“Work hard is the key to success.”
“If you want to be successful, you must work really hard to get there.”
“Anything can be achieved through hard work.”
At least once in your life, this sentences must have come up to your ears.
People always said this to everyone who wants to be successful, as if this is the universally proven success formula.
The question is, is it?
Before going deeper, we may discuss the definition of working hard first.
Working hard is when you do more tasks, works longer, and spends more energy.
But remember, according to that definition, working hard doesn’t mean you’ll produce more results.
See also: Best Brain Training Apps
You should acknowledge this.
But how can it be?
Our common sense says if we work harder then we should get MORE results.
Of course, it is true in most cases, but what I want to tell you is that doing hard work isn’t worth it in the long term.
Tale of The Average Joe
Just say that you are a middle-class worker striving to be a rich man. You work as a paper-pusher in your office and do a regular 9 to 5 activities.
You want to get more money, so you took overtime works and doing freelance jobs. And, of course, you get more money for doing overtime works and doing those freelance jobs.
You work late and go home when the street is no more crowded. You wake up with no desire to work, but you have to.
You drink your coffee to boost your metabolism so you can work harder that day.
From Monday to Friday you do that routine, or even you also take a side job on the weekend so you can get more money.
And, yes, you get more money.
Each month you save all those money, spend some of it to hang out with friends, buy some new gadgets you have craved, but no traveling because you simply don’t have the time.
Your income became larger because you work harder. And that means that you get more stressed because you force yourself to do something repetitively.
You drain out your body so you need more vitamins, more coffee, more tasty foods, and more gadgets to entertain yourself.
Alas, your purse doesn’t get fat.
You start to blame your boss for not raising up your wage, the government for not supporting workers, even you start to blame capitalism for not making you rich.
As Ron Alvesteffer already identified one the signs of “hard workers”:
You start to blame everything for which you have work so hard but life doesn’t appreciate you.
You get more bills each month because you have spend so much money just to relieve your stress caused by you excessive hard work.
Your body start to weakening, your mental health are not so good.
You end up in a hospital because you can’t afford a healthy lifestyle, which is caused by your preference to choose tasty foods and watching movies and playing games instead of working out, which is caused buy the stresses you gain from your office, which is caused by doing something over and over again without the desire to do it, which is caused because you choose to work hard.
This scenario will not happen if you don’t work hard.
“Are you crazy? If I don’t work hard, then I would not get more money, and I will not be a rich man ever in my life.”
If work hard is the main factor to become a successful man, then the blue-collar workers should be the most successful people in this world.
But that isn’t what happening, right?
The thing is, most people fail at seeing the world. They only see the world the way they taught to see.
No matter how smart people are, if they don’t see the big picture of this life, mostly they will fail at getting what they want.
You think if you want to be rich, you need to work harder than anyone else. The fact is, most people are like you, they also work hard, so what’s the difference between you and them?
If you want to be rich, think like rich people think. Most people wants to be rich, but instead of having a rich person mindset, people just having a rich person lifestyle.
Imitate their way of thinking, not their lifestyle.
Work smart, not hard.
Working smart is when you get more results from doing the same amount of works compared to others.
You think just because your company’s CEO always work late you can do the same thing and will be a CEO one day?
First, ask yourself, is he/she think the way I do? Is he/she spends his/her time effectively?
You don’t know how they think. You don’t know what they do in their room. You don’t know how they can be a boss while you are not.
You just know that both of you works from 9 to 5, hell, even you work harder than them.
Back to the tale of the average Joe.
After getting out of the hospital with a lot of bills to be paid, you go home. On your way home, you think deeply of what is wrong with our life.
Suddenly you became a philosopher sitting right next to the bus window in a rainy day.
You take a deep breath and start thinking. You start to see the world as a whole, in a different perspective.
You realize that all this time you’re not doing it the right way. You realize that if you live your life the same as your peers, most likely you will ended up like them.
Successful people are extraordinary people. They think extraordinarily, they made extraordinary decisions, and they ended up living an extraordinary life.
You start to brainwashed yourself. You start to forget what people told you about becoming a successful man.
You start to realize that if you took their advice, you will think just like them. An ordinary person.
Back home, you start looking information about how to be rich person on the internet. A thing that most people don’t do, because they ‘already’ know the formula of getting rich, which is to work hard.
You learn about how money were played in this world. You learn how those rich people can make a lot of money without the needs to work harder.
