  1. Use time tracking
  2. Avoid multitasking once and for all
  3. Create your routine
  4. Work in intervals or blocks of time
  5. Do not forget to take breaks
  6. Be strategic when organizing your day
  7. Avoid time wasters and distractions
  8. Keep your to-do list realistic
  9. Automate processes (via apps, templates, and AI tools…)
  10. Make use of productivity apps
  11. Make sure communication is clear right from the start
  12. Never stop learning about productivity

1. Use time tracking

Many available tools help improve productivity and manage tasks. However, it’s essential to highlight time tracking for several reasons.

  1. Awareness of time usage: By tracking your time, you become more aware of how you are spending your time throughout the day. This awareness can help you identify time-wasting activities and prioritize your tasks more effectively.
  2. Improved time management: When you track your time, you are better able to manage it. You can identify areas where you are spending too much or too little time, and adjust your schedule accordingly.
  3. Increased productivity: By tracking your time, you can identify your most productive hours of the day and plan your work accordingly. This can lead to increased productivity and better results.
  4. Better focus: Time tracking can help you stay focused on the task at hand. When you are aware that you are being timed, you may be less likely to get distracted by other tasks or activities.
  5. Accountability: Tracking your time can hold you accountable for your work. You can see how much time you are spending on each task, and make adjustments to ensure that you are meeting your goals.
  6. Improved billing and invoicing: If you are a freelancer or consultant, tracking your time can help you accurately bill clients for your work. This can help ensure that you are paid fairly for your time.

Finally, with time tracking, you can enhance time management techniques such as time-boxing. You will organize your time-boxes better if you have past insights on how long each activity takes.

If you want to track time accurately and capture time entries automatically, use a time tracking app such as Timeular. Here are the main benefits of using Timeular.

  • Track time with your team.
  • Keep the team’s workflow flow intact.
  • Easy to build a habit with the physical tracker.
  • Stop chasing timesheets: In Timeular’s insights section, you can directly see your team’s data.
  • Maximize profits by billing clients accurately.
time tracker

Looking for a smart, user-friendly tool for time tracking? Try Timeular for free

2. Avoid multitasking once and for all

Multitasking isn’t a good productivity strategy, and it never helps. It won’t improve your ability to check off items on your to-do list.

Juggling many tasks at the same time is not as productive as it may seem. By focusing on one task at a time, that will be completed to a more elevated standard and in less time, enabling you to move seamlessly on to the next task.

By multitasking, you’re wasting energy and time, the exact opposite of working in a smarter and more efficient way.

Switching from one task to another without completing the first is actually inefficient. Our brains need time to switch focus and you’ll spread yourself too thin. It’s smart to take a break between tasks for a quick reset instead of trying to accomplish everything at the same time.

3. Create your routine

Adapt your day to do the “heavy” work when you are the most productive. You train yourself to know, as soon as that hour strikes, to fall into that mode of focus required to do your best work.

Routine is extremely helpful and the better you’re familiar with your energy cycles, the better. Think about creating a routine that adds structure and a sense of predictability to your day. It won’t obviously work out perfectly every day, since things happen unexpectedly, and that’s it.

Make the most of your routine by tracking your time

Try creating a morning routine and an evening routine and waking up at the same time every day, getting a workout in, reading, or meditating to start the day more calmly. And just as you create a routine for starting the day, try to have one for the end of your work day because it can position you for a great start the next morning.

Make sure your workspace is clean and organized, ready for the next day.

a time tracker app on a smartphone

4. Work in intervals or blocks of time

Working for long periods falls into the “work harder” category, and that’s not the most healthy habit or work strategy. Try to organize your calendar in “blocks of time.” Experiment with different techniques. One of the most popular ones is time blocking. This is an effective technique that reduces procrastination.

Did you know that Elon Musk’s 5-minute rule is based on time blocking?

happy people having fun at the office

5. Do not forget to take breaks

Being productive and working smarter is all about flow. It’s about knowing your limits and being conscious of how to move within your constraints.

Take breaks, they have to be part of your day. They are part of the working process, a part of working smarter. If possible, go outside and spend some time breathing fresh air.

If you find it difficult, start by trying the five-minute rule. It works by promising yourself that you’ll spend just five minutes on a certain task. This way, you eliminate many of the excuses that stop you from even starting the sometimes dreadful task you have to work on. Usually, once the five minutes are finished, the motivation to continue stays.

Free eBook: How to work smart, not hard

Get a free copy of the eBook and discover top productivity tips for teams and their leaders

6. Be strategic when organizing your day

People work in different rhythms. For example, some people are super productive as soon as they wake up, and others are night owls. Whatever works for you, you need to have it work in your favor. During these periods, schedule the most difficult or gruesome tasks.

If you’re affected by the famous post-lunch energy break, use that time to perform tasks such as checking emails, cleaning your desk, performing administrative tasks, etc. “Easier” things that don’t demand 100% of your focus. It’s all about strategy.

