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8 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

I used to get burnt out by work, but now I found a joyful balance.

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What we’re ultimately striving for here is a joyful balance. And you won’t know if balance can be achieved if you don’t try. You could even make it fun. Make a game of it, and challenge your entire office to get involved! This week, I invite you to try eight things:

1. Slow down. Someone once said “the trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” When we slow down, priorities become clear. I once asked Peleg what activities could/should be removed from my life. His response was that I was asking the wrong question. If you’re busier than you’d like to be, don’t try to curate your life. First, slow down. Focus on the here and now. Get present. Pay attention to where your energy is drawn, the good and the bad. Healthy priorities will naturally reveal themselves and your life will start to curate itself.


2. Stop trying to be a hero. Commit to a schedule you can sustain and tasks you can complete without killing yourself. No one will go into cardiac arrest if you turn down a project.


3. Go home. Leave the office by 6 pm, or earlier if possible. Have dinner with family or friends, relax, and get a good night’s sleep. You’ll feel refreshed and focused when you arrive at work in the morning.


4. Minimize meetings. Sometimes meetings are wonderful and necessary, but more often than not they are straight-up time wasters. Respectfully ask coworkers or your boss if there might be a more efficient way to make decisions. Offer suggestions. Get creative.

5. Go dark. Switch your mobile phone to airplane mode. This will temporarily disable incoming calls (they’ll go straight to voicemail), GPS, and internet access. For myself, this is hard. But we have to acknowledge that our communication addictions aren’t making us happy or productive. Create an atmosphere of minimal distractions. Stay offline unless you truly need to do some research. Do your important work first, and answer emails later. Be proactive, not reactive (I’m still working on this one). And for crying out loud, stay the hell away from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, unless you’re taking an intentional break. The comment your cousin made about a former coworker’s dog’s sweater vest can wait. 



6. Leave the office for lunch. Read a book, take a walk, visit a museum – anything to change your environment and unplug for a bit. This is a good time for airplane mode. I live close to Metagramme’s studio, and go home for lunch almost every day. Sometimes I’ll write a few lines of poetry, or just have a good long stare at nothing in particular. The change of scenery is refreshing, and I’m ready to tackle the afternoon’s work when I return to my desk.

7. Give up on multitasking. Others have said it, and I’ll throw my hat in the ring too: multitasking isn’t sexy. It’s inefficient. You might be able to go broad when juggling several tasks at once, but you can’t go deep. People who claim to be gifted multitaskers are lying, either to themselves or to you. Instead of spreading yourself thin, set aside large chunks of time to focus on one task at a time. Let coworkers know you’re unavailable. If they give you crap for it, who cares. They’ll stop when they see the results.

8. Say no. When deciding how to respond to a request, ask yourself if saying yes would be driven by love or fear. If the answer is the latter, politely say no and suggest an alternative. This is another opportunity to get creative.

 
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