You even start to apologize to everything you blame back in the days.
You start seeing the big picture.
Business, investing, money management, and other things. You do it all.
You start enjoying the sensation of your purse becoming fat. You quit your work a year after you got your ‘revelation’.
You don’t need to do something you don’t like again and again. You are the boss now. Everything you do, you did it because you have the desire to do it all.
Any stress you got now, is a good stress. It makes you feel alive, it is part of challenges in your life.
Now, you have achieved what you want. You are a rich man who have no boundaries.
You are one step closer to becoming a superhuman.
Work Smart, Not Hard: The 31 Actionable Steps
Working smart means work effectively and efficiently. Don’t waste your precious time doing something, while you can do the same thing with less time and less energy.
Take a look at Greece and Germany. The average employee in Greece works for 2,017 hours a year, but they’ve been in a financial crisis for about four years now.
Meanwhile, in Germany, the average employee works for 1,408 hours a year, but they become the leading manufacturer of goods in Europe.
You see? Working harder and longer does not guarantee a higher productivity.
Follow the next steps to help you save your time:
#1. Take breaks during work
You need to take breaks to keep your brain focused on your tasks. Our brain can only keep its focus only for an average of 1.5 hours, and resting for about 15 minutes helps your brain refresh itself before intensely working again.
#2. Take a short nap
Naps can help you retain and recall information. Too many information can cause your brain to having burnout and forget it all, and napping helps your brain to make sure the information are placed in the permanent storage section.
#3. Create a schedule for your tasks
The problem with most people is that they spent too much time doing something that they shouldn’t do.
We procrastinate a lot during our lives, what we can do is to minimize it.
A schedule reminds you what to do and what not to do. Basically, it helps you to get out of your confusion when thinking about what to do next.
If you’re a classic guy, a small book is good enough to help you maintain your schedule. But, if you prefer to use an app, try Google Calendar, it’s pretty good.
If you want to be focus on what you’re doing and not distracted by other tasks, you may want to use a Kanban Board.
It’s a method used by the car manufacturers in Japan, and it’s effective in visualizing our work and in limiting our work-in-progress.
Read the full but yet simple guide at Neomobile’s blog.
#4. Know and set your priorities
What is it you want in this life? Career? Family? Passion? Make up your mind set a priority for them.
Allocate some time for them.
Having a lot of money is good, but having a lot of money without having the time to spend them is not good.
Why else bother having a lot of money when you can’t even enjoy it?
#5. Work based on your condition (don’t go to work if you’re sick!)
There is no point doing something mentally tedious if you can’t even think clearly. For an example, if you are sick, and you can’t think clearly, then you shouldn’t.
It’s better to take a day off rather than forcing it and ended up doing something awfully wrong.
#6. Always carry a notebook and a pen (or a note app on your smartphone)
Ideas often will come to us when we don’t expect it, so you better write it down before you forget what it was.
You will save a lot of time brainstorming in the office or try to recall that brilliant idea of yours.
Personally, I’m using an app called ColorNote on Android. It’s simple yet very useful.
#7. Spend time in nature in the weekend
According to Daniel Goleman, the author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, spending time in nature help you reset your attention span and relax your mind.
One experiment by him tells us that taking a walk in a city street doesn’t let your brain relax enough to reset your focus level.
However, spending time in nature, allows your mind to fully relax and helps you focus longer when you return to work.
Moreover, a research has also found that for students, motivation to learn is higher when they’re outside instead of in a classroom.
#8. Move a lot and work in blocks
Joel Runyon have a method of what he calls “workstation popcorn“. The idea is that you move to various places, such as cafes, workspaces, or pubs to get a small portion of the work done throughout the day.
First, create a plan for the day, break them into smaller parts of what you will accomplish at each location.
And then, move to the first place, do all the things needed to be done, and the move to the next location only after you finished the tasks.
It’s better to move when only you have done the tasks on a particular location rather than setting up a time limit.
Moving from a place to place is basically resting from the work itself, and resting is absolutely important, as the #1 step told us.
#9. Check your email first thing in the morning
Some people says not to check email right away. However, if you work in a team, this is helpful to make sure you are on the same page as everyone else in your team.
You can correct typos you just made, read the new blog posts, or making a quick decision for the day regarding the latest news in your office.
#10. Limit your time
Wait a minute? This the opposite of what Joel Runyon told us in the #8 step. He said we need to move on only after our tasks are finished.
