I bet you’ve heard the saying, “work smarter, not harder” many times throughout your professional life. But have you ever really stopped to think about what it means? Or contemplated how to infuse “smarter” ways of working into your daily practices?
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on this as I find myself working quite “hard.” No matter the intensity of the job, I always do my best to practice what I preach by following five simple guidelines to working “smarter.”
- The 80% Rule: Spend at least 80 percent of your time on tasks that are directly tied to reaching your goals.
- Prioritize: Ruthlessly cut tasks which are not important. Then do it again. And again. Get the idea?
- Clear Your Head: Get as much out of your head as you possibly can and then funnel it into a reliable system. Ridding your brain of old ideas will make space for creativity. When in doubt, just remember the wise words of the famed neuroscientist, Daniel Levitin: “Your brain is for having thoughts, not holding them.”
- The 2x Rule: Never do the same thing more than twice without creating a process behind it. Automation equals freedom.
- Do “Sprints!” These are highly focused, shorter periods of productivity with breaks in between. The Pomodoro Technique is really useful, or you can view a list of other methods here.
You might be thinking, How does someone who runs a company centered around business efficiency still have trouble with work? Believe it or not, I, too, have to refocus myself, repeatedly prioritize, and constantly clear the clutter of my mind. For the most part, I’m a “smart” worker, but I still find myself working “hard.” Moving through the evolutionary process of growing my businesses has taught me three important lessons:
- Lesson 1 — Working “smart” and working “hard” are not mutually exclusive. It takes both to be successful.
- Lesson 2 — When you work “smarter,” your time and energy are freed up for the activities that really matter —the good stuff that helps your business grow. Have you been dreaming of the day when you can expand your business into other markets? Are you waiting for the right time to launch a new product line? You’ll have to make space for these things to happen.
- Lesson 3 — Business ownership is no joke. In fact, it’s flat out hard work, especially during the early stages of establishing a sustainable organization. Your business will naturally ebb and flow, which will require new product or program launches, team restructuring, or perhaps a total repositioning of your company. Stay open to it all. It will require hard work, but it will pay off.
I’m definitely in the middle of a growth phase where I have to find the balance of relying on the systems I’ve put in place while venturing into new territory that is not yet formalized. But I now know this discomfort will make me and my business better.
So, I’ve decided to embrace it.
On challenging days, I encourage you to be thankful for the abundance of opportunity and continue to work “smart.” Remind yourself that “hard” work is also part of the process and rewards are on the way.
How do you work “smarter?” Tell us your tips and tricks for times of transition in the comments below!