Ways to Work Smarter

hard work(Pic courtesy of http://www.linkedin.com)

There was a time when buried nose deep in a stacked pile of papers classified you as a ‘hard worker’.  Include an irritable attitude and an occasional under-your-breath mumble and you might have been up for a promotion.  That, we have now discovered, is as unhealthy for you as starting each day with pizza. While it is true that hard work never killed anybody, working smart gives you more of your life back and decreases work stress. 

Managers must understand that smart work does not replace hard work – they go together.  Let us not succumb to the mistaken belief that employees should be remunerated on hours worked: Pay for Productivity and Productivity Pays. Overworking an employee leads to anxiety and burnout and this will hurt the business in the long run.  Yes, the job must get done but there are many ways to get it done and why shouldn’t you opt for the smarter way?

Release some of your work pressure with these seven tips:

  1. Make use of electronic reminders for appointments, birthdays, and to do lists instead of writing it down.
  2. Learn to delegate.  Seems simple enough but people struggle with delegation – some believe that you are giving away your power or worse still, ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself.’  Steer away from this antiquated thought.  The reality is that we cannot do everything ourselves and there are others that can perform certain tasks better than you can.  Focus your energy on the tasks that you can do well.
  3. Need to prepare for a presentation, study product upgrades or learn industry related information? The trick to committing anything to memory is repetition, repetition, repetition!  Read your material out loud, record it on your smartphone and listen to it on the way to work or play it to yourself whenever you have a moment.  Be sure to add inflections, emphasize key words and even use a strange accent.  Anything to make it interesting and entertaining and easier to remember.  If it is a presentation you are rehearsing, listening to a recording of yourself (as torturous as that may be) is a great way to correct and improve your speaking skills.
  4. If information does not need to have a written trail, rather make a phone call. In this digital age, there is a tendency to lose the personal touch and if all your communication in a day is written, you would be working a lot harder than you need to.
  5. Combine brainstorming sessions with breakfast or a round of golf with a business meeting. It builds great relationships and kills 2 birds!
  6. Ask for help. If you cannot find the answers after a fair amount of time spent on it, get help.  Suffering in silence will lead to frustration and eventually disillusionment and detachment.
  7. Take a look at my previous article on time management for more suggestions.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas to becoming a smarter worker, please take a moment to comment.


Manage Your Time and Increase Productivity



Time control is directly related to goal setting.  I love Lewis Carroll’s quote, ‘If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.’  It is essential to identify what you wish to achieve (both professionally and personally) and document it.  Once this is established, you will subconsciously utilise your time towards achieving it.  Time wasters typically do not have clear and structured goals.

Now that the stage is set, use the following pointers to knuckle down on managing your daily clock.

  • Be conscious of your time. Even the smartest among us are guilty of occasionally saying ‘I don’t know where the time went.’ If you are conscious of the degree of time spent on each activity, you will always know where the time went.
  • Plan your day the evening before so you begin the day with a purpose. You are more likely to sleep in late, have an extra cup of coffee or be idle if you do not wake up with a determination to achieve the measurable goals already set out for the day.  During your evening ritual, ask yourself what you have accomplished today and how has it moved you closer to your goals before preparing for the next day.  Questioning yourself forces you to be accountable for your actions.
  • De-clutter your workspace.  A cluttered desk produces a cluttered, slow thinking mind which extends the time spent on each task.
  • Making a ‘To Do’ list is a routine part of one’s day, but how many of us are making a ‘Don’t Do’ list? It is often the little things that steal time.  What fruitless activities are the thief of your time?  Is it social networking, crushing candy, watching amusing video clips online? Note your thieves down and chances are probable that you will fall less victim to these weaknesses.
  • Allocate a strict time limit to unimportant tasks.
  • Don’t fool yourself with activities that are work related but not productive, like constantly checking if an email was answered or spending an hour exploring different colour combinations for a spreadsheet. Become results oriented.
  • Take regular breaks. Did you ever work tirelessly on a project without success and the minute you gave up and removed yourself from the situation, swiftly came up with a solution?  Overworking exhausts the brain and it will essentially take longer to complete a task. Ensure that your breaks are relaxing and rejuvenating.  Switching from a work task to a social networking site does not constitute a break.  Do some of your best ideas originate in the bath or shower?  Research has not been conclusive as to what motivates ‘brilliant shower brain’ however one of the assumptions is that water relaxes a person.   Now I do not suggest taking regular baths during the course of your day but opt for calming ‘no screen’ breaks like taking a walk, having a snack (away from your work space), taking deep breaths, catching up with a friend or getting a dose of sunlight.  Restrict it to 10 minutes every 2 hours.
  • Do not multitask. Dividing your energy in the workplace is a recipe for disaster.  Moreover, multitasking is a myth.  Recent neuroscience research has shown that the brain cannot perform several tasks simultaneously.  The truth is that the brain constantly shifts to and from each task.  The time that it takes for the brain to transition to the new task adds unnecessary minutes, depletes energy and results in more errors being made.  So while you may think you are ticking several items off your ‘to do list’, it is proved to be quicker to concentrate on one thing at a time.  Returning to correct mistakes will cost you even further.

