If you’ve never heard the phrase, “work smarter, not harder,” before, here’s what it means: when you learn how to prioritize your tasks and make the most out of the time you have for each one, you’ll become more efficient. You’ll do more and do it better. The opposite of this would be to throw yourself into each task without a clear plan of action, allowing yourself to get distracted and thereby getting very little done.
Working smarter is a life skill that young entrepreneurs should master in high school. It will make your life a lot easier in college and beyond.
Ready to try it? Here are some ways to get started.
PRIORITIZE BY DUE DATE
Why work on something that’s not due until the end of the month, when you have several projects due this week? When you ignore the most urgent tasks, you set yourself up for panic later. That leads to a half-hearted rush job that certainly doesn’t showcase your talents.
Make use of the calendar app on your phone to set a reminder for all your due dates. If you don’t like the calendar app, download a free one. Most calendar apps allow you to create several notifications for the same task. Give yourself plenty of time to work on projects in the order in which they’re due. For you young entrepreneurs, especially, this means carving out a little bit of time each day to move the needle on your business.
MUTE YOUR DEVICES
Schedule a block of time for yourself – say, an hour – each day when you put all your devices on mute. Phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, watches, whatever. This way, you can focus on the task at hand without losing focus. How bad are distractions when you’re trying to work on something important? Pretty bad, actually. Even hearing that ping can refocus your attention as you wonder what’s going on. That’s why you should completely mute – or, better yet, turn off completely – all your devices for a set amount of time per day. All those notifications will be there when you’re done.
LEARN TO SELF-MOTIVATE
Not everyone wants to do homework after school. We know. We get it, really. We also know that young entrepreneurs like you are already super busy preparing for the college admissions process. Sometimes you just need a break. And it’s fine to take one so you don’t burn out.
However, don’t let breaks turn into avoidance. If there’s work to be done, you need to do it. Do whatever it takes to pull yourself out of the rut and get to work! Self-motivation will look different for everyone, but some ways to get pumped up include:
- Do some light exercise, even if it’s just touching your toes and standing back up a few times
- Have a big glass of cold water
- Take a quick shower
- Read some inspirational quotes
- Eat some protein, such as a handful of almonds or scrambled eggs
HOWEVER, DO TAKE BREAKS WHEN YOU NEED THEM
Our brains are not designed to work non-stop. All-nighters are things of the past. When you feel yourself start to lose focus, it may be time for a break.
Your mind and body use fuel to function. That fuel comes in the form of rest and food. When you start seeing double, when you find yourself reading the same sentence over and over again, when the numbers in the budget of your small business no longer make any sense to you, it’s time for a break.
Short breaks of 10-20 minutes are great during the day or in the evenings when you’re studying or doing piles of homework. During those breaks, you can refuel with healthy food choices, moving around, or meditating. And of course, you need regular breaks every night, too.
ORGANIZE YOUR WORKSPACE
Organizing your workspace doesn’t mean throwing everything away. It means giving everything a home, so you always know where to find it when you need it. This will save you an enormous amount of time during your day. How can you work smarter if you’re spending minutes per day clearing off your desk before you sit down to do homework? An organized workspace will help you stay focused and get more done in a shorter amount of time.
You don’t need to spend lots of money on fancy organizational tools, either. A few bins of varying sizes can do the trick. The point is that you know where everything in your workspace lives, and then you put it back there when you’re done using it.
LEARN TO SAY NO
We know it’s tempting for young entrepreneurs to take on every job they’re offered. The more you do, the better it looks on your applications, right? Not necessarily. Your resume will look better if you show dedication to a select few activities, rather than spreading yourself so thin that you only scratch the surface of many activities. Think quality, not quantity.
We know it can be challenging for teens to set and enforce boundaries, especially with adults you respect. And sometimes the thing you’re being asked to do sounds really fun! Choose a few of these phrases and practice saying them out loud until they roll off your tongue:
- Thank you so much for thinking of me, but unfortunately, I can’t right now
- I’m sorry, I have prior commitments that need my attention
- I’m afraid I can’t right now, but maybe next time
- You are so kind to ask, but I really can’t take on more work at the moment
- I’d love to, but right now I’m booked solid
As we said before, learning the gentle art of working smarter, not harder, is a life skill. Once you arrive at college, you’ll be bombarded with invitations to clubs, groups, and activities. You’ll also be completely responsible for getting your work done on time. By teaching yourself smarter work habits now, you’ll crush your freshman year like the brilliant young entrepreneur you are!
Will you be one of the next recipients of a Kantner Foundation college scholarship? If you are a Florida high school entrepreneur, click here to learn more!