How Smart People Remain Super-Effective at Work

“I work so hard all the time yet I’m unable to meet my goals!”

“There’s hardly any time for my personal life! Work takes up all my time!”

We hear such statements often at our workplace. Whether you are a beginner starting out in your professional life or a senior executive, you must have faced situations when work becomes so overwhelming that your productivity starts to erode.

In today’s era where your work-life and personal life end up becoming intertwined, it’s becoming extremely important to manage your time and energy in order to remain efficient and carry out your tasks effectively.

How Smart People Manage to Be Effective

The truly successful people understand the power of smart work and not just hard work. This smart working style gives them more time for themselves and their families without compromising on their professional success.

You too can adopt some of these simple and common-sense practices to make sure your effectiveness at work remains awesome. Are you ready to learn these smart practices?

Write Things Down

Writing Lists
PC: Toshiyuki IMAI via Flickr

This might seem like a very basic tip to follow. But the truth is, more than 80% of the people I know rarely bother writing stuff down when they are given tasks or when planning their day-to-day tasks.

I know the misfortune which befalls those who don’t write because I was one of them. I thought I had a great memory and could remember tasks which needed doing without much effort!

What usually happened was I would remember the unimportant tasks (as they ‘re easy to do) while forgetting the critical ones. Also, not writing down usually results in losing track of old activities which need follow-up as time goes by!

Write is Might

Don’t make this mistake anymore. Effectiveness is sometimes simply knowing what needs to be done and when to do it. These are enough to keep you focused and will limit your non-value adding activities to a minimum.

Smart people organize themselves very carefully when it comes to listing down tasks. They define their own way to categorize and prioritize the tasks which they are responsible for. Some of them use old diaries and notebooks while some leverage technology.

Writing tasks down gives you a reference point to track your progress. And with regular tracking and updating your task-sheet, your effectiveness is bound to increase!

Use the Power of Procrastination

Do Everything?
PC: john.schultz via Flickr

In case you’re wondering if I’ve lost my mind, hear me out fully. Procrastination is the trait which helps us to conveniently postpone work to some unseen time in the future. Usually seen in lazy people, this trait ruins their lives and makes them unproductive.

But procrastination can also be used as an effective tool to decide the tasks to do immediately and plan tasks which can be postponed to a later date! Smart people instinctively understand this and put it to deadly use.

Usually when we make our to-do lists for the day, we fill them with 80% of junk tasks which are neither urgent nor important. This always leads to excess energy and time wasted on tasks which never seem to end.

This sort of hyperactivity might make you seem busy and hardworking to others but in the long run, you’ll only end up fooling yourself! Don’t let your work routine make you mediocre!

(Suggested Read: 3 Destructive Habits Which Make You Mediocre)

Once you have your to-do list ready, eliminate half of the tasks which can wait and don’t need your urgent attention. You’ll be amazed to see 20 – 25% of these tasks will disappear on their own! (This usually happens because in a week, some of them would have lost their importance or would have resolved themselves)

Look at the Outcome and Not Time

Ripple Impact
PC: Scott Cresswell via Flickr

A lot of people make the classic mistake of judging effectiveness by counting the number of hours spent on a particular task. Unfortunately the tasks which involve a lot of grunt work end up taking more time than the ones which are short and powerful.

Learn to map the importance of tasks by their ability to impact your goals. By doing so, you will find that a lot of these time-consuming activities can be delegated to a later time when your energy levels are low.

The really smart people manage to combine their low-value tasks with some multi-tasking. This might involve listening to music or an audiobook! All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy after all!

Hobbies are your Best Friends

Hobby Reading
PC: Kamil Porembiński

If you look at the people who are incredibly effective at work, they usually have one or two hobbies which they are passionate about. Hobbies are a crucial component of our lives which rejuvenate us and make work less stressful.

Whether it be a game of tennis, reading or even a long walk, make sure you take some time off to do what you like! This helps you to relax and regroup your energies so you can give the best at your workplace the next day.

