As someone who suffers from both ADHD and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I’ve spent years finding ways to do less work without lowering my output. These aren’t just things for ADHDers or the chronically fatigued, they are things anyone can do to get more, whilst doing less!
These are the secrets of working smart and the tools you need to put them into practise.
Work Smart, Not Hard
The first secret of working smart is:
All the best smart workers, automate the tasks that most people do manually everyday. It allows them to carry on with the important things, whilst something or someone else takes care of the menial tasks.
The good thing about automation is that once it’s set up, it takes no energy and no will power to maintain.
These are some of the best apps and tools to help automate your world. Take the time to look at each in detail, it’ll rid you of those repetitive, annoying tasks.
If This Then That (IFTTT) is the daddy of automation online.
It’s the glue that sticks all other apps together. It works by allowing different apps to talk to each other. It can help sync contacts to a spreadsheet, allowing you to keep on top of customer relationship management.
Or you can use it to keep a call log in your calendar.
The beauty of it is that it can do virtually anything you ask it to. You make your own recipe’s to suit your needs.
I use it to keep track of contact with clients, to save important email attachments to my Dropbox and to sync my work social media accounts.
The more you use IFTTT the more you find new ways to cut out small tasks from your day and to make yourself more efficient.
Receipt Bank is an app I have talked about before when I wrote about, ‘how to go paperless in your office’.
Receipt Bank has totally changed my office. It allows you to scan in bills, invoices and statements. It then takes them, reads the data and prepares it for you to export to your accounting software.
It is a wonderfully efficient way to both reduce your paper documents and to cut down on data inputting. If you run a small business and find your time is drained by processing paper work, take a look at this app.
Another alternative to this is Shoeboxed. It does the same as Receipt Bank, along with mileage tracking and business card management.
FAQ’s and Autoresponders
Do you find you get asked the same questions over and over? Many business’s find they dedicate time responding to the samequestions every day.
Setting up a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page on your website or having a separate email dedicated to customer queries that has an auto responding email that contains your FAQ’s can save you having to waste time typing the same response to different people. Make sure you set the email so it doesn’t continuously respond when a client emails again.
Everyone has a rhythm and structure to their day to day emails. The same sentences or phrases cropping up daily. Phrase Express allows you to save those sentences and create short cuts to them. There is a freeware version for personal use and a commercial version if you use it for work.
For example; f you say, ‘Please find attached’ often in emails you can set up a short cut to turn that from 17 key presses into two!
Again like many of these apps – what you put into setting up Phrase Express will dedicate what you get back and how much you save. If like me, you have lots of common structures when writing to clients, this can save you lots of time.
The second secret to working smart:
Once you have got to grips with automating your workflow – you are going to be left with new time on your hands. But managing the time you already have is important to.
Getting into work early and going home late doesn’t make you an effective worker. In fact it can make you quite the opposite. Long hours, slowly drain your energy, making you less effective and more prone to mistakes. Modern managers now see the benefits in giving workers more free time to allow them time to rest.
Learning to manage your time properly will give you a healthier work life balance.
Start by identifying the things that drain your time; can you automate them (see above!)? Are you mixing work and pleasure? If you are struggling to see where your time is going you can monitor it.
Rescue Time is an app you can install on your PC, Mac or Android phone.
It monitors what you do and reports back to you.
The reports can be set up by you, to classify productive and non productive pieces of software. You can also set alarms if you have spent to long being unproductive.
Why spend all day staring at Facebook in work, only to have to work late to keep up to date with things? Wouldn’t you rather enjoy your own time?
I don’t believe in using any software for this. Making your first task of the day a To Do list, then sitting down and writing it will help you set your plans for the day.
It’s important to do this properly. Break your list down into smaller chunks, this will keep you motivated and help you work effectively through the day.
Here’s an Example of a task on my list:
- Write post on ‘Working Smart’
- Write down all apps I use to work smart.
- Research what other are saying
- Write post
- Collect pictures & graphics for post and insert
- Publish post
That’s how this task would look.
I usually look at yesterdays list and add the things I couldn’t get to onto today’s list followed by all my other tasks.
Motivation Tip – If I notice I am working slowly, I put estimated times against each task. Then I work against the clock to try and beat my estimates.
Being mindful of your time and asking yourself, ‘is this what I need to be doing?’ through out the day will help you in directing your time wisely.
Important to good time management is avoiding distraction. Allow others to take calls for you if you need to focus or use headphones to shut out distractions.
The third (and final!) secret is:
Possibly the hardest of the three secrets as it involves other people. Learning to delegate work and ask others to do something will allow you to focus on what is important and what you are good at.
Firstly, do you have people in work that are there to do things for you? If so are you using them effectively?
You might be able to do a task better than that person, but is that as important as the task you are delaying in order to do it?
- Write down all the things you do on an average day and see if they can be delegated.
If you work alone, there are still options online. There are freelancers waiting to do the tasks you don’t have time for. A few of my favourites are:
This is a great site for small tasks, whether it’s writing blog content, updating your website or helping you with a technical fault. The concept is that tasks start from $5 (USD) and go up from there. I use this to help me improve my website speeds or to research for me.
For bigger projects, I use Upwork. There are freelancers for all sorts of tasks. You can put work out to tender and people will come to you with ideas and portfolios.
If you spend the time researching the freelancers you use, you can find some great people. Online freelancers are used too working with lots of different people so the best of them are good at interpreting your ideas and making them work.
The freelancers are from all over the world, so often they can do things for a lot less than you’d have to pay someone locally.
The Three Secrets: Automation, Time Management & Delegation
Learn to refine and build these three skills and you will find you can spend more time doing the things you are good at and the things you enjoy. It doesn’t take long to change your habits and to look at how you can do things more efficiently. As you develop these skills you will find your own ways of becoming a super effective person. But always make sure your ‘hacks’ are saving you more than they are costing!