Having just returned from a funeral service, I am reminded of the most valuable commodity that we have.  Our lives are made up of years.  Dissected still, a year comprises seconds.  Use those seconds wisely and have the time of your life!

Change Management: A Proactive Approach


Everyone wants to progress but no one wants to change.  People inherently choose comfort over risk and this makes for an uphill battle for any organisation in a transitional phase.  The reality is that growth depends on continual change.  Thought leaders know this but how do you get the others on board?

Change models are a useful technique when followed accurately.  Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model is a comprehensive step by step process to effect a successful change.    You can plan all you want though, change agents are hitting brick walls, grappling at every turn and having to return to step 1.  Perhaps we should take a step back and review our strategies.  Here is what we know:  Change is continual, change is inevitable.  For this reason, it makes perfect sense to prepare your human resources well before the time comes.

Organisational Development (OD) is a theory with its foundations in behavioural science.  It aims to increase organisational effectiveness through long term training programs that develops people.    Borrowing from the fundamentals of OD, here are ways to sustain evolutionary change within your organisation with what I call Change Culture Cultivation:

  1. Get employees accustomed to an ever evolving environment. Begin with subtle changes that will be accepted with ease.  Employees should come to expect that operational procedures are not cemented.
  2. Become renowned for innovation by habitually launching new products or if costly, adding services to customers.
  3. Introduce new systems and challenge employees by offering diverse tasks and letting their talents emerge.
  4. Encourage workers to propose changes as well. Brilliant ideas emerge from people when the environment is conducive.  It empowers people and creates a synergy for change.  More importantly, they will feel a larger sense of purpose.
  5. Attributes such as Versatility and Flexibility should be dominant criteria in your recruitment selection processes. A workforce that is easily adaptable are Change Champions.
  6. Adopt a flexible approach to management. People hate to be coerced into anything.  Think ‘Wet Paint. Don’t touch!’ theory on a larger scale.  Rigidity will only succeed in driving the opposite effect.
  7. Transparency.  If stakeholders are left in the dark regarding company activities, a change will be unforeseen, and they are more likely to resist.
  8. Communication is the key. It is the master key!  It builds trust and employees who trust will engage with employers.  When a major revolutionary change is upon you, amidst the fear of the unknown, people will still embrace it because they believe in you.  Seize every opportunity to communicate the values and vision of the company.  Strategic communication is the basis of lasting relationships and this cannot be emphasized enough.
  9. Change Your Mind before changing others’ – it makes all the difference!


Business Email Etiquette: Putting Your Best Key Forward!

I would imagine that if an Email Police existed, they would be inundated with calls!  I often receive complaints about offensive mails and upon investigation, discovered that the sender did not intend it to be malicious.  While there are hoards of email guidelines, I have compiled a select list of the most frequent errors in my environment.

  • Greeting: An email to a new associate or client should always begin as such:  ‘Dear Paul’A ‘Good Day’ will suffice for all other business mails.  I always use the receiver’s name in my greeting.  People are inclined to warm up to you if their name makes an appearance at greeting stage.  Although, be wary about beginning a mail with a name as it infantilizes a person:  John please send me those reports as soon as possible.  It might as well read, John finish those veggies or you can forget dessert. If you have built a friendly relationship with someone, you may use Hi, although any other forms of colloquial greetings like Hey, Yo, etcshould be avoided.
  • Overuse of Punctuation!!!!  Additional exclamation marks will almost always be viewed as shouting.  Several question marks reflects a condescending tone, and dot dot dot should not feature in a business mail.  It is not a guessing game and your recipient is not meant to presume anything.   How about commending someone on a job well done?  Should that scenario be an exception?