Breaks Destroy Monotony

Laugh away
PC: Ed Schipul

The best wisdom to remember is “Never let yourself become overwhelmed by work”

If you feel the strain is getting on your nerves, just drop the work for an hour and give yourself a much-needed break.

The super-effective people are the ones who take regular breaks to recharge themselves. They move around and talk to the people around them. They build connections and share stories. Sometimes this activity by itself opens up chances of collaborating with others and increasing effectiveness!

The famous Austrian endocrinologist Hans Selye told us: “It’s not stress that kills us. It’s our reaction to it”

So do the best you can and learn to let go. Wish you all a productive journey ahead!


What Stops Me From Achieving Goals?

Listen to this.

‘From the minute I set my goals, I have worked very hard. I did all the things which I felt would bring me closer to my goals. I have stuck them in a prominent place where I remind myself of them every day! But the more I keep pushing myself and trying to reach them, the more they seem elusive. What stops me from achieving my goals?’

‘What am I doing wrong??’

If you are someone who can relate to this, trust me you are not alone. These questions have haunted me too! I used to wonder what it was that I was doing wrong and after a long time, it struck me.  I almost always knew what I needed to do to achieve my goals. The problem was in the way I approached the process of achieving them.

In most of my failed goals, these were the traits which stood out.

Stress, Fatigue, Impulsive Action, Laziness, Impatience

What is common among these traits? They all represent extremes. This is the ugly truth about most of our goals. Either we are in too much of a hurry to achieve them. Or we try so hard that they cause burnout and we give up on them. Both of these extremes rarely yield results.

Watch out for these danger signs before you begin to chase your goals.

Instant Gratification

Instant Gratification
Photo by Sam Davis(Flickr)

“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan…”

Tom Landry

It is human nature to want things here and now. Especially in today’s age where internet is flooded with messages such as ‘Lose Weight in 15 days’, ‘Become a millionaire in a month’, it is hard to remain focused and persist with our action plan.

The reality is, anything worth achieving takes time and consistent effort. Most successful people treat their life as a marathon which consists of maintaining a long and steady rhythm in effort combined with a laser-like focus.

Your goals should reinforce your purpose and motivate you to go through the grind. If you start finding that instead of pushing you forward, they are compelling you to seek instant results and making you lose focus, it’s time to take a long hard look about whether they’re worth it.


Burnout Girl
PC: Helga Weber

“Great Work is not ordinarily done in busyness”

Elizabeth Skoglund

This is one of the extremes which you should be very careful about. Often people set over-arching goals which require them to stretch their limits all the time. As human beings, we are capable of achieving whatever we set our minds to. But this doesn’t mean we push ourselves so hard that we break.

When you try to achieve too many goals at once, the process will overwhelm you. Very soon, before you realize you will start getting frustrated with the lack of results. This often leads to becoming wary of your own efforts and the beginning of procrastination.

The end result? You will lose trust in the power of goals and become content with a complacent existence which may end up making you mediocre.

A better way is to plan goals in such a way that they remain aligned to your overall purpose in life. And smart people always set a limited number of goals which allow them to manage their energy levels without suffering burnout. Learn from them and remember the 80-20 rule. Focus 80% of your energy on the 20% of goals which will make a difference in your life!

Rewarding Yourself Too Early / Never Rewarding Yourself

Pc: WinnieFredxoxo

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony”

Thomas Merton

For some of you, there will be an over-enthusiastic fellow waiting inside of you who will pounce at each small milestone and tempt you saying ‘Go on! You have already achieved this much! Go and celebrate! In fact celebrate double!!’

We all know how this usually ends. The celebration becomes a party and the party results in a bad hangover. By this time, all the momentum that had been built in you slowly dissipates bringing you to square one. Very few people recover from this temporary high and begin their uphill battle. Most just give up.

The opposite is equally true, if not more dangerous. Unless your goals have milestones where you stop and unwind, it will be very difficult to sustain the enthusiasm and keep going. Whenever you get the feeling you have been at it too long, give yourself a well-deserved break and swing back into action.

