Everyone wants to get ahead and find the edge that propels them to a new level of success. Time and hard work are two crucial ingredients to convert your dreams into reality. However, hard work is simply not enough to transform your results. In fact, research shows your productivity drops significantly when working beyond a certain number of hours in a single week.

Even if you could work 24-hours every day, there is only so much time to actually accomplish the needed tasks on your to-do list. So what's the solution? Instead of fitting more onto your calendar, experiment with ways to get more out of the same amount of time. Essentially the key to exponential success is to work smarter, not harder.

Here are eight ways to put time on your side and boost your productivity while spending the same amount of time (or less) building your dreams.

1. Set specific times to check your email

It's rare there's something in your inbox that can't wait a few hours. If something is incredibly urgent, the sender will find a way to reach you - like calling or tracking down your assistant. You can also leave an auto-responder on that lets the person know when you will be checking email and how to reach you for urgent matters.

Make it a daily practice to only check email 3 times per day. Get inspired by the detailed strategies Tim Ferriss uses to implement an email schedule in The 4 Hour Work-Week.

2. Delegate as much as possible

We like to feel like we're an important asset to whatever we're doing, and rightfully so. We all have unique talents and skills that set us apart from others in our fields. But have you taken a look at how you're actually using your time? Chances are good someone else can complete 90% of the normal, everyday tasks that don't require your expertise. This simple tweak frees up your time to focus on the other 10% of duties where you thrive. Map out a strategy to hand-off repetitive or monotonous tasks to a qualified assistant or colleague whenever possible.

3. Take breaks

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey describes the importance of "sharpening your saw". If you're cutting through wood, the more you work, the duller your blade becomes. At some point it's worth the short break to sharpen your saw before continuing. Otherwise your dull blade just slows you down and makes the job that much harder.

The same is true in business. Keep those lunch plans. Attend that social networking event to learn something new. Take the time to allow your mind and emotions to recharge.

4. Break your work into blocks

Our bodies and brains were not made to work continuously for hours on end. We eventually get bored if our surroundings and tasks don't change and end up losing focus and our work suffers. Find a resolution by breaking up your work into blocks of time. Make a to-do list and "batch" items that go together. Then determine to conquer them throughout different blocks during the day.

5. Plan and execute

Remembering the saying, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail". While it may sound clich, it proves true time and time again. Great business minds and entrepreneurs show repeatedly that designing a plan and writing down your goals leads to great success as opposed to winging it. Whether it's a plan for the day, your business' big picture, or a life plan, it's crucial to write down your plan if you want to be successful.

6. Evaluate your process

The best processes are the ones evaluated and tweaked often. We're big fans of A/B testing everything at When I Work. Technology and research are updated constantly and staying current with the times means upgrading your own process as well. At least one per month, look back on your results whether they're good or bad. For things that went well for you, follow its trail from beginning to end to find out what made them successful. And for the ones that went south, ask why and how you can improve the process for next month.

7. Work Hard, Play Hard

We do our best when focusing on one thing at a time. While this may seem less productive than multi-tasking, the truth is that the quality and efficiency of your work increases in correlation to your level of engagement. During work hours, protect yourself from distractions and time-sucking activities and stay fully engaged in your work. When you're at home or with family, allow yourself to experience the moment fully and leave work at the office.

8. Optimize Communication

Far too often, our communication becomes a time-wasting habit instead of a streamlined process. Instead, make it a habit to only contact others when needed, and keep things short and to the point. Eliminate pointless meetings and block out time for focused conversations instead. Respectfully set boundaries with your network and colleagues that your time is important and limited. Optimizing your communication will ensure efficiency and save everyone from interruptions and misunderstandings.

What are you doing to maximize your time and efficiency in work and life? Share your thoughts in the comments below: