working hard

Why You Should Work Smart Not Hard: 4 Ways To Do It

We’re often told that hard work gets us ahead. That’s true to an extent – if you put effort and focus into something, you’re going to achieve more than if you go at it in a half-hearted way. But it’s all too easy to get sucked into working long hours, ticking tasks off a list, without being all that effective or successful.

Instead of just working hard – putting in lots of hours – look for ways to work smart.

Why?

Because smart work means you’re more likely to reach your goals. Sadly, it’s all too possible to work hard without any recognition and without achieving success. Sure, you might be up to date with all your emails … but that might not bring you any nearer to winning a promotion, or to starting your own business.

Plus, when we’re working hard, other areas of our life get neglected. Maybe you’re working long hours but eating poorly and never exercising. It might not seem like such a bad choice now, but when you run into health problems a few years down the road, you’re going to wish you’d found a better balance.

Working too hard can have a really negative effect on your quality of life, too. Long hours and the pressure to keep doing more can lead to stress, burn out, depression, or just that miserable feeling of is this all there is to life?

So how can you get away from the mindset of working hard and start working smart?

1.    Get Help

Yes, you might want to get to the top and say “I did it all myself.” The truth is, to succeed, you need to let other people help you. Read the acknowledgements in any bestselling book, and you’ll see the author giving credit to a whole host of supporters – editors, agents, friends, family.

Help can come in all sorts of forms. It might be emotional support. It might be someone taking care of the cooking or the housework so that you can focus on work. It could have a direct relation to your work – either by delegating tasks which don’t use your skills to the full, or by getting advice on an area which you’re struggling with on your own.

2.    Rest More

I’m always a bit iffy about stories of people functioning on three hours sleep while they build their business empire. Sure, they might achieve something great – but I always wonder if they’d have done even better with a full night’s rest.

If you’re doing anything remotely creative or which requires concentration, you’re not going to be at anywhere near 100% if you’re not resting enough. That doesn’t just mean getting a good night’s sleep – it also means taking time off to relax and play. This isn’t “wasting” time – it’s ensuring that you can be on top form during your working hours.

3.    First Things First

“First Things First” is one of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits” in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It means taking care of the most important things in your life before turning to the rest.

If you tend to prioritize by urgency – dealing with whatever comes in by email or by phone – then find a way to structure your day so that your important work gets done first. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a single focused hour at the start of the workday, when you’re feeling fresh and motivated.

4.    Limit Your Goals

Of course, if you’re going to put first things first, that means knowing what’s really important. Chasing multiple goals at once isn’t usually a good strategy. You might be able to manage it if your goals support one another (e.g. “eat more healthily” might give you the energy for “launch my business”), but having lots of goals generally diffuses your attention.

Rather than trying to do everything at once, pick one or two key goals for each year, and focus wholeheartedly on those. It’s much better to actually accomplish a dream than to have a vague stab at lots of different things … only to end up making very little progress.

Have you got any tips to add on working smart, not hard? Let us know in the comments…

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  • http://sharemyp0int.blogspot.com Moutasem Al-awa

    Totally agree, its the same concept of Quantity versus Quality. If you spent 8 working hours with a superior quality, they are more productive than 16 hours with low quality.
    This is applied to different jobs and careers, my current experience comes from IT companies and development work. As we say we need developers not programmers (Think more than they write).

  • http://fithappyhealthy.com Anita

    Ali – I agree with all 4 points. It’s so easy to get carried away as you say, in just ticking tasks off, but at the end of the day it’s results that count.

    I find that most people have a big issue with number 2 on your list. For some reason we feel very guilty if we are getting adequate rest – 7-8hrs of sleep a night plus regular breaks during the day. Yet sleep is the most important recovery period for our brains and our body.

    There’s an increased movement towards work — life balance now especially amongst entrepreneurs, which is great to see.

    I see you mentioned Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – awesome book.

    Another one that’s a must read if ‘working smart’ is the goal – is “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. It talks about how to be fully engaged into anything we do.

    Great post – thank you for the reminder that we must pay attention to quality rather than quantity. It’s so important for a healthy mind and body…

  • http://lookingtobusiness.com Daniel M. Wood

    4 very important points.
    A successful life doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t in shape to enjoy it.

    Finding that right balance between work, relaxation and time spent with family and friends is crucial and all to many make the mistake of skimping on that which doesn’t drive their business forward.

    I have done it myself, I only recently realized that the most important things in my life is spending as much time as possible with the people I love.
    When I write it, it sounds so stupid, but you get blinded by your greed and ambition.

    This realization has made an enormous difference in my life and both privately buy also in a business point of view, I am doing a lot better with my job, my blog and other projects because I give them less time and only give them “smarter” time.

  • http://www.unfoldingdestiny.com Numair Qureshi

    Ali,

    I liked your concept of working smarter instead of harder. Working “hard” doesn’t necessarily give you an edge over anyone else. The thinkers of society are the ones who find ways to make life easier for everyone else.

