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Productivity

5 Epic Quora Questions on Working Smart

December 23, 2014

Now, I am sure I am not the only one who has hoped that there comes along an invention that will help me work smart, work fast and get things done on time (if not before time). Ideally, I wish there was a pill that could instill in my Popeye-like energy every time I feel a back-log in the making. Imagine, storming through your task list like a pro with all that energy!

Now, since there is a long time before ‘make-me-smart’ pill sees the light of day, I am glad there are IT tools that can help comfort the said concern. It is one of my favorite things about technology — there is always, always an app that can help make your life easy. If at all there isn’t an app for something, someone out there has answered the issue of quite smartly (I am sure) on Quora.

I spend a lot time browsing through Quora. It’s one of my favorite places to explore both old and new ideas, DIYs and life hacks. It just so happens that I came across quite a few interesting Quora discussion pages on working smart. And I figured I would share some truly popping questions I found there for the sake of making your life, well, easy.

Here’s my pick of 5 epic Quora questions on working smart and getting your work done like a pro:

1. What does work smarter not harder mean to you?

When I stumbled upon this question, I expected quite a lot of virtuous views and opinions. Intrigued, I went on to explore the discussion. And one person put it across in just a quick quote, right on the dot: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” — as said by Abraham Lincoln.

Personally, I connect with this quote a lot. I believe working smart is so much more about the preparation than the actual act itself. The effort you take to prepare and prioritize pays off immensely in the end. So when trying to work hard, remember that it’s all about sharpening your axe.

2. What are some ways to “work smart” rather than just working hard?

Yishan Wong answers this question bang on. She points quite ideally that ‘the primary change you need to make to your thinking when figuring out how to work smart is that activity is not necessarily production.’ Give this sentence a thought.

She goes on to tell you how there is no correlation between the time or level of effort that an activity takes and the degree to which it contributes (or doesn’t contribute) to real, value-creating output. And this is quite true. Of all the things you set out to accomplish each day, not everything will carry true economic value. It is, therefore, important to sort out tasks that are vital and hold true objective value and sift out those that are, so to say, transactional and carry no real value.

This is your first step towards working smart — choosing the right tasks and setting appropriate goals across each of these tasks.

Work smart

3. In what ways do you work smarter, rather than harder?

Here’s my personal choice: Delegate when working in teams, do not multi-task when working alone.

This opinion seems to resonate with many others as I found in the discussion page for this particular question. When it comes to working smart, I have found that it is as much about doing the right things as it is about doing things in a right way. When I work in a team, I choose to have tasks delegated across the lot of us, playing on each of our strengths, of course. This is a good means of achieving common goal and achieving it fast.

However, when I am working at tasks single-handedly, I avoid multi-tasking and that’s a conscious choice I have made. As noted in one of the answers, ‘you cannot be a rock star at something unless you devote 100% of your attention to it.’ By choosing to do only one thing at a time, you reduce your chances of making errors significantly and you can be happy about a job well done.

4. What are some uncommon ways to work smarter instead of harder?

Ok, do not take me for someone who is lazy and allergic to hard work, but who hasn’t tried to avoid the ‘working hard’ bit in their lives? Here’s one of the most helpful answers I found to the question (as noted by Jay Best).

Jay has offered plenty of ideas for working thriftily but few of his suggestions are quite interesting to note and make a lot of sense when given a thought. For one, Jay has pointed out how typing speed can help finish a task faster — and it’s literally the most unpretentious hack for building work productivity (quite cool, right). He notes that if you spend 50% of your day writing reports and emails, then you just freed up 10 hours of your week. (And it’s a lot!)

Jay has also made a great case for Pareto principle and Parkinson’s Law in helping understand what constitutes as important work and how these particular tasks should be given priority over anything else. The essence of Pareto Principle is simple — on any given day, only 20% of your actions are most important. Do those first every day. As for Parkinson’s Law, it basically upholds that your work expands or contracts to fit the time assigned to it. So, set a deadline and sprint to finish it.

He also makes a point about getting on board a virtual assistant, and I agree with the suggestion completely. Task management or time management apps are excellent means of listing out day-to-day activities, prioritizing them and keeping a check on their progress. And there are plenty of options to choose from — from a basic app like To-doist to more multifaceted one like Evernote.

5. What is the best way to manage a project when you are working on it alone?

When it comes down it, it is really about a will to excel. And Raul Mihali has explained how in his answer to this particular query. He highlights the importance of discipline and persistence.

“Pick your projects carefully and make sure you understand they need to get done in a self-imposed, given time. You’re better off working on one thing only rather than compromising your reputation for being a good talker but not a doer,” exclaims Raul. He goes onto explain how efficiency, timeliness and a hint of optimism also help beat the stress of work-overload.

These are just a few of ideas I clicked with and deemed fit for sharing. Do explore more and tell me how you choose to work smart.

Meeta Sharma is an independent writing and editing professional from digital marketing domain. Loves marketing and everything about it.

Meeta Sharma

Meeta Sharma is a content marketing specialist and regularly writes about her domain and start-up life.

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