A strong work ethic is something most small business owners have in common. After all, being an entrepreneur requires you to put in long hours and compromise on other areas of your life to get the job done. Or does it? While launching your own venture is never going to be a walk in the park, there’s no need to have your nose to the grindstone 24/7 in order to succeed. In fact, working non-stop for any length of time is a sure-fire way to land yourself in a state of burnout, which can set your business back considerably. Many of us have been taught that being a hard worker is a commendable trait to have. While this sentiment isn’t necessarily untrue, hard work can make it difficult for us to find balance. It’s for this reason that business owners are now beginning to adopt the mindset of working smart instead of hard. But what exactly does that mean and how can they achieve this? At its core, working smart is all about getting the same amount of work done in less time. This doesn’t mean working faster or taking fewer breaks, but rather involves a strategic approach to the tasks you need to complete. Get started with working smart today by implementing these five simple tips in your life. 1) Invest in the right tools According to research, small businesses are wasting an estimated 120 hours each year on completing administrative tasks. Admin needs to be taken care of, there’s no doubt about it, but as a business owner, you’re better off using your talents to find clients, market your services and expand your offering. Fortunately, there are ways to make admin a much quicker, less menial task. One of the most popular ways to do this is by using tools designed to improve business efficiency. Tools can help you to complete a wide range of administrative tasks, from sending out e-mail newsletters and posting on social media to organising payroll each month. However, accounting software proves to be a particularly popular choice amongst entrepreneurs. Businesses that invest in cloud based accounting software will enjoy benefits such as improved cash flow tracking, automated tax calculations, invoice generation and advanced reporting. This can take a huge weight off your shoulders, especially if you’ve been poring over spreadsheets every evening. 2) Focus on results All too often we measure a successful day’s work by the amount of time we spent sitting at our desks. However, a Stanford University study has shown that putting in long hours at work doesn’t mean you’ll be more productive. It’s for this reason that entrepreneurs must stay focused on results. Instead of setting yourself three hours to work on writing blogs and two hours on packaging orders, create a to-do list with specific tasks. Your priority should be finishing the list and ticking off the tasks that needed to be done one by one. Once you’ve finished these tasks, there’s no need to linger on them just because you have the time. If you spend too much time on a task, you’re more likely to finish your day feeling frustrated and tired, so make sure you keep moving on to maintain efficiency. 3) Remember to take breaks It might seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks is key to working more efficiently. After discovering all the ways they can save time by working smart, lots of entrepreneurs continue to put just as much effort into their business, if not more. But by doing this they’re falling into the trap of working both harder and smarter, which might increase productivity in the short term, but it won’t be doing much good for their mental health. Research shows that even the busiest of business owners can afford to take breaks, as a microbreak of just 30 seconds can potentially help boost your productivity by 13%. Just think about what resting for a few minutes every hour can do for your overall well being. And don’t forget, taking an extended break at lunchtime where you go for a walk and get something to eat is key to keeping your body healthy. 4) Avoid multitasking On the surface, multitasking seems to help you make the most of the time you have. It allows you to focus on more than one task at once, theoretically propelling you towards the end of your to-do list more quickly. But studies have shown that multitasking can result in a 40% drop in productivity, showing that it’s probably not the smartest use of your time after all. Multitasking is problematic because it diverts your attention from the task at hand, meaning you actually spend less time working and more time adjusting your focus. Doing lots of things at once can make us feel like we’re working hard, but it’s a much better idea to complete tasks one at a time. Not only does multitasking reduce productivity, but it also opens us up to numerous distraction. As you flit between your e-mails and your phone, it’s all too easy for your mind to wander. Try to remove potential distractions from your workspace and take your day one task at a time. 5) Develop a better understanding of yourself Working smart isn’t just about having the right strategy in place, it’s about your mindset as well. Everyone has their own preferred way of working, so it’s your job to figure out how you can adjust your routine to allow your natural strengths to shine. This could mean changing your working hours if you tend to get more done during the morning or in the evening, or it could mean digging a little deeper. For example, if you’re prone to procrastination, do you understand the cause? Studies have revealed that the causes of procrastination are varied, with 16% of procrastinators fearing failure and 8% having little confidence in their ability to complete tasks. Taking the time to pinpoint the reasons why you are being unproductive and unraveling unhealthy mindsets can make work feel less stressful, helping you to get more done in less time.