7. Avoid time wasters and distractions

If you can’t control yourself, it’s best to turn off your phone notifications when you need to focus on something. It’ll only take your focus away from the important tasks at hand. Plus, they can represent big time wasters.

Turning off notifications to apps that aren’t work-related increases your productivity, and there are apps you can use to lock your phone in order to avoid checking it when you shouldn’t be doing so.

a to do list in a desk

8. Keep your to-do list realistic

In order to not overwhelm yourself and really streamline your work to-do list, keep it realistic. This is one of the best advice for those who want to increase revenue in their business.

Start by trying to focus on three to five important and challenging tasks each day. Consider making these the most important tasks of the day, that’ll make you feel highly productive when you complete them.

After completing these tasks, you can move on to other less important items, if you have the time on that day for them. There is always the next day to keep working on them.

Adding an unrealistic amount of daily tasks to your to-do list can lead to disappointment when they go unfinished. Keeping your list short makes it more manageable, and after completing these main items, anything else you’ll do is a bonus. 

At the beginning of each week, and then less intensively, each day, look at what’s coming up and plan accordingly.

Learn everything you need to set realistic goals

9. Automate processes (via apps, templates, and AI tools…)

Nowadays, there’s no lack of ways to automate work processes that can help you save time. This is a good way to boost business efficiency and productivity because the time can be used for tasks that demand the use of the human brain.

Do you receive a massive amount of e-mails each day? Use filters to eliminate the “trash”. Many tools help you gather data, send e-mails, build reports, work on presentations, etc.

Also, don’t be afraid to explore the benefits of Artificial Intelligence. AI tools such as ChatGPT, one of the best AI marketing tools, and others can be extremely helpful when looking for information or doing social media. Just don’t forget that good content is always human-made. If you have an e-commerce business, invest in a chatbot to save time on easier customer queries.

  • Free resources:

Time management templates
Free timesheet templates
Excel and printable time blocking templates

Free eBook: How to work smart, not hard

Get a free copy of the eBook and discover top productivity tips for teams and their leaders

TIP: Get to know some of the best automation software.

10. Make use of productivity apps

These apps and software products exist to be used and are a result of many years of research on productivity dos and don’ts.

Get the benefit of increased productivity, helping you complete tasks more efficiently, and making use of automated things. By using a program to track data or time, or even to organize tasks, you’ll save time from doing it yourself.

The best productivity software for Windows

Boost your productivity by adopting a time tracker, cloud platform, text or image editors, etc. Find solutions for everyone.

11. Make sure communication is clear right from the start

Don’t wait for one second to ask questions and clear any doubts you might have.

The opposite of working smarter is wasting time on a task you must redo because communication failed repeatedly. Rather than wait until the last minute to ask questions, go for it as early as possible. It helps you identify and solve problems you might encounter later on.

Seeking help from the get-go can help you find the solution quicker, allowing you to complete the task in less time. Strengthening your communication and collaboration skills should be a priority. 

12. Never stop learning about productivity

Never stop learning, improve your skills, and learn new techniques to better your work life.

Being continuously interested in learning and getting new information is what will ensure your adaptability as your industry evolves.

Read books on productivity, listen to podcasts, subscribe to blogs and newsletters, explore LinkedIn and other social media channels focused on productivity tips… The pool of knowledge is practically endless.

A time management course might be what you need to increase your productivity.

a man multitasking at work


Our final advice is to go easy on yourself. These steps are habits you need to implement and habits need time. Working smarter, not harder is a constant work in progress, and it won’t happen overnight.

Practicing smart working strategies takes time, and you have to experiment to find what works for you. There is always room for making your life easier and still productive!


Who said work smarter not harder?

This expression originated in the 1930s by Allen F. Morgenstern, an industrial engineer and the creator of the work simplification program, who coined the phrase “work smarter, not harder,” to increase the ability of people to produce more with less effort.

Why is it better to work smarter, not harder?

Working smarter rather than harder is the key to optimizing time and energy so that you can spend bettering yourself, enjoying your hobbies, or spending time with loved ones.
Not only this but being more strategic with your time will make you a more efficient worker, it’ll also boost your productivity, motivation, and creativity, improving all areas of your life.
Working smarter values your energy and optimizes your time. It helps you spend less time burning your energy and more time saving it for other important things. Plus, it makes you a more efficient worker.

What is the difference between working harder and working smarter?

Working harder and working smarter differ in terms of complexity of terms.
The first can be defined in simpler terms as putting in long and strenuous hours for doing a certain task. Sometimes we feel exhausted by that task but we still keep on going and end up with a mediocre job.
Working smarter refers to finding effective and efficient ways or techniques to complete one or more tasks while managing time and quality. 

Is hard work the only key to success?

Hard work and work hard are different things. Hard work is the key to success and you can add to it the “work smarter” component so that your work is truly compensated by having a good work/life balance.

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