    I read a book called the Lazy Way to Success which talked all about it. It basically said that nature follows the simplest plan possible. If you throw a baseball into the air, it will come straight back down instead of looping all over the world in order to fall in the same spot.

    People equate hard work with progress.

    Hard thinking will produce greater results than hard work ever will. Intelligence helps us work smarter.

    And, the person who uses his or her intelligence to make life easier for others will surely receive the accolades.

    • zeppelin

      sure but the problem nowadays is nobody is willing to train. nobody will teach you anything. And if you dont learn a thing immedietely than they consider you to be to slow to teach. Yes using your brain is important and concepts that make life easier are wonderful, but i have seen people who have an idea use their understanding to use others. For example i had a general manager who throughout the day would  do two tasks. he would work on the computer and he would help the servers bring plates of food to the guests. When he would leave at 5 or 6 he would act exhausted like he had been running the show all night. like he had contributed so much effort and work getting stuff done. And yet it was the work staff  who would run around like chickens with their heads cut off who were getting stuff done, who were taking care of customers, and who were on the verge of having a nervous breakdown. The last restaurant i worked at my job was to sweep the parking lot, mop the entire restaurant, clean the bathrooms, food prep, salad station, and dishwasher all rolled into one. how much did i make? was it $50,000-$60,000 like my “exhausted ” boss? no. i made $8.50 an hr. If my manager did what i do for 2 months at the wage i do it at he would quit in 2 days. 

  • http://www.personaldevelopmentworld.com/ pdw

    This is a great post and I agree with all your points. In addition to these points, you could also include engaging in some form of meditation, goal setting, and visualizing your goals. These are good for facilitating the process of working smarter rather than harder.

  • http://nlp-way.com Ben Tien

    Well, nowadays are smart work era! Then, working smart means that for any activity, business or otherwise, there has to be a plan. You should first be clear about what your objective or goal is and work towards achieving that goal. Success can seldom be achieved without a proper plan. Your own plan will help you achieve your goal.

  • http://www.asparkstarts.com Frank

    This was right on time for me.

    I know you guys have heard the story of the two lumberjacks racing to cut the most logs. The first lumberjack started immeadiately working frantically. The second lumberjack sat down on a stump and started sharpening his ax.

    The first lumberjack became tired from all the energy he had to exert to cut the wood. While the second lumberjack would cut some. Then sharpen his ax some more.

    The second lumberjack won the race by working smarter.

    Thanks for making me recognize I am the first lumberjack. LOL!

  • http://budurl.com/qgnv Francesca

    I always thought that doing things on your own and being recognized for all the efforts you have given is going to be all worth it. Somehow, it is. However, when you are drained because of the double effort you put in, how will you savor and enjoy your success. I guess, I should tell myself these 4 things over and over as I am one who tends to “work hard” and should really “work smarter”.

  • http://NOPsites.com Real Estate Investor Website

    #3 and 4 hit home with me. I work 7 days a week. And I’m OK with it because were very busy but I find myself wasting time with tasks that others should handle.

    Chris

  • http://www.planetnaveen.com Winning Ideas

    Point # 4 Limit your goals is interesting and thoughtful.
    Goals should be flexible and dynamic. Well written article.

    Naveen@WinningIdeas

    A popular post on my blog.

    25 tips for becoming super performer in your job

  • http://www.guyfarmer.com/communication Guy Farmer

    Valuable tips. It’s amazing how much energy we put into living in chaos when we could enjoy our workplaces or lives much more if we learned some basic skills to help us along the way. I’ve found that effective communication makes our lives easier, for example. When we learn how to tell others what we need and listen to their needs we save a lot of time. It also feels good to have fewer misunderstandings.

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  • http://www.prismsuccess.com Kim Jehn

    Great article! Many people get caught up in one way of doing things and cannot deviate. Which is why it is important to be open to change so that you can implement new habits. There really is a way to reduce stress and increase productivity at work without diving into a psychology. Simple and effective time management tools can do the trick.

    I teach a workshop on this topic, called WORK SMART, Not Hard! based on a little paperback book written by Jane Schulte. We also have 4 recorded webinars which go through the WORK SMART tools and help you implement them. http://www.prismsuccess.com

    Follow my Tweets @SmartAtWork!

