Ways to Work Smarter not Harder


Working smarter is preferable to working harder, of course. But you also generally yield  better results! In this video, Jennifer Bridges, PMP, shows you how to apply smart thinking to project management.

In Review: How to Work Smarter not Harder

Jennifer noted that earlier in her career, she was the one who burned the midnight oil on the job, and took pride because that meant she worked harder than the rest. Only, in time, did she realize there are ways to work better and not exhaust yourself and your team members on a project.

She said that working smarter is like taking into account your own triple constraint. What are the results you want to achieve that? Once you know, then Jennifer explained how to get there by knowing:

  • Abilities – Are you the best one for this particular job, or are there people on your team with skills better suited?
  • Boundaries – Set boundaries about what you can and cannot do, and protocols for communicating with you or during meetings, and be prepared to reinforce them!
  • Calendar – Control your own calendar, rather than letting it control you. Make sure to make time for balance in your life.
  • Mentors/Mentees – You learn a ton from feedback from respected mentors, and you also learn a lot from those you call you mentor. Reflections from both help keep you in check.
  • Processes – Make sure you implement processes that promote your own ability to be efficient, as well as your team. That might be processes that require certain software applications and how to use timesheets or reporting, or it might be a process as mentioned above for meetings. You also want to make sure you create processes that are actually helpful and that don’t get in the way of being productive.
  • Question – Ask yourself what’s working and what’s not. Don’t get in the habit of assuming that your processes or your way is right. Be open to adapting to new ways of working, while maintaining your own health.

Pro-Tip: Another aspect of working smarter is to document things so you can delegate and those to whom you’ve delegated are aware of the process you’ve implemented, without having to set aside time to meet and go over work that’s already been done.

Thanks for watching!

Hello I am Jennifer Bridges, Director of ProjectManager.com. Well welcome to our whiteboard session today on how to work smarter not harder. I just recently celebrated another birthday, and people asked me what I liked the most about getting older. And I said it is actually getting smarter.

So I remember back in the day when I started my first corporate job after college and I noticed that I was always the one working late as everyone else kind of waved goodbye. You know at five o’clock and I was still there until all wee hours of the night. And I thought wow how do they do that? They are so much smarter. And they kind of smiled and they always said great job Jennifer, you are working so hard.

So I was so proud of myself because I was working so hard. That got me even more projects and more responsibilities, and I thought that was great until I finally caught on.

So if you’re one of the ones who are working late on scheduling while everyone else is going home or you are getting all the harder projects and everyone else is getting all the cushy jobs, well let me give you a few tips I have learned along the way.

So first of all access and ask yourself why it is important for you to work smarter. Because I decided there is actually our own triple constraint that we are working with. Because you might want more time, you might want more money, like how can I do more with less and make more money at the same time.

Or what about scope, how can I get more deliverables done, how can I get more done in my day? And maybe quality of life, for me now as I am getting older and smarter I am actually more interested in my quality of life and my life balance.

So assess yourself now and decide again what makes it smarter. What are you trying to accomplish? What are the results that you want?

So once you do that and know why, then here are just a few things that I want to share in how. The how to work smarter, so number one check your abilities on what you are doing and ask yourself am I the best person to do this?

I know even in the realm of project management there are some things that I like to do better than others. There are some things that I can do better than others.

So I decide if I’m to do this or not. So I find if there is a team member who can do this better, or do I have a colleague, do I have someone else in the group or organization. I re-assigned different tasks according to abilities.

Number two boundaries, always looking at boundaries and making sure I set my own boundaries. Where people are not able to come in and decide that I need to reshuffle my schedule on their behalf because of some lack of planning they are doing.

Or maybe people just come into my office, or my cubicle, or maybe they hijack my meeting. So I have to set my own boundaries and learn to say, “No,” and make sure people understand that.

The next item is your calendar. Your calendar, your schedule, the days you work, the hours they work, I remember when I first started out of college it was important for me to have to come in early.

So I would get in early at 6:00 a. m. So from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. I would plan all of my activities, and then when my team came in then I would be able to work with my team, meet with my stakeholders any other project team members.

Then at the end of the day it was important for me to go do my exercise routine. So I had a certain time that I wanted to leave at the end of the day.

Then, now it is almost reversed. So now I start my morning out with my exercise routine. The things that I need to do for me to get quiet, maybe I meditate, or maybe I get my quiet time.

So I do not even start my workday until 10:00 a. m. and then I ended my day at 2:00 p.m. so I can do the planning for the next day. Then I come in and then everything is set.

So you have got to be able to set your own schedule and your own calendar, and then one of the things I see with some of my mentees is, and I used to do it myself when people would call and want to change meetings around, well you can do that, you know things do change, but you have got to be able to control your calendar.

Understand how that impacts your day and your projects, so being able to manage that effectively.

The next one is mentors and mentees. I am constantly engaging new mentors for myself because I want to find people who have been there, done that, for the things that I want to do because I feel like I can learn from them.

So I engage them and I asked them questions like, “How am I doing?” I have them assess me. They get to look at my work habits, what I am doing, how am I doing it, and they get to question, and they get to see where maybe I have gaps where I cannot see for myself.

So they may offer different suggestions of things maybe more abilities that I need to learn, more skill sets I need. They may see habits that I have with maybe not setting boundaries and not being able to own and manage my calendar.

Then mentees, I think it is important to have mentees, people who are learning. Maybe they are trying to learn things that I know how to do, so they constantly ask questions.

I will never forget an environment I was in where we had people who had just been hired on. Some people were new out of college, some people were new out of other companies, but they were considered the new people.

So I remember there was one guy in particular who always had these great ideas. Creative ways to save us time, maybe money, energy, and he was told that he was young.

So the new people were to be seen and not heard. I thought that was so crazy, so later I would always pull him aside and I would talk with him myself and question him, and I always got new ways of doing that.

So I have never forgotten that, so I always solicit, and I always feel I have something to learn from my mentees just like they have something to learn from me as their mentor. So I think it takes both mentors and mentees.

Then the one for processes, it is always great to have processes or systems established, documented, repeatable, measurable, processes.

For those who may work in different fields where there is the Carnegie Mellon Capability Maturity model, there may be ISO, there may be other standards, but those are the components that they look for.

Being able to document things so people who maybe you can hand work off to so it is a documented procedure and it is also measurable. So you cannot improve anything if you cannot measure it.

So those measurements help you to improve, and then question. Always question, is this something I even need to be doing anymore? Is this the way I need to be doing it?

Because as things change we always need to be able to update how we are doing things. A good example is I have someone in my group, who is still using Excel, and so we started looking at it, and back in the day Excel was a way to make things better.

It was an improvement over doing things manually, so to put something in Excel was a step up. It actually improved and save time, but now we have learned that because there are online systems, online project management systems we can actually put that in a project management software and they can do the calculations without doing Excel.

So Excel is now an old way of doing things where the new project management system is the new way of doing it, so it is always question.

So these are some of the ways that I have found over time as I am getting older and now smarter. Those are some of the things that I just wanted to share and I hope they help you too.

If you are looking for a tool that can help you work smarter not harder then sign up for our software now at ProjectManager.com.