Don’t work hard; instead, work smart. You’ve probably heard this piece of advice from someone or maybe told it to someone. Either way, working isn’t all about sweat, blood, and tears, as well as putting in countless hours of overtime work to beat a deadline and achieving more than your peers.

While working hard is a positive value, there are people who espouse working smart more. They argue that making use of the right strategies can help you achieve your objectives more easily and efficiently. It’s when you make the right choices or decisions such as how you prioritize your workload or how well you spend your time in each task given to you.

So, who wins then? The hard worker or the smart worker? Essentially, you should be working hard and working smart at the same time, as productivity and efficiency go hand-in-hand.

To help you do that, here are some time and priority management tips you should keep in mind.

  1. Begin your day or week with a to-do list.

As basic as it is, only a few people are making their to-do lists correctly. Instead of sticking post-it notes all over your station, keep all of your plans on a sheet of paper together with their corresponding deadlines.

Since the objective of having a to-do list is to help you plan your day and focus your mind on tasks that need immediate to regular attention, you might as well incorporate the 80/20 rule to your workload to decide what to include on your list.

This rule proposes that you focus first on the most crucial 20 percent of your workload to get 80 percent of your intended results—with the remaining 20 percent being the commencement and culmination of the task, event, or project.

  1. Limit the times you check your inbox.

Each email you receive could be a possible source of distraction, especially when you try to open them as they arrive, or respond to a few now and then to reduce pending emails in your inbox.

Before you know it, your focus has been disrupted, and your current task is affected. Decide the times to check your email in the morning, at midday, and before getting off from work, and schedule your email alerts only at those times.

If you cannot discontinue the practice of checking your email constantly throughout the day, at least decide what you’re going to do with it. You may include it as an item in your to-do list, file relevant data or information, delegate as needed, or send to the trash bin.

  1. Keep interruptions to a minimum.

While working on a certain task, adopt a do-not-disturb rule for other people in your team to follow. This means that unless their queries are downright urgent, they should let you do your work without any interruptions. Otherwise, you could lose several precious hours tending to someone else’s concerns, with your own projects or assignments taking a backseat.

You could also get sidetracked with what you’re working on if you keep entertaining others’ requests for assistance or guidance.

  1. Check meeting agenda beforehand.

You know how meetings take up a lot of time and the realization sinks in so much more as soon as you head back to your station – when you see that most of your tasks set for the day have remained undone.

When you receive notifications for meetings, check immediately if there’s a clear agenda. Then, determine if the agenda calls for you to be there.

If you’re not sure why you’re needed for the meeting, clear it up with the concerned person right away and make the necessary preparations ahead.

  1. Reflect on your day.

Before heading out the door, take at least an hour to review everything that happened that day. Use that time to also plan ahead for the next day, and check if there are any upcoming meetings or deadlines.

Doing all these should psyche you up as you come to work the next morning fully prepared since you are well rested that night.

  1. Take advantage of project and time management apps/tools.

Technology has been most useful in the workplace, and there is now a slew of apps specifically for the purpose of helping you stay on top of your schedule.

With time and project management tools, all aspects of project planning and time budgeting including checklist making, monitoring of tasks, team collaboration, file sharing, and the likes can be streamlined so that it’s easier for you to organize in those areas. You can also automate tasks with a few clicks here and there.

Working smart and working hard at the same time is doable. You could start by practicing the principles of time and priority management at work as outlined above.

Ultimately, you need to remember that you may not be able to finish everything in a day, but what you can do is to start each day with a fresh perspective, knowing that you got everything figured out even before you start your first order of business.