Based on messages from my childhood, I was always of the opinion that hard, nose-to-the-grindstone, never-take-a-vacation, obliterate-any-semblance-of-normal-life work was the key to success.
But history, both personally and of those whom I know, tends to support the old saying: What do you get when you work your fingers to the bone? Bony fingers.
I used to get to the office early. Work through lunch. Stay late. Always be the "go-to" guy for special projects and all the rest.
The result? Not at all what I expected.
My payoff was to be laid off along with every other slob. First, when the organization was forced into bankruptcy by the parent company. Then on the next job, laid off during a massive corporate restructuring designed to create an artificial bump in the organization's stock price.
Clearly, working hard wasn't working. And as most of us know, work is like a gas; if you let it, it will fill every available space.
Well, over the past year or so I've made a conscious effort to work smart instead of hard. And it has made an absolute world of difference. My health is better, I'm more productive, I'm earning more money and I'm having a ton more fun.
But what does that mean? What's the difference between working hard, and working smart?
For me personally, working smart includes some of the following characteristics:
- Stay organized. Fewer things will eat up your day faster than spending a lot of time looking for stuff, whether it's in computer files or on paper;
- Delegate, delegate, delegate. Not only does it take stuff off of my plate, it develops the competencies of the people that work with me;
- Turn off the phone for long stretches. This is a hard habit to break - "What if someone REALLY REALLY REALLY needs to get in touch??" - and isn't easy, but I soon discovered that when I delegated both tasks and responsibilities correctly, those emergency phone calls dwindled to a trickle, and now don't exist at all;
- Avoid multitasking. Numerous and repeated studies have shown that multitasking is highly detrimental to efficiency. Don't believe me? When was the last time you almost got creamed in your car by another driver who's yapping on their cell phone and driving at the same time?
- Get to work on time, leave on time. There are PLENTY of hours in a day to get done all you need to get done. If you're consistently running out of day before you're running out of work, then you're doing something wrong.
- Get rid of every time management tool you have. Time management is not the key. Goal setting and task management are the keys. Learn this lesson well; it's crucial.
These are just a few. Feel free to add your own.