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    It really a useful idea.I will have a tiral of this idea as soon as possible as have already frustrated by burberry dresses and burberry men for a long time.Thank you very much for your continously post of effective tips.It really do me a great favor.if you have more information about burberry online shop can you tell me and i also like hermes bags,my boyfriend want me to buy wholesale replica Handbags but i can’t find a shop that sell replica hermes,as i always want to be a burberry women before and i search burberry outlet online for a long time, but i only get the result of burberry purse,then i Walk into marketing and marketing center, to find hermes sale,and i find a good display of hermes Handbags and hermes birkin bags, my sister want me to buy new burberry but i only find replica burberry it really drive me crazy!you know, next month i will marry with my boyfriend and i want to look some tiffany co jewelry and tiffany engagement rings, i search tiffany outlet shop for a long time they are all replica tiffany, so if you find good tiffanys jewelry and pandora jewellery or pandora jewellery beads also cheap nfl jerseys or jersey supply and religion jeans, you can leave a email to me! thank you! Hermes Scarf Hermes Scarves burberry coats nike air max 2011white air maxnike griffey max burberry sweater burberry woolscarf true religions jeans true religion jeans outletbears jersey blackhawks jerseyken griffey shoes
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  • 781283845

    just do  it

  • sunil

    After reading the post, I felt a lot clarified on how to work effectively. Especially  the phrase “It’s much better to actually accomplish a dream than to have a vague
    stab at lots of different things … only to end up making very little
    progress” made me clear about the way you should think. Thanks for the post

  • Kiran 420

    I ‘ll do it

  • Hridya sawant

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  • reality check

    Number 4 – “limit your goals” is incorrect. you need to have a variety of things on the go to stop you from getting bored and losing focus. Dividing your time between  a FEW projects, which you have previously identified as the most important to your success is the most effective way to work. It allows you time away from each task, which means time for your brain to think about things on a subconscious level. Also it’s better not to have all your eggs in one basket in case the environment outside your control changes leaving you with a wasted year spent on “one or two” goals.

    No 3 can also be a poor way of working for some people.  Like athletes we need to warm up our most productive muscle – the brain. So diving into the most difficult tasks when you’re half asleep first thing in the morning is often pointless and actually disheartening when you are fighting the sluggishness of 8 hours of sleep (or more – see number 2). Mid-morning is a good time to schedule important stuff. That’s right schedule it first thing so that you can mentally prepare for it – remember how runners prepare before a race…

  • http://www.birthdayslam.com Jeff Robinson

    All great points that we all overlook. I wrote a piece today here that I hope you and your readers enjoy:
    It’s a bit like getting to the top of a sand hill. You take a few paces back and then run at it. As you climb, the sand gives way under your feet and every step you take barely gets you higher. Exhausted, eventually you reach the top only to find a group of people there who had climbed up before you. None of them looks the least bit breathless. You ask them their secret and they tell you they used the steps. In your eagerness to climb the top of the hill, you never checked if there was an easier way to get there. 

    Read more here:
    http://contrariansmind.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/work-hard-work-smart/ 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VGYEYMCKGHMTXTE4W4FMTMZVR4 Arngrims_Blast

    shitty article. horrible advice. Hope no one listens to this and ends up ruining their life.

  • http://www.gigtask.com/ Fiverr clone

    I  think I like the “take a rest” part. i need a break! I just want an online job now, really.

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  • Rabu

    gud one… i agree

  • Hythedriel

    blah blah blah is all i read

  • Victor Ongoma

    I’m in total agreement; SMART approach to our duties and life at large is the way to go for a happy life. It all starts with responsibility and punctuality whereby we take necessary ACTIONS, and give creative THOUGHT to doing what is EXPECTED, within the appropriate TIME frame, and according to expected STANDARDS.

  • Fire-ice-air

    the workhorse rarely gets the promotion because, well he is just a workhorse. the smart employees get the promotion because they don’t act like robots.

    the thing is once you’ve agreed to do something for free (coming in on the weekend), your supervisor will expect you to continue this deed and when you’ve had enough, the supervisor will think you’re an asshole. weird concept but that’s reality.

    • zeppelin

      Watch the movie Zeitgeist:Moving Forward, and afterwards go to hell

  • Avato123

    Fully agree with you, it is often seen that smart working pupil tend to have higher positions in corporate sector rather then hard working pupil

    • zeppelin

      watch the movie Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, and then i’ll give you directions to hell so you can hang out with Fire-Ice-Air.

  • zeppelin

    It’s not about hard work vs smart work. The reason success is hardly ever attainable nowadays is because of the mindset we are in. There is no teamwork involved nowadays because you have the elitist mentality of “well im gonna work smart by using what i have learned to my advantage and watch while everyone else does the hard work” And then that leads to the second mentality of not wanting to teach people due to the fact that you wont have an upper hand when they have learned something. I always heard life and success depend on hard work and that is shit. it depends on knowledge. but the knowledge has to be taught and it isnt taught until its bought and its not bought until you have money. So there is a huge disparity between people who can pay for an education and those who cant. Then they spend the rest of their lives being fucked by the “educated” and the educated are said to be “working smart”  when it is basically watching others do the necessary hard tasks. But hey as long as we are in a monetary, materialistic system and society what else can be expected. Watch Zeitgeist:Moving Forward and you will see how invalid this entire article is. it is working on a premise and foundation that isnt even right to begin with.

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  • Someone else

    Referring to the lumberjack that sharpens his axe……if he had sharpened it the night before then he could have cut twice as many trees. The argument suits people with low aspirations.

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