Congratulations Tracy!  You have doubled your previous month’s sales figures!!!  The over-excitement here has the potential to come across as disbelief that Tracy was capable of this achievement in the first place.  Respect the many degrees of sensitivity out there.

  • The Emotionally-Charged Mail:  Many communicators will encourage you to sleep on it and hit send if you feel the same way the day after.  I am against any over-emotional email whether it is today or tomorrow.  If you are disappointed by the service rendered, you can convey that message without sending an enraged mail.  In my opinion, a calmer disposition holds more weight. Consider these 2 approaches:
  1. You have taken 10 days to respond to my request and yet you still do not have a solution!!! I am done dealing with incompetent people!!  I will take my business elsewhere!!!! 
  2. I feel that a 10 day response time is unacceptable for this type of query and am extremely dissatisfied with the service you provided. I will unfortunately have to consider moving my business elsewhere as I have lost trust in your ability to satisfy my business needs.

Which option hits home for you?  The first case is clearly drenched with anger.  However, as we all know, anger is a temporary emotion.  When the individual calms down, he may no longer wish to break ties.  The second example has a more permanent feel.  In his rational mind, he states his wish to discontinue his support.

  • Language: In my multi-cultural South Africa, we boast 11 official languages.  While this is one of our prides, it can become a business challenge.  People tend to instinctively switch to their native language when sending a mail to someone who understands that language or from the same language background.  However, if your recipient needs to forward that mail, they would have to first translate your mail before re-directing.  This creates unnecessary effort and causes time delays.  Moreover, it is sometimes incorrectly assumed that the language would be understood (based on a surname).  Alleviate embarrassment by sticking to the appropriate business language.
  • Refrain from Questions: As far as possible, attempt to convert questions into statements:

When can you send me the quotes?……….Please advise when I can expect the quotes.

Can you help me with this enquiry?……..If I have reached the incorrect person, kindly direct me to the person who deals with this.

One cannot hear the tone of a question in a written message so it can appear to be impatience or aggressiveness even though this was not the intention.

  • Response time: You may use your discretion here but any mail that requires little or no investigation should be responded to within 2/3 days.  If you are travelling or out of the office, activate the automatic response to manage expectations.  I recently listened to a radio interview with an internationally renowned businessman.  He believes that because electronic mail is merely a replacement of the traditional postage system, it is acceptable to use the same time frame to reply.  Strange view, I suppose that international contacts can expect a longer response time than local contacts despite the content of the mail.  The message is this:  Even great leaders get it wrong from time to time and that leaves the rest of us feeling a little relieved.

I have the utmost respect for the CEO of my company.  My personal rule of thumb is to imagine him copied in on every mail that leaves my desk.

Hope this gives you a new ‘outlook’ on email constructing.


A Blog is born

  • Are you frustrated with the lack of practical solutions to business issues?
  • Are you determined to climb the corporate ladder but feel unnoticed and overlooked?
  • Do you have brilliant ideas but not sure how to execute them?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone!  You are one of many individuals with a feeling of disillusionment in the workplace.  One of my mentors recently wrote to me about frustration.  Frustration, he says, is a good thing.  ‘It often leads to breakthroughs and reinventions.’  It inspires people to improve their circumstances to have a rewarding life…..and so a blog is born!  Born out of a vision to inspire and uplift others to become the best they can be.

I have been in the Finance industry for 15 years and prior to that, was involved in Public Relations and Market Research.

I believe in a healthy mind and body and endeavor to quench both thirsts daily.  Competitive Irish and Highland dancing keeps me fit and positive, and my Ballet dancing, well…keeps me on my toes.

I maintain a healthy mind by reading uplifting material and surrounding myself with positivity.   In addition to postgraduate studies in Business Management, I continuously seek knowledge, with a personal goal to learn something new every day.  I have completed over 30 online courses spanning across all of my many interests from business, leadership and critical thinking to laws of human nature and self-development.  In hindsight, the singing course might have been a mistake – let’s just say the neighbours were not too impressed with the outcome!

Through my learnt-the-hard-way experiences in the business world coupled with academic research from experts in the field, I will share useful tips, dos and don’ts, and techniques to progress.  My objective is to offer real-world solutions that can be applied to your daily work.  My writing will at times have influences of the cognitive sciences because understanding and predicting human behaviour is fundamental in business success.  I embrace a humanistic approach to my business practices and will share my methods with you.

Thanks for dropping by.  With your participation, we can gain a greater insight into the world of business.