Remember the secret which will help you avoid both these extremes is balance.

Seeking Approval of Others

Pc: Daniela Vladimirova

“People striving for approval from others become phony”

Ichiro Suzuki

This behaviour is seen when you become obsessed with getting recognized by others for your goals. Or even worse, you start setting goals to please others and gain their approval.

It’s natural for us as social creatures to want to be recognized and accepted. Achievement and recognition are the pillars which drive all the successful people. But there is a subtle difference here.

The moment you let your goals be defined by other people’s standards, you begin to suffer. Because no matter how hard you try, others will always have their own opinion of how you ought to be doing things and what you need to be chasing in life.

An important component of achieving goals is the amount of control on your actions. As long as you are able to define your own standards and live upto them, you will succeed. But the moment you fall into the trap of pleasing others and begin to change your goals, you will be writing your own downfall.


Fear on dice

“Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins”

Charles Stanley

Perhaps the biggest reason why goals fail is fear. It is also easy to succumb to your fears and convince yourself that you are not good enough or that you will try next year.

The funny thing about fear is it grows stronger every moment you allow it to live. It thrives on inaction and doubt and makes you begin to doubt your own potential.

Don’t fall for it.

If you have set goals which are ambitious, allow them to take you to paths unexplored. Remind yourself that the very reason you set such audacious goals is because you wanted to conquer fear and move past your limitations.

Don’t let your failure in the past or dread of the future prevent you from taking action. Take inspiration from the steady ant which marches carrying food weighing thousand times its weight. Observe how it moves with absolute focus and overcoming all obstacles to reach its destination.

Such an attitude of calm mindfulness and continuous determination will definitely make your goals a reality.

Over to You

I hope that this advice helps you in beating some of those obstacles which stop you from achieving your goals. Remember the acronym SMART of goal setting? It’s popular because it works! So keep your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound.

Doing that and avoiding the extremes mentioned here will ensure you achieve almost all of your goals!


Are You Ready to be Hired in 2015?

Are you happy with your current role? Or are you searching for a new job?

No matter what your current state, you must have often wondered if you are equipped with the right qualities to get you hired. As the year begins with a bang, the scenario for potential job-seekers is rapidly changing. And your ability to remain relevant to these changing times will determine whether you are ready to be hired or not.

So what are these traits which will make you ready?

Re-inventing Yourself

PC: Hartwig HKD

Think of your personal goals for a second. What is that one habit or behaviour you hate about yourself? From how many months, no wait, years have you been wanting to change it?

Yeah it’s hard. All of us know that we need to change and only then some good things will happen to us. Yet, we don’t. We always seem to want to change but never get around to it.

Why? Because it’s the comfort of the habit which we have accustomed ourselves into.

The professional world is no different. If you have kept following your old ways and patterns, you will end up getting similar jobs and projects.

As industries move from being tightly coupled clusters to closely networked tribes, organizations are increasingly looking for people who can re-invent themselves. Organizations don’t need fossils who are comfortable with their old style habits of working and approach to life.  In order to remain relevant, the need to adapt to the world around is an absolute must.

In order to jump to the next level, you need to change that one thing you know is holding you back. Speed will be a key driver in the years to come and your ability to constantly innovate and mould yourself into who you wish to become will determine your chances of breaking into better jobs.

And how do you do that? By taking the first step. By keeping your new objectives where you can see them. By joining or talking to a like-minded group of people who will create the environment for you to take action.

PsychologyToday wrote a brilliant post about the questions you need to ask in order to drive the change you seek

Does your goal match your values? – The ‘why’ to enable you to seek change

Does it conflict with other priorities in your life? – To prevent contradictory and self-conflicting goals

Can you gain satisfaction from each step? - To measure the inner compass which seeks fulfillment

Is achieving it within your control? - To frame realistic outcomes defined through specific actions which are within your control

I have found these questions to be quite pertinent and helpful when making a decision to change or move forward in a new direction. Both personally and professionally.

I hope they help you in making those changes and re-inventing yourself!

