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  • 6 Ways to Work Smarter in 2014

    Work Smart photo from ShutterstockFinding an excuse to procrastinate at work is definitely an easy thing to do. Especially when we have numerous projects hanging over our heads and we’re pressed for time, it can be difficult to focus on our most important tasks at work.

    In the new year, we need to make a promise to ourselves to work smarter. We owe it to ourselves to focus more on what is important, rather than what’s urgent. If we carefully plan our work days and understand our personal work ethic, we will be able to accomplish much more than we ever thought we could.

    Working smarter in the new year is an excellent goal to strive toward because not only will you feel more accomplished, but also you will able to reshape the way you work. This year presents the opportunity for a fresh start in the workplace as well as a chance to focus on important tasks and projects. Let’s get started on working smarter in the new year:

    Prioritize

    As mentioned earlier, if you want to work smarter, you must focus on what’s important rather than urgent. Even though you feel like the hundreds of emails piling up in your inbox are a priority, they’re probably not as important as the deadlines you have for projects at work. You owe it to yourself to focus on important projects rather than those that lack priority. Once you are able to determine what projects need to be at the top of your to-do list, you’ll be ready to take on your day.

    Understand where you peak

    In addition to prioritizing your projects, you need to understand what time of day you’ll most likely accomplish them. For some people, the most productive hours of the day are early in the morning; however, they know they become distracted by 2 p.m. On the other hand, there are those who find themselves accomplishing more in the later afternoon or in the evening. Pay close attention to your habits and see what time of the day you feel more focused and refreshed. These hours are going to be the best time for you to sit down and knock out your to-do list.

    Eliminate distractions during hours of productivity

    Now that you’ve figured out when you’re most productive, it’s time to unplug and get focused. It’s amazing how much more you can accomplish in an hour when you’ve closed your email and logged off of social media. Studies show working for increments of 90 minutes is most effective because that’s the optimum time for human focus. Experiment with working in 60 to 90 minute increments and within that time period, don’t check your phone or email. You’ll begin to notice that you’ll accomplish a lot more during the day when you are focused for a solid period time without constant distractions every five minutes.

    Make deadlines

    Deadlines are extremely helpful when it comes to working smarter. When creating your deadlines, make sure you are putting the most important (and urgent) tasks at the top of your list. Following those deadlines, the most important projects should be focused on. These deadlines are essential to managing your time and working effectively.

    Know your limitations

    An obstacle that prevents many of us from being productive at work is from simply taking on too many projects. The key to working smarter is knowing what you’re capable of accomplishing and not over-extending yourself. Although there will be times where you will have to work under pressure and take on extra projects, you should make it a priority to only take on what you can handle. By doing this, you will be able to prevent stress not only in your life, but also in those who depend on you to complete important tasks. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, don’t be afraid to speak up. If you need help accomplishing a project, ask someone for help. It’s better to have the assistance than to neglect a project due to stress.

    Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

    Once you are able to learn your limitations, it’s important to have the ability to say no. When increasing your productivity at work, you must be able to say “no” to projects you simply cannot handle. If you are given a project that seems overwhelming, reach out to a coworker or manager for assistance. It’s better to speak up in the beginning of the assignment rather than to wait until last minute to inform your manager you haven’t even started the task.

    Instead of focusing on staying busy and filling our work days with meaningless tasks, it’s time to focus on what’s most important. The key to working smarter is prioritizing and understanding when you work best. Once you’re able to eliminate distractions and focus on what’s important, you’ll be on your way to working smarter this year.

    What has helped you become more productive in the workplace?

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    Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

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