You don’t always have to work hard to be extremely productive.
Many Americans are hard workers. We built the Ford F-150, created the Craftsman wrench, and perfected coal mining. Americans work more hours per week on average than any other country in the world. (20 Something Finance) The problem is that simply working harder and harder has a law of diminishing returns: you can only work so hard before you start to crumble.
Is working hard a curse?
I’m all for working hard. I love putting in a full day’s work, especially as an entrepreneur. God created the gift of work before Adam sinned; it’s a gift, not a curse.
When you’re in a job you hate, it can feel like a curse. Part of that curse is that we think we have to work harder, put in more hours, and do things the way they’ve “always been done” without considering, “Is there a smarter way?”
A hamster on a wheel works very hard and goes nowhere. Work doesn’t always have to be hard if you can work smarter. A strong man can carry a large piece of furniture up a flight of stairs… or anyone can use a furniture dolly, save their strength, avoid injury, and carry the furniture even farther.
Tips for working smarter
Sometimes you need to work hard to enjoy smart work, like setting up a template system or scheduling a series of meetings. Abraham Lincoln once said that if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend four hours sharpening his axe. This echoes Stephen Covey’s 7th Habit of Highly Effective People: Sharpen the Saw. No matter what you do, full-time, part-time, or volunteer, there are several ways to improve the quality and effectiveness of your efforts through smarter work. Here are a few examples…
- TED.com has a fantastic series of TED talks about working smarter. Enjoy!
- If you travel a lot for work, why not create a standard packing list? Instead of spending 30-40 minutes before every trip thinking of what you should take, you can spend one hour creating a packing list and save yourself several hours from reinventing the wheel.
- Life hacks are a great way to learn simple solutions to everyday tasks and hassles. For example, wear sunglasses if you’re driving in the rain. It increases the contrast of the road and makes lane stripes easier to see. You’re welcome.
- Block out 15 minutes at the end of every day to do three things: review your day, preview the next day, and triage upcoming tasks. Refine the Mind has a fantastic list of Time Management Tips.
- How long does it take to think about a better solution? Two minutes? Ten seconds? Thinking of smarter work solutions doesn’t take as long as you might expect. Before starting a task, it’s worth asking yourself, “Is there a better way to do this?”