Today, I want to offer advice on how to work smarter not harder and how working smarter improves your life and standard of living.
Never Work Hard. Work Smart.
Labor is a natural part of life. Whether we work for a paycheck or to improve a skill, we have to exert our physical and mental capacities towards a goal.
There is dignity in work. By working, we create value, interact with our world, and gain the security and skills needed to become better individuals. When we avoid work, we fail to challenge our minds, bodies, and souls while dodging the need to improve, earn a living, and thrive.
Not all work is rewarding. Understandably, many of us (myself included) do jobs that we’re not passionate about, but we work to receive a paycheck. I want to explore this concept further, but the sometimes reluctant necessity of work does not undermine the virtue or value of labor. We should remain, as much as reasonable, proud and grateful for whatever employment we can get even if we lack passion or love for the job.
Therefore, the advice I offer applies to everything that we do: from cleaning to pursuing a craft or simply chugging away at a corporate office. No matter what you’re doing, my advice will help you perform better and succeed consistently at your work.
How to Work Smart
Working smart involves a few key components. For starters, we work smarter when we conserve more energy. Secondly, we work smarter when we avoid long-term pain (e.g., picking up boxes with your knees, not your back). Lastly, we work smarter when we save time and reduce any miscellaneous distractions.
The advice I offer enables anyone to succeed in these three work smarter goals.
Focus on the end – No matter what task we’re doing, there is always an end goal in mind. If we’re cleaning, our end goal is to have a clean home. If we’re managing a project, our end goal is to successfully finish that project.
By focusing on the end goal, we can keep our pace and recognize that there is an end to what we’re doing. When we see the end in our minds, we can also reflect on the pleasure that will come once we accomplish that objective. This practice is an excellent way to make it through dull or menial labor.
Have a firm understanding of what you do and don’t do – All work has set parameters. When we understand the boundaries of the task at hand, we are less likely to get distracted or allow a project to increase in scope.
For example, if you work in a corporate office and you’re assigned task A then you need to focus on task A. Task B doesn’t matter because that doesn’t fall within the parameters of your job. If you fail to set boundaries, then you’ll start doing task B which will take away time from completing your actual objective, i.e. task A.
Of course, if you’re able to finish task A then go to task B but ensure everyone recognizes your efforts. Never work without reward, whether the reward is money, a cleaner house, or an improved skill.
Always remember to set firm boundaries of what you do and don’t do so you can increase the effectiveness of your efforts.
Streamline everything and anything – Simpler tasks should be streamlined, so you can have more time and energy to accomplish larger tasks.
For example, if you do content writing then create a template that enables you to simplify the process. This way, you can easily fill in the blanks while still managing to write original content.
Another example: when I used to work at a burger joint, we would cook the patties mid-way then let them sit in a mixture of oil, water, and seasoning so they could remain juicy and be ready to go during a lunch rush. This enabled us to work faster and have many burgers prepared for the frantic lunch rush.
From creating quick meals to having outfits picked out for the week, there are many places where we can streamline our thinking and save mental energy towards more significant tasks.
Develop a routine – Routines are necessary because they free us from having to think. A solid routine enables us to operate on auto-pilot which saves mental energy for more significant goals.
For example, having a habit of always checking your email at noon frees up your mind of having to consider when you should check your email, how often, etc. Check it at noon, respond to everyone, then get back to work. No extra thinking is required.
Control your emotions – Emotional control is crucial to enhancing the capacity to work smarter. When we feel an intense emotion, we expend energy in the expression of our emotion. For example, if we’re angry at a co-worker, it will paint every decision that we make when dealing with our co-worker. Additionally, we may have a lingering frustration which will negatively influence our workday in subtle ways.
This is why it’s better to control one’s emotions. When we put a halt on anger, sadness, and the like, we can think with a clear head and save that energy for something else. Remain chill, and it’ll be easier to work with a better and smarter brain.
Don’t multi-task – It’s important to stay focused. Focus requires that you avoid the Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia blackholes.
However, focus also requires that you don’t spend time trying to do eight things at once. It’s imperative to find a task and stick to it while avoiding the urge to do more than one thing at a time.
Have a laser-like focus, and it’ll become easier to put your energy into one goal.
Workout | Eat well | Sleep – Labor, even mental labor, requires a sound body. As we’ve moved more and more to sitting behind a desk and staring at a computer screen, many people have allowed their bodies to deteriorate. However, exercising does wonders for the brain and can help boost creativity and mental focus.
Additionally, eating well helps. When we have a hearty, filling, and healthy meal we won’t feel sluggish or disgusting. Instead, we’ll feel lighter, better, and more robust.
Lastly, sleep is crucial to improving one’s capacity to deal with stress and make the improvements necessary to deliver better results. It can be hard to sleep, but the benefits are worth struggling through insomnia and other sleep disorders.
When our physical body is operating at its best, then our mind can perform at its best. Whether you’re working physical labor or not, a healthy body that is continuously engaged, frequently resting, and has the best energy to draw from, will always function better.
Set deadlines – Deadlines vary from having a massive project done by the end of the month as well as sticking to a particular task for 20 minutes. I frequently deploy the latter when contributing to a mission that I know will take a few days to finish. I know that if I do 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there, etc. then the task will eventually be completed but only if I stick to that time.
This deadline is also valuable for when we’re building up skills. Say you’d love to learn how to type. Instead of setting a concrete goal involving WPM and all that just set a deadline to study, uninterrupted, for 30 minutes. Once you build the habit, then it becomes easier to set definitive goals that can be measured.
Understand “Work Smarter”
People dislike working because it requires us to focus on a bigger goal than our immediate comfort. Whether you’re working out or filing papers for a paycheck, focus on what you’re trying to accomplish. If one is working at a despised job, then remember that you’re trying to save money so that you can start a personal empire.
Do not be ashamed of work and never run from it. Our cynical age is full of lazy, ungrateful people who fail to see the dignity and value in work. Don’t fall for this trap. Free yourself from institutions by developing skills and amassing opportunities through the work you do.
- Which suggestion do you struggle with the most? Why?
- Do you feel confident in your ability to work smarter? Why or why not?
- What’s one thing you can streamline today so you can get more work done?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.