Work Smart, Not Hard - 40 Things I've Learnt in 40 Years

Work Smart, Not Hard - 40 Things I've Learnt in 40 Years

The older I've grown, the less I want to work. The hard kind, at least. Don't get me wrong: I love the work I do and I'm a very hands-on person, but I've paid some dues and am throttling back. Years ago, it was cool to work hard, doing the things I loved to do for just a pittance; right now - not so much.

Many of you might be familiar with Pareto's 80/20 principle - get 80% of your work done with 20% of your resources. I want to use as little energy as possible to get the most results. It's efficiency, plain and simple. For me, it is a transition from being effective to being efficient; or better still: effective and efficient.

Effectiveness is the easy part. As a young business owner barely out of my teens, it was important to me to be in the trenches with my crew. That was my leadership style, and besides, everyone was older than I was and I felt uncomfortable barking orders to them. It didn't help that I was a perfectionist. It was easier to do it myself and get it right, sometimes. But with a growing scope of responsibilities, I cannot be everywhere at the same time. That is where mentoring, delegation, and succession planning come in.

To work smarter, you should focus on the big stuff; things that will make the most bang - the rest will follow. In the same vein, you have to manage your time differently - spending more time on the things that will produce the biggest result, not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing. Not every battle needs to be fought to win the war: pick your battles.

I'm not 100% motivated 100% of the time, and I'm pretty sure the same goes for you as well. Motivation comes and goes like waves - when you have a nice big wave, ride it all the way. After it's crested, you don't need to spin your wheels because you'll be spending a lot more of your energy for little return. Besides, another wave will certainly come again; the downside, however, is that you may not know when the next one will be, or how long it will last. But if you're resourceful enough, I'm sure you can make your own waves...

In my experience, there's almost always a better way to do any given task, and I'm always looking for that. I don't want to spend energy I don't need to be spending. Don't restrict yourself to a method just because that's the way it's always been. In several jobs I've had my supervisors would get frustrated with all the 'why' questions I had. But I needed to know why I was doing any given task in the context of the whole. That perspective also give me ideas to streamline processes.

There are two kinds of people: those who work hard and those who work smart. Those who work hard measure their success in the number of hours they work and hope it reflects in their paycheck. Those who work smart measure their success in how much discretionary time they have available. That's the kind of guy I want to be! I'm sure many of you were either told or made to believe that you had to 'pay your dues' in hard work, and the only reason for that was 'because you have to'. No you don't!

I have no interest in working hard only to find that I don't have the time to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I want to have a work-life balance that keeps me excited, energized and enthusiastic. I want to work in my retirement because I love what I do and it keeps me young.

Take a moment to think today what message you're sending to kids by your words and actions about life and work. Are you teaching them to work hard or work smart?

I dunno 'bout you, but as for me, the only thing I'm going to work hard working smart.