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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

3 Tips to Help You Work Smarter, Not Harder

Written By: Carol Roth | Comments Off on 3 Tips to Help You Work Smarter, Not Harder

hard workOne major challenge that many small businesses and solopreneurs face (especially when they work from home!) is disorganization. They may have put in a full day ‘working’, but at the end of it, they’ve got 6 projects at various stages of completion, but nothing finished. So, if this is something that you struggle with, here are a few tips to help you work smarter, not harder:

(1) List it
One complaint (or rather, excuse) that I hear all too frequently is that ‘I work X hours a day (insert some number less than 24 but higher than an average 8 hour work day) and I just can’t complete this project on time’. But the real issue isn’t a lack of time, it’s the time they spent on the wrong tasks.

So, if this sounds like you, before you start your work week, make a list of absolutely everything that you need to do, from the smallest task to the biggest project to each meeting or appointment. When your mind is racing with everything that needs to get done, it can feel overwhelming and ultimately, may cause you to shut down altogether. Just the simple act of writing out all of your to-dos will free your mind to focus on your work and help ensure that no task or project slips through the cracks. Plus, there’s nothing better than crossing a task off of the list once it’s completed!

(2) Prioritize it
Once you have your to-do list written up, prioritize it! This is a major key to working smarter and where most people fall short. They’ll start working on a fun, new project that has a deadline in 3 weeks instead of completing the not-so-fun project due tomorrow.

So, take your to-do list and prioritize it according to the most pressing and time-urgent tasks first. Continue ordering your list with the tasks that generate revenue, garner new clients/customers and solve problems. All other non-urgent and non-revenue generating tasks should be moved to the end of the list (or ideally, delegated/outsourced to someone else, if possible!).

And as a bonus tip, if there’s a particular project or task that you’ve been dreading or procrastinating on that you can’t delegate, move it to the top of the list! Getting it out of the way first will take a load off of your mind, reduce your stress levels and make you more energized when tackling your next to-do task!

(3) Schedule it
After you have your list prioritized, schedule your time out accordingly. Plan out your schedule at the start of each week and be strategic about it. If you have to write a blog post and know that you are more creative at night, don’t schedule it as your first task of the day- you are setting yourself up for failure if you do so.

Set concrete time blocks for each task and if you have trouble sticking to a schedule, use a timer or alarm clock to help you. I personally use Microsoft Outlook for calendar reminders and list tracking. And make sure to schedule time for breaks, checking emails/social media, workouts, etc. These kinds of distractions are a major factor for those that feel like they don’t have enough time to complete their work, so blocking out specific periods of time will help eliminate the desire to constantly check social media accounts, etc. when you should be working on something more urgent.

What other tips do you have for working smarter, not harder? Please share them below.

*Disclosure- Carol Roth has a client relationship with Microsoft.

Thanks to Eric Levy of YourNeighborhood, Charlie Gasmire of Vendevor, and Nellie Akalp of for the inspiration behind some of these ideas.


Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth