I have been noticing this recent trend in thinking across the internet and in everyday conversations with friends and family, “You have to work smart, not hard.”
“Working hard isn’t smart.”
“For too long, those we love worked hard, I work hard, where has that got us?”
I’ve been pondering on this concept of ‘work smart not hard’, particularly the “I still work damn hard, and I’m tired as heck and ain’t got jack to show for all my hard work! So, what the heck have I done wrong?”
So, with this pondering, of course, I turned and looked to read and listen to interviews about successful entrepreneurs, actors, scientists, etc, etc. Let’s quickly cast an eye at the currently successful female pop artists – Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Rhianna, Lady Gaga. We all have access to their commentary about their successes – in videos on various social media.
Then in business, there are the Richard Branstons, the Elon Musks and we can name many more. Have they not noted the getting up early and the absurdly late nights, to get things done? They're working through illnesses to get a pr
oject through to the next stage. Having rejection from potential investors only to start from square one. I ask you, is this not working hard?
Is this not what we all do to accomplish our end goal? So what exactly does “work smart” really mean? And does “work smart” exist without working hard.
The value of any product or service is really measured by how much worth your audience or target market puts on that product or service. And that worth is quantified by how much your target market or audience attributes what they think they can gain from it and what they are willing to pay for it.
So you might put in less effort, time, and work to produce product A over product B, but the market is willing to pay over 10x for Product A, this does not mean you should be ashamed of this. It may just mean for Product A, this is all that is really required.
I believe working smarter requires several factors including:
(1) Networking. Working to meet the right people who can advise, support, or even act as a mentor.
(2) Knowing what the end goal is. Knowing and seeking out how to get there. Understanding how much work is desired to meet this goal(s).
(3) Looking for shortcuts – paying a specialist when your knowledge reaches its limits, knowing when to ask for help, using resources e.g. using a better software programme.
Looking for shortcuts is Not the same as cutting corners. To save time which could be better spent on something else is sensible. This is not to be confused with the cutting of corners, an example to note, the executives and high-level decision-makers of say Boeing (737 MAX planes) or Volkswagen’s emission scandal (2015) – and there are many more infamous cases like these.
There are projects, areas of work where the need to be a perfectionist and spending huge amounts of time are mandatory to get things right are worth it. But say, for example, a Business Studies student spends copious time on a presentation getting the graphics right and having entertaining commentary. Is this time and effort necessary or beneficial if the needed information should be on ‘how functional areas within a business are linked’ is not explained or is not the main focus of the presentation? The fancy graphics were not essential, and time would have been better spent on getting quality research for the topic to get maximum marks. That is working smart. It’s prioritising your time better.
(4) Manage your time well. Know the goals you definitely want to achieve and be realistic about the time required to achieve these goals. Creating a schedule for your tasks is necessary.
We live in systems. School is a system. Work is a system. Our home and family life is another system. Our friendship groups are another. By system, I mean a way of doing things’, a culture. This culture is written and unwritten values and codes of behaviour. Even our body is a stand-alone system!
To improve our chances of success we need to have a good working knowledge of the systems we are a part of. For example, I have an idea and I pitch it to potential investors but I’m not successful. The questions to ask maybe are, " did I research my potential investors to know what they generally look for?", "what grabs their attention?" "Do I know how these investors operate?"
Isn’t doing this type of research more worthwhile than spending endless hours on fancy graphics and fancy words.
Our actions on working smart 2020/2021 and beyond should include:
Have interruption-free spots of time.
Focus on what I need to do.
Switch of social media – I’m too addicted to some areas by far!
Break down large tasks into smaller more achievable tasks and tick these off as they are accomplished.
Take breaks but give them a time limit. Falling off the wagon at times is understandable and not a problem once managed.
Train my willpower in all the above – by keeping in mind I’d be disappointed with myself knowing that I have a great deal of control in all the above.
In the end, to be successful at whatever you are aiming at you have to work hard coupled with working smart. Working smart is just about being aware of the strategies mentioned above and making the effort to consistently implement them into the schedules of your life, adjusting when necessary.
Over and out!