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Work Harder vs Work Smarter

Should you be working hard or working smart?

The answer is – BOTH.

happy female pointing up
Source Freepik

While they are not the same, they can definitely complement each other and make you an awesome and successful worker. By understanding what it means to work hard and to work smart, you can take the best from the both worlds.

Here is story that illustrates the difference between these two types of work:

A King had three sons. He wanted to see which of his sons was the most worthy of his throne so he gave them a task. They were to fill a room up with anything they choose, but once they are done, there should not be even a bit of free space in it.

The first son started to fill up his room with stones. He and his servants dragged tons of stones of different sizes and stuffed the room with them.

The second son decided to use hay. He and his servants slaved away day and night, trying to pack as much hay as possible into a room.

The third son spent his day relaxing in a bath, enjoying wonderful warm water and gorgeous scented oils. When the time came for his room to be inspected, he simply took one of the perfumes that he had and sprinkled the room with it.

Just like that, every inch of that room was filled with the irresistible Jasmine scent.

Did the third son work hard? In a way. He worked hard mentally and he came up with a solution that saved him time, effort and brought excellent results. That is what you want and that is what makes you a productive and smart worker.

What Does It Really Mean to Work Hard?

Usually, the idea of hard work involves getting up early to work and leaving long after the working hours. It involves long hours and even some sort of physical exhaustion.

Hard work equals the effort and the persistence. It is very valuable, but not always efficient.

You can work very hard and still achieve very little. How about cutting some wood with an axe that is not that sharp? You can keep it up for hours and your results will be quite poor.

The same is with hard work. On its own – it is not relevant. But when it’s used smartly – it is pure gold.

What Are the Key Points of Smart Work?

There are words which are usually attributed to Bill Gates:

I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.

Whether, this is a genuine Bill Gates quote or not, it is still on point when it comes to illustrating smart work. So, what is considered to be ‘lazy’ in this case?

There are several points that will help you get to the core of what makes smart work smart.

1. Creativity

Don’t try to solve the same problem in the same way over and over again. Be creative about it.

2. Life and Time Management Skills

Always educate yourself in every way possible. Become an expert in time management.

3. Manipulating the System

Being smart is all about looking for shortcuts. However ALWAYS stay within moral and legal boundaries. Otherwise you’re not being smart, you are being lazy with a dash of criminal.

4. Keeping the Eyes on the Prize

Can you find a shortcut if you don’t know where you’re heading? The same is with your work. You need to know your goal in order to be smart about it.

5. Know Yourself and Use It

Are you better under stress? Do you need complete silence to think? Figure out how you tick and use it to be more productive.

6. Have a Positive Attitude

Negative attitude won’t get you anywhere. If you don’t believe in what you do, is it really worth doing? Reconsider your work if you are negative about it.

7. Do Your Research and Be Proactive

If you plan ahead, you are giving yourself more opportunities to be proactive. If you are planning a trip, and you already know all the roads, turns and stops you are about to take to your destination, you can make some effort to make your trip better.

Knowing the road means knowing not to eat an extra cookie in your car, because you are about to have an amazing cherry pie at your next stop.

8. Delegate and Network

Meet as many people as possible. Meet as many amazing people as possible. Networking will allow you to learn, get new ideas and know what to delegate to whom. Working smart means not doing everything yourself. Leave the stuff that wastes your time to others who are better at it.

9. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

If you do have to. Reinvent it if you have to – There are reasons why people do things the way they do them. This means that your employer has reasons why they set up processes the way they do.

However, if a faster and a better way is obvious to you – go ahead and suggest it.

How to Get There?

A lot of people are born or nurtured into it. Doing things in the most productive and easy way comes naturally to them. Other people were shaped by their upbringing to be smart about their work. Lucky them.

But, if you haven’t been this lucky, it doesn’t mean that you cannot achieve this mind frame. You do accomplish a lot simply by introducing the SWOT analysis and SMART plans.

SWOT stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat.

Analysing your tasks using this frame will lead you to some very useful conclusions. Here is a video that explains how to SWOT.

Once you have your analysis, it is the time for a SMART plan. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

Here is a video on how to make a SMART plan.

With a little bit of practice, this type of thinking and acting will become natural for you, as well.

In Summary

While hard work is associated with physical work, smart work is associated with creative work.

In order to be more productive and more successful, you need to master some of the key points of smart work and understand the difference between working harder and smarter.

Two excellent ways to change your mind frame about your work habits is to use SWOT analysis and SMART planning as your go-to tools.

Still, don’t forget, just because working smart gets you results, it doesn’t mean that working hard is useless. The combination of the two is one of the habits common to the most successful CEOs and other professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Choose the word that completes the following sentence: “Smart work is associated with ____ work.”

a. Creative

b. Easy

c. Physical

2. SWOT stands for:

a. Smart Way of Things

b. Strong, Wise, Open-minded and Tough

c. Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat

3. SMART stands for:

a. Nothing. That’s just a characteristic

b. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound

c. Success, Management, Art, Revenue and Technology

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