Work smarter, not harder is a saying we are all familiar with but what does it mean? If a person is a coal miner and they painstakingly carry coal from one end of the mine to the other by hand instead of loading it into a rail cart, are they working hard or smart? In this article, we will explore the difference between working hard and working smart. We will also look at ways to work smarter, not harder.

Hard Work

Okay, grab a pen and paper, it’s time to take some notes because chances are good that most people reading this are working way too hard. When there is a project that needs to get done and a person works diligently to complete that task, the outcome may be excellent but were they working smart in their approach? Hard work can be defined simply as performing a task over several hours strenuously.

When a coworker is seen working coming in early, working through lunch, and still at their desk hammering away on their keyboard, preparing for a big presentation they are working hard. They are defined by the tedious way they are approaching the work. Hard workers focus on the quantity of work accomplished. They have a tried-and-true method of accomplishing tasks and never question if there is a better way of doing things. Hard workers always view their contribution in terms of what they have accomplished but may feel like they are spinning their wheels trying to get through an ever-growing list of tasks as each task consumes large amounts of their time. Hard workers are focused on quantity and may struggle to set and attain goals.

Smart Work

While hard workers focus on tried and true, perhaps linear methods of accomplishing tasks. Smart workers get creative. People that work smart are more goal-oriented. Defining their accomplishments not by the time to complete a task or the number of tasks completed but by the amount of efficiency involved in completing tasks in a quality way. Smart workers are masters of time management. Their process for approaching and completing tasks focuses on planning, delegating, and effective prioritization of work.

Smart Work Tips

People who want to develop smart working habits should start by focusing on efficiency. Working efficiently will increase output or tasks completed while reducing the input or time spent to complete the tasks. Some tactics to consider when trying to approach work smarter not harder include;

  • The “Rule of 3’s” – Productivity experts recommend setting just 3 goals to accomplish each day rather than trying to tackle a lengthy to-do list. Lists of tasks are great to prevent losing sight of work that needs to be done but because they are limitless, they can become overwhelming as tasks are added to the bottom endlessly. Instead of relying on lists of tasks, smart working people may start the day by prioritizing just 3 tasks for completion that day. Using methods like time blocking to define specific hours of the day to work on each of their tasks until, one by one, they are completed.
  • Give up multi-tasking – While multi-tasking may seem like an effective strategy for tackling a task list, it is a harder path to take not a smarter one. Stop to consider the time it takes to switch back and forth between projects or tasks. It is more efficient to focus on one task at a time, working until completion.
  • Set SMART goals – SMART is an acronym that can help to define objectives. S – specific, M – measurable, A – attainable, R – results-oriented, T – time-bound. Keep smart in mind when planning the day’s objectives.

There will always be people who feel strongly that there is no substitution for hard work. Those same people are stressed out and struggle to see the results of their work. In today’s faced-paced work environment, where accomplishment is measured based on quality and quantity, one might be well served by choosing to work smarter.