Are you banging your head against your keyboard on a project or task? Perhaps it is time to work smarter, not harder.
Get your team involved in problem solving
The other day I was talking a team member through a project she was helping to cover. As part of my status update, I said, "the next thing we have to do is A." She replied with, "why don't we just do B?"
Approach B was better and more elegant.
Involving other members of your team is such a crucial element in working smarter that I made it my first tip on this list. It is where the process starts and ends and permeates through my recommendations.
A great way to involve the team beyond simply asking questions is to hold team brainstorms. With clear goals and preparation for a brainstorm, the results will amaze you.
Determine the real problem
It is commonplace to throw a known solution or technology at a task. Why don't we instead take a step back and look at the problem as a whole?
Don't ask what report Google Analytics can spit out. Ask, what metrics and story do I need to tell and then let your solution adapt.
A great exercise to uncover the problem and get needed context is called the "5 Whys." In this exercise, you start with your current question and ask "why?" in repetition like a child. Repeat that one word question until you arrive at the root of the problem. Maybe you were solving for the wrong thing the whole time!
See how technology and automation can help you
While the last tip is a cautionary tale about unnecessary technology, please do not misunderstand. Technology is an amazing tool.
In taking over reporting duties for a client recently, we were able to reduce efforts in creating reports by HOURS simply by working with a developer to automate data and some of the readouts. The report is exactly the same as it was before, only it takes far less time to build.
If a task is taking a grueling amount of manual labor to accomplish, work with your team on a technological approach.
Take a break and come back
Have you ever struggled so desperately in figuring something out or in solving a problem only to wake up with an obvious answer the next morning?
Whether it be an extended rest or even just a 15-minute walk in the middle of a work day, taking a break is often the best way to work smarter and arrive at a new method of attack. You could spend hours banging your head against ideas that only a few minutes of downtime will help to activate.
Revisit work regularly
Problems, context, technologies, and trends are ever-changing. Just because you worked smarter today doesn't mean you can't work even smarter tomorrow.
The OODA Loop (observe, orient, decide, act) has its origins in the military but was adapted by the founding members of the Scrum agile framework. As you make changes to your process to become smarter, continue to iterate and refine your process by taking action and seeing how things evolve and change as a result.