“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”Tim Notke
Work smart AND hard instead of work smart NOT hard. One small word change, using “and” rather than “not”, makes a world of difference to your outcomes.
The problem with the “Work smart NOT hard” approach
There is nothing wrong with the phrase “work smart not hard.” With effective application, it has real power and benefits.
It implies using brains, skills, and resources to achieve more with less. Achieving things better or faster are also good outcomes.
Here’s the problem.
Many people see the phrase as a licence to take shortcuts, to coast or to do the least work possible. Obviously I get this. Indeed who would I be to condemn anyone for it.
If the shortcut approach works for you in your situation, then good luck to you. I am not here to convince you otherwise and I wish you well.
If you are a hard worker and want to work smart as well then read on.
BTW – if you prefer an audio version of this, I have included one at the end of this article.
Work smart AND hard is where it’s at
I’m speaking to the people who want to achieve something more than that. People who want to take themselves to new levels and greater rewards.
If you are on such a journey, then I applaud you. It takes courage and tenacity, but the rewards are huge.
Your goal must be powerful enough to motivate you all the way to the finish. If it isn’t it is likely not the right goal for you.
Choose what you want to do and not what you think others want or would like you to do.
Once chosen, double down on your number one or priority goal. Now you can achieve the “work hard” part of work smart AND hard.
Work smart AND hard on the right things
As mentioned, choosing what to work hard on is important.
At least as important for you is choosing what NOT to work on.
Your time, energy and resources are finite things. Basically, if you waste them on non-value-add activities, then they are not available for the good stuff.
For example, meditating and relaxing to help you improve or think deep thoughts is a good use of time. This will help you move forward. Watching mind-rotting TV and eating/drinking junk is not. You will stagnate or even regress.
Take a careful and honest inventory of where you are wasting time on pointless or harmful things. For example, communicating with a helpful network is good. Mindless social media swiping is not good.
Because focus gets results, the more focused time you can invest in your priority goal the better. Only you can control how you spend your time so control it.
To work smart AND hard – start with a plan
In my experience it always helps to have a high-level plan.
The general workflow I will offer you is a high-level overview of a very workable approach. Adapt it to your own needs. Add more detail as and when you need to.
Let’s work through an example
IMHO examples are a great way to work.
I’ll pick learning to program to get a new career. This is for illustration purposes. I’m not a programmer, nor am I likely to become one, but I have switched careers several times with great success.
Here’s the work smart AND hard workflow
When you work smart AND hard you will have to harness all your emotional intelligence skills. This is where the rubber meets the road.
Seek help and guidance along the way. But if you want to succeed then you and you alone must put in the hard yards.
We’re moving into the “work smart” phase of work smart AND hard. Let’s look at each stage in turn.
Research & due diligence
This is start of the questioning phase of work smart AND hard:
- What will a career switch to programmer offer you?
- Can your current career offer this with some changes?
- Is your career switch goal achievable? (i.e., can you learn programming to a professional standard?)
- Are there realistic newbie opportunities available in the programming world?
- What programming language might be the best starting point?
- Does it have to be programming? (i.e., are there other more accessible IT routes available?)
- How can you leverage your current skills and knowledge?
- Have you spoken with people in the programming world?
There are many more questions, so make sure you ask them and be honest in your appraisal of the answers. Ask others to ask you any questions you may have missed.
Goal ID & commitment
Once you have satisfied yourself that you have a goal you must commit to it one hundred percent. A partial approach means this isn’t a goal but only a nice to have or hobby.
Obviously, I don’t mean you should give up your current career straight away. What I do emphatically mean is that you should commit 100% of your free time to helping you make the goal happen. You can then move across to the new career when you are ready with high confidence.
Yet more questions to ask on your work smart AND hard journey:
- How are you going to learn to program?
- Boot camp? Self-study? College? Apprenticeship? Internship? A combination?
- How fast do you need this to happen?
- Are you willing or able to travel? (i.e., for study and/or work).
- How much will it cost? What resources will you need?
- Does this harm anyone else?
Keep asking questions until you have a convincing and workable plan or strategy.
Whatever you decide, you need to know the journey you are taking, and the resources required.
This strategy now enables you to develop specific tactics to achieve your goal.
In our example, you want to get an entry-level web developer role within 2 years via self-study.
Tactical execution & review
Break your plan down into the smallest chunks you can. Working in small chunks means more chances to build a run of successes coupled with smaller failures or setbacks. These lowest-level chunks will become your tactics as you work smart AND hard.
In our example your first few learning chunks might be:
- Get a suitable computer (or start saving for one).
- Find or create a good location to study.
- Get your first JS book or books.
- Sign up for an online course.
- Join some suitable forums and/or subscribe to some YouTube channels.
Because it helps to see a plan, create a spreadsheet or whatever type of visual project planner works best for you. Start working your way through the chunks. Some of these chunks might be sequential and some might run in parallel.
Review often and re-evaluate chunks if necessary. Is your number one goal still your number one goal? Things can change in life. Perseverance can become stubbornness in the blink of an eye.
Own your results
When your hard work pays off be proud and happy. Celebrate. Then return to work and double-down. Build on that success. Own it.
Own your failures too. They happen. Learn from them. Reflect on them, adjust and come back swinging.
That’s how success works.
Over to you
It’s over to you. If you have a goal, you now also have a plan to achieve it.
Remember, no matter how wonderful your idea, it will always remain an idea unless you take some action.
Always work smart AND hard to achieve your goals.
That is all for this one
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PPS Here is the audio version of this article if you would prefer to listen.