Well, that step only works if you’re not a perfectionist. The thing with perfectionists is that they will spend a lot of time trying to do everything (including details) perfectly, regardless whether it is important or not.
If you’re a perfectionist, you might want to limit your time doing something. Otherwise, you will loss a great amount of precious time doing something much more important, like hanging out with your family and friends.
If you have only 1 hour to on a certain task, then do it only for 1 hour, and get over with it.
#11. Cut unnecessary activities (don’t do it if you don’t like it or it doesn’t have any benefits for you!)
Throw away activities that were not: productive OR fun OR urgent OR important.
You’ll be surprised how much time (and money in most cases) you just saved. Sometimes we do something not because we enjoy it or we need it, but because we will feel guilty if not.
For an example, you hang out with your friends every week, just because they are your friends, and feel that you’re not a good friend if you don’t hang with them.
If you don’t like hanging out with them for some reasons, then don’t. This is your life, take control of it.
Learn to say no.
#12. Know perfectly the objective of the task
Every task has an objective. The question is, do you know it or do you not?
People who don’t know the goal of a task is the one who waste the most time. By knowing your objective, you will be able to plan your day effectively.
The clearer you are, the better.
#13. Have a vision on HOW you will do your task
Now you know where you’re going, you need to know what it takes to achieve it. You need to know how you will achieve the objective.
Make a strategy for each day on how you will finish your task. That way, you save yourself a confusion on how to do things.
#14. Take the most effective route
There are many ways to do something with the relatively same outcome. Make sure you choose the one you like, or the one you’re good at.
By choosing the method you love or you’re good at, you save yourself from extra stress.
#15. Aim for the most important things first
There are many things to be done in to accomplish a task. Go for the one that have the highest impact.
For an example, if you’re planning on working out to get that beach body, you should concentrate in exercising, nutrition, and rest.
Don’t bother with the little details, such as the extra supplements, or when to work out, or when to eat your food.
Another example, if you’re going to write a book, aim for the writing itself, don’t bother waste hours of time just to create the perfect title or perfect cover.
Focus on the writing itself first.
Some details matters, but not significant in any way, so why bother thinking about it?
#16. Create a motivating environment
Motivation is like a wave, it doesn’t come regularly. Sometimes it will be gone, and then come back again.
To make sure you get a motivation every day, try to hang out with successful people. Change your desktop wallpapers with motivational posters you can search on Google.
Or, if you want to get motivated while exercising, you can listen to many exercise songs or motivational videos.
#17. Stop being a perfectionist
I used to be an absolute perfectionist. I need to do everything perfectly. Everything.
Then, a great headache struck when I was 10 years old. I didn’t finish my homework in time. From that day, I know that being a perfectionist in things that didn’t matter for my life is just not worth it.
You can still be a perfectionist, but only on things that you considers most important in your life. If you have a hobby of sculpting, you may want to be perfect at sculpting your sculpture.
But, why bother being a perfectionist doing an office task that nobody even cares about? After all, being a perfectionist in work details doesn’t guarantee that you will get a raise.
#18. Avoid multi-tasking
Multi-tasking is an effective way to waste your time and enhance your stress level. Your energy will drain faster if you’re multi-tasking.
Focus on a certain task, and change to another. Don’t do it at the same time. In another post, it is also told that multi-tasking will lower your brain performance.
#19. Don’t accept a bad job
Either you’re self-employed or you have a boss, don’t accept a job which you don’t like. The reasons are simple.
First, you would not enjoy doing it, thus increasing your stress level. Second, you would not be as productive as if you’re doing the right job.
Try to ask for another job that suits you.
#20. Invest in good things
Don’t buy cheap products when you can buy a decent one. Buying cheap products will just drag you down because they tend to have more problems.
And in the end, you will spend more money repairing it or buying a new product. A broken tool can drag you from doing productive works.
#21. Avoid procrastination
Follow the 2-minutes rule: Do something for only 2 minutes, and you will end up doing it for hours.
Browse social media sites for 2 minutes, and you will spend hours. Do your job for 2 minutes, and you will spend hours.
#22. Learn from the experiences of others
Sometimes, we think that we’re effective and efficient enough to do a job. We think that our method is the best.
Well, you may be right, but in most cases, it is not.
When I started to blog, I used to think that updating my blog regularly is far more important rather that creating a long and deep content.
