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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

Working Smart

"I like to work smart, not hard."

I've used that phrase many times during conversations I've had about the merits of working hard, but it has sometimes been misinterpreted; "I like to work smart" doesn't mean I believe working hard is a bad thing or that I don't like to do it, and anyone who's ever worked with me can attest to the fact that I work very hard to accomplish my objectives.

I've simply always thought working smart means taking the time to understand what you need to do (and the best way to do it) before you start working hard.

To use a concrete example, let's say you were responsible for removing a brick wall. Upon being given the task, you could get right to work and spend a full day pushing against it... and you'd likely accomplish nothing.

Or you could take few moments to think about the best way to accomplish your goal... and realize an hour spent visiting your nearest hardware store and buying a good sledgehammer would be time and money well-spent.

The first approach is working hard. The second is working smart.

At least, that's what I believed before Atomic Habits author James Clear shared a powerful insight in his The 3-2-1 Newsletter:

"We need to redefine "hard work" to include "hard thinking." The person who outsmarts you is out working you. The person who finds shortcuts is out working you. The person with a better strategy is out working you. Usually, the hardest work is thinking of a better way to do it."

"Working Smart" isn't different (or even better) than "Working Hard"... working smart IS working hard!

I hadn't thought of it that way before, but it's absolutely true. And Clear's way of articulating this idea is much more... clear. (Sorry, it was unavoidable.)

Those who choose to act before understanding why they're acting risk spending finite resources pursuing unnecessary activities or pursuing necessary activities inefficiently.

Thinking time isn't a waste: it's a force multiplier.

So we can continue to celebrate working hard.

But let's also ensure our collective definition of hard work includes working smart.


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