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7 Ways To Work Smart Not Hard

Most university students and young professionals tend to keep extremely busy. Between classes, internships, extracurricular activities and even full-time jobs, there’s a lot to keep track of. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of things to accomplish in your day, it might be time to re-evaluate your work style. Learning to work smart and not hard will allow you to make the most effective use of your time, and become more productive and efficient in your daily tasks. The same skills can be applied to your studies and your internship, as well as any long-term projects or tasks.

Regardless of your industry or field of study, maximizing your productivity will help you to excel. Rather than putting in lots of extra hours, make the most of  the time you do have by setting time limits, prioritizing, and focusing on what matters most.

Here are 7 easy ways to start working smarter:

1. Prioritize

When you have an endless to-do list, it can be difficult to know where to start. It’s tempting to jump around from project to project or task to task. However, rather than getting more things done, you’re actually being less productive when switching from item to item. You’ll be less focused on each, and more prone to make mistakes. The best thing you can do for yourself during times like these is to prioritize. Go down your list and determine which items are most time-sensitive and most important, and tackle those first.


view from above of a desk with a cup of coffee, a croissant and an agenda

2. Ask questions

Good communication is key if you want to work smart not hard. When you are assigned a project at work or an assignment in class, ensuring you have a good grasp of the task is the first step. Asking questions at the outset not only avoids unnecessary delays in the future, it also ensures you won’t make as many mistakes. If you’re completing a task as part of a team, asking questions and communicating your progress is even more important.

3. Slow down

While it might be tempting to speed through your tasks as quickly as possible, this will hurt you in the long run. Moving too quickly through your work leaves lots of room for mistakes, which will require you to go back through combing for errors. Slow down, and do things right the first time. Moving more slowly will also allow you to think more critically about your work, and incorporate feedback from your peers.

4. Clear your head

Regardless of how much you love your job or your coursework, it’s important to take time to focus in yourself. Clearing your head at the end of the day will help you return to your tasks feeling more refreshed the next morning, and will help you avoid getting burned out. For many people, exercise is a great way to take your mind off of your daily tasks. However, if hitting the gym isn’t your thing, consider closing your computer and picking up a good book in the evenings, or going for a walk in the park.


a girl walking around her apartment with plants

5. There’s an app for that

Automation is key in today’s busy workplace. If you’re doing something by hand that could be done by a computer, it’s time to switch over. Whether you’re in the classroom or the office, make sure you aren’t doing things unnecessarily. If you are re-inventing the wheel every time you start a project, you’re wasting precious time. Familiarize yourself with the applications and processes that already exist in your field, and apply them wherever you can.

6. Log out 

One of the biggest distractions for any young professional is undoubtedly technology. It can be difficult to focus with notifications constantly popping up on your screen. If you’re in the middle of writing an essay and Facebook jumps in to remind you about your second cousin’s birthday, you’ll likely lose focus and spend an hour browsing your feed rather than writing. One of the easiest ways to work smart not hard is to log out of your social media apps on both your phone and your computer, or set time restrictions during the time you plan to spend working.

7. Take breaks

When you’ve been putting in hours on one single project, there will undoubtedly come a time when you can no longer focus. Rather than pushing through and opening yourself up for mistakes or low productivity, it might be time for a break. When you need to get up and grab a coffee, or take a walk around the block, do so. You’ll be more productive in the long run if you allow yourself to step away and return later.


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1. Reading Book Study Student, by Thoroughly Reviewed, CC BY 2.0

2. Reading Book Study Student, by Thoroughly Reviewed, CC BY 2.0

3. Home Office, by Thoroughly Reviewed, CC BY 2.0

Blog by Elizabeth Trovall

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

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