Quantity over quality.
Then, recently, I know that I should focus on quality first. After all, I don’t have the resource to get this blog updated regularly.
I know this because I have learned from the experience of Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, the ultimate resource for getting traffic for bloggers.
You don’t have to experience all the things yourself, simply because you don’t have the time and energy to experience all things.
#23. Stick to something that works
If you always fail to do something, chances are that you should change your way of doing it.
However, if your current method works perfectly, don’t bother to change it just because other people do it.
You’re not them, and they are not you.
Some methods may work for them, but not for you. Some methods may work for you, but not them.
Some methods work for you and them.
Don’t force yourself to do something the way your peers do it. Be brave to do something in your own way.
The problem with our society is that a lot of people do things just because others are doing it. Don’t be like that, be genuine and know what’s best for you.
#24. Ask for help
If you’re good at A but not B, and your partner is good at B but not A, why not work together? You can do his/her A’s, and he/she can do your B’s.
Even if you don’t have something to be offered, chances are they will help you. Be nice to them, maintain your relationship with your partners, and you can get a job done without any frustrations.
If you can do things automatically and it works great, why the hell not?
For an example, you don’t need to check out all the emails in the morning. Set up a filter by labeling each kind of emails so you know what you need to read firstly and what you can read later.
This article by Leo Babauta is a good guide to set up Gmail filters.
Another example is, when I need to reduce the size of images I’m going to use in this blog, I will use a cheap software called JPEGmini to compressed them in just one click, instead of adjusting the quality of the images manually one by one in Photoshop.
#26. Hire somebody
Sometimes, the details of a task is important enough to be done, but it’s time consuming. If you’re a business owner, you may know that hiring a person to do low impact details is the best thing to do.
Don’t waste your precious time doing something that has low impact, when you can do another thing that much more important.
In some cases, some problems will solve themselves. Don’t waste your time doing things that are unnecessary to solve that problem.
For an example, when your partner promised you to deliver an email regarding a certain task, and he’s kind of late because there is no internet connection available on where he’s at, don’t rush him to send the email right away.
That might just broke your relationship with him.
Instead, do other productive things while waiting for the email to be delivered. Bothering about something will not change the situation in most cases.
#28. Choose your battles
When faced with problems, take a look at the problems for a moment. Ask yourself, is it worth it to spend your time to fix this problem?
If yes, then try to fix the problem. If not, then you can ignore the problem and pick another path.
As an example, you can fix your broken phone with $100 and two weeks to repair it. Or, you can just buy another phone for $300 and you can make a phone call in the same day.
If you think your phone isn’t important, then fix your broken phone. If your job requires you to stay in touch with everybody at any time, then it is much wiser to buy a new phone instead.
#29. Be flexible
When you can’t do a certain task for some reasons, don’t stop. Either you try to do it with an alternative method, or you get over with it and do other things that is also important.
By doing things differently, you might discover a more effective and efficient way. Just remember, most of the inventions in the world were made because the inventor tries to solve problems.
#30. Do a regular review
Do a review of what you have done in the past week. Then analyze the things that are working and the things that are not.
Stick with the working things, and find a way to solve the things that are not working. Doing a regular review helps you to avoid the same mistakes again and again.
It’s okay to quit when you know that something wouldn’t just work. When Steve Jobs knows that the LISA computer wasn’t going to have a great impact on personal computing that he had envisioned, he quit, and he created a different computer, the Mac.
It’s better to quit and start something new, rather than forcing yourself doing something that you know exactly just won’t work.
When you know you can’t succeed in the corporate career, simply because you don’t enjoy it, quit. Quit and start a new path, become an entrepreneur for an example.
So Here Is The Summary, What Do You Think?
Basically, there are three main things to remember when doing a smart work.
First, focus on doing the right things, not doing things right. You can use a car to go Rome, or you can walk to Rome.
Second, don’t waste time. If you have free time, then most likely you will ended up doing something unproductive.
Try to make yourself busy in the right time, or you will feel busy in your whole life.
Third, I never said that we shouldn’t work hard. This post is trying to tell you to focus on the “smart” things first.
Then, if you already doing the “smart” things, hit it “hard”.
Last, please share your problem with working smart, such as why you can’t do one of the tips above.
Tell us by leaving a comment below!
After that, share this work smart tips to your friends in the office so you can make a good team by working smart all together!