Social Media Presence

Social Media Presence
PC: Khalid Albaih

I have talked about the importance of social media presence as a necessity for leaders who wish to lead the future generation in my ebook. The days where you applied for jobs and waited to be recruited are long gone.

Nowadays, the people who get the jobs they want are the ones who have the courage to go and network with the people who can help them.

In the next few years, your ability to define your brand and clearly state what you can do to add value will make or break your chances.

Many people consider using social media as self-advertising and fake. There might be a few people who might even be doing this. But the majority of people who excel at showcasing their work and strengths on social media have a definite leverage on those who don’t. Make full use of the advantage social media gives to you for building your brand.

Embrace Diversity

PC: Richard Foster

Your ability to get hired will also depend on how well you are able to work with teams which are different from you. Most organizations today stress the need for a global outlook from its employees to tackle this increasing diversity. Forbes says that organizations will move towards increasing their cultural intelligence and this can only happen when they embrace diversity.

As Rohini Anand, Chief Diversity Officer at Sodexo put it, “Diversity is much more than just a multicultural issue.  Diversity is about embracing many different types of people, who stand for different things and represent different cultures, generations, ideas, and thinking”  

IBM VP Ron Glover concurs. “Innovation is about looking at complex problems and bringing new views to the table.  Diversity has allowed IBM to be innovative and successful for 100 years and to work across lines of differences in 172 countries, amongst 427,000 employees.”

Are you ready to shed your model of the world and to embrace the emerging diversity?

Entrepreneurial Mindset

Reinventing Yourself
PC: Ryan Hide (Flickr)

It might seem as if everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. You also might have dreamt of starting your own venture and being wildly successful. In fact, there is nothing wrong in desiring to strike out on your own and becoming your own boss.

But it is not a path meant for everyone. Most of the times, for an entrepreneur to become successful, the right combination of internal drive and external circumstances play an important role. And not everyone wants that kind of risk in their lives!

In the coming days, organizations will prefer people who have the spirit of entrepreneurship within them. This is an important quality which has been cultivated through deliberate action by many successful executives. By thinking like entrepreneurs within organizations they become intrapreneurs.

These intrapreneurs are often the superstars you hear about. They are the leader who grow quickly through the ranks and also inspire people around them to push boundaries. And organizations will want more of them!

So what is needed to develop this entrepreneurial mindset?

Take Ownership – Become accountable for whatever projects you take up. Act with the firmness of a person who has invested a personal stake in the project. You will become much more focused and effective.

Have a Vision – Setup a personal vision which tells you where you wish to be in 20 years. Remember this requires commitment and perseverance. Take up projects which enable you to move closer to your vision. This thinking will help you streamline your activities and increase your productivity.

Use Networking to Build Your Business – You already know this. In fact, the knowledge that networking helps is known to all of us. What is missing is the drive to take action in this regard.

Keith Ferrazzi in his book ‘Never Eat Alone’ says “A network functions precisely because there’s recognition of mutual need. There’s an implicit understanding that investing time and energy in building personal relationships with the right people will pay dividends. The majority of “one percenters” are in that top stratum because they understand this dynamic—because, in fact, they themselves used the power of their network of contacts and friends to arrive at their present station.” 

Look for New Markets for an Existing Product – Businesses often become stuck in their old way of thinking. That is why they need people who can think outside traditional boundaries like sector, speciality and industry. Opportunities always open up to those who look for them. Learn to look out for markets which are untapped and ignored by the competition.

Once you start practicing these behaviours, you will quickly gain the momentum and agility of an entrepreneur and start making inroads into much beneficial projects.

Expert View

Even top HR heads across sectors agree that these traits will determine your readiness to be hired. Abhijit Bhaduri,Chief Learning Officer of Wipro says “2015 will be the year of agile innovation, learning and careers. Speed will be the single largest determinant of success, and businesses will have to deal with increasing levels of complexity in the race to grab market share. Such business environments demand people who have deep expertise and who can continue to learn by listening to early signals.”

So what are you waiting for? Get cracking and start working on your skills today!