The fast-paced nature of modern society has everyone trying to get more done in less time. Business owners especially have a lot to juggle, whether it’s brainstorming in a strategy meeting or mentoring a newly hired executive. Owners also want to keep an eye on operations, offering direction and motivation when things veer off track. Keeping your output at the highest levels possible seems formidable, even with endless cups of coffee by your side.
Despite the sheer number of tasks on your plate, all humans have limits. There will never be enough hours in a single day to accomplish everything. That’s why embracing the principle behind the phrase “work smarter, not harder” can help you be more productive. By approaching responsibilities and operations from a strategic mindset, you and your company can realize more efficient outcomes. Here’s how to make working smarter a reality.
1. Rely on Automation
Technology and artificial intelligence don’t have to replace everything employees do. However, tools that automate repetitive assignments and provide insights can enhance workers’ jobs. Automation and analytics save time and redirect employees’ focus to critical, complex tasks. From contact center software to apps that automate routine emails, there are plenty of AI-driven tools to streamline daily work.
When deciding what to automate, look for assignments and activities that don’t require complex thinking. Responsibilities that happen frequently or according to a predictable schedule are also good candidates for automation.
For instance, contact center agents might type similar case notes for every call. Built-in templates and transcriptions can pre-populate most of the words, letting agents concentrate on serving clients. Meanwhile, interaction analytics help reps quickly assess clients’ sentiments about their experiences with the company. Agents can instantly shift their approaches and tactics to lower the temperature or enhance lukewarm engagement.
2. Delegate What You Can
Business owners and leaders can fall into the trap of thinking that they have to do everything themselves. Or that if they’re not doing it themselves, they need to keep a close eye on someone else’s every move. However, maintaining a tight grip on every assignment, emergency, or business function will actually lower your effectiveness. Micromanagement also reduces your staff’s output, as they become fearful of making decisions or acting without your authority.
Research shows that delegation skills can actually help leaders generate more revenue. CEOs who have higher delegation skills produce 33% more revenue than their peers who don’t delegate well. An owner’s delegation abilities thus play an important role in ensuring company success.
While it might be challenging to let go, look for matches between responsibilities and employees’ interests and skills. Trusting staff with higher-level and stretch assignments builds confidence, redundancy, and a leadership pipeline. Others can step in and keep the business running, allowing you to focus on the most important decisions.
3. Hold Purposeful Meetings
Meetings are necessary to coordinate initiatives involving several departments, generate collaborative ideas, and determine action steps. At the same time, too many meetings or those without clear agendas will sidetrack anyone’s day. Productivity is lost due to conversations that lack direction or are simple announcements better handled by other means.
Sometimes bringing groups together to go over information or reiterate previous discussions is overkill. Before you schedule a meeting, use a set of criteria to determine whether it’s essential. Once you figure out the main purpose of the get-together, you may realize it’s better to share the information another way. If the objective is to communicate procedural updates, it might be more efficient to point employees to a shared document. Managers can then handle any questions that might arise.
Other things to take into account are the urgency of an issue and the scope of information. Matters that require quick decisions probably aren’t discussions to have through email. However, consider who needs to be involved and whether it’s the right time for them to make meaningful contributions.
For instance, network engineers might be considering a planned outage that will impact a group of customers. But if they don’t have a schedule in place yet, it’s not the right time to include the folks in marketing.
4. Define Objectives and Focus on Results
Spending time trying to solve poorly defined problems or chasing multiple solutions without clear objectives will rarely produce effective results. If you haven’t found the root cause of a problem or specified your goals, any efforts may be little more than busywork.
In some cases, the actual problem might get worse or amplified. If the team isn’t sure why customers are losing internet service, for example, applying a solution may only replicate the issue. The time that could be spent isolating the real culprit will be wasted on implementing a non-fix.
In the long run, it’s more efficient to document troubleshooting steps and permanent solutions. The next time the team runs into the problem or something similar, they can refer back to those steps and solutions. They’ll save themselves the trouble of reinventing the wheel by getting to work applying known fixes.
Likewise, formulating precise goals helps define what to work on and what to ignore. A business can’t be everything to everybody, an approach that is likely to cause burnout.
Working smarter instead of harder is a technique business owners can use to boost efficiency and productivity. The philosophy and its methods often involve stepping back and critically examining what you’re doing and why. By automating, delegating, and defining problems and purposes, you can significantly improve your company’s operations.