The Anti-Productive: how to work smart, not hard

Society has taught us that the number of hours you input is directly proportional to the amount of productive output that you produce. Well, F that.

There’s no reason to be working countless hours until you pass out. And, no this isn’t a guide on how to lounge in your pants all day (although I wish it were). It’s about working smart, not hard.

The standard, generic advice is to wake up at 6 am, down a shot of wheatgrass and cycle to work. Hmm, no thanks. I wish I were one of those people who live for mornings. Sadly, I’m not. I’m the most productive from midday onwards. But, this isn’t the same for everyone. The first step is to explore what works for you and to question whether your current environment caters.

Productivity is an intensely personal thing. We all have different decisions, outlooks, and situations where we feel most productive. With the steps below, you need figure out what gets you fired up (recognising the momentum points in your daily routine) and what slows you down (procrastination is tied to anxiety, you need to understand your fears and why you have them).

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Focus, rest, repeat

Great minds alternate, you’re not designed to function like a robot. Your brain works like a muscle. Muscles naturally have a high capacity to work, and you build it up. However, if you overstretch your muscles, their ability to be stimulated by further growth decreases its functionality. Don’t make the mistake of trying to work flat out for more than five hours without any rest. You need to get the medicinal benefits of rest, while still keeping your momentum alive. This may seem like a simple nugget, but I know so many people (including myself) who burn themselves out. Don’t assume that the world will give it to you, give rest to yourself.

Reconsider multitasking

I’m like a kid in a sweet shop. I get distracted by all the flavours that I forget why I’m in the sweet shop in the first place. We all know that your best work happens when you don’t do it all at once. You may feel like you get more done when you spin many plates, but in reality, you’re taking a hit to your productivity. Multitasking prevents you from giving your best on any single task. I’ve gone as far as turning off the sound for emails on my phone as I write this article for you. Close your email, put in your headphones, and give the task the love it deserves. One focused hour is better than three distracted ones.

Move your body

As humans, we’re not supposed to be desk-chained all day; move your body, throughout the day, as much as you can. After the many staring contests I have with the computer screen, I feel so much better after a short walk. I talk a lot about the benefits of fitness on my blog because I truly believe it makes such a big impact on your work and, life in general. It’s so important to release stress, have enough energy to make it through the day and to be able to make clear decisions at work.

Limit staying late

There is no way in which a person can be on their A-game throughout an entire 9 am – 9 pm period. Just because an employee arrived five minutes late, doesn’t mean they’re going to work any less than their peers who arrived on time (exception to those who are scheduled to meet customers/clients). It’s about what you do at work, not how many hours you spend. If you’re trying your best to get through the workload, yet you’re finding yourself staying late every day, question why you’re still there. If you stay late and put in those extra hours, most of that time is pretty ineffective because you end up burning out and producing bad work. Don’t slave away for minimal benefits.

Have a backup

In today’s ever-changing economy, we cannot rely on one source of income. Your job could end tomorrow. You need backup funds and career in that instance. There are lots of flexible jobs out there that you can do here and there. If you have the capacity, you can pursue a passion for baking, writing, teaching, etc. of which could potentially turn into a business in the future. These hobbies may lead you to pursue a dream career.

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Working smart is about having the self-awareness about your work style, as opposed to increasing your (ineffective and inefficient) hours.

I have spent years trying to grow my blog through time commitment; it was by letting go of what wasn’t working (time wise) that my business took off without even needing me.

If you’ve got any tips, I’d love to hear from you!

Location: Holland Park, London

Photographer: Brendan Donnelly (Insta here)

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