Ever heard the saying “work smart not hard”? Well, I used to hear it a lot growing up and I always wondered what it meant. I mean, back when we were kids, and even now as an adult, it has always been said that to succeed in life, one needs to work hard. Well, that is no longer the case now. You need to not only work hard, but smart as well.
Think about it. If working hard was all that was needed to succeed in life, then I’m sure almost everyone will be rich and successful. This is not to say that you should not work hard. No. Working hard is very important. In fact, hard work is the brink of success. But there comes a time when there is only so much you can do by working hard. This is when you need to work smart as well as hard.
Working smart means so many things to so many people. To me, working smart means figuring out what your strengths and weaknesses are and building a network that will help you maximise your strengths in order to reach your goals in the most efficient way possible.
I didn’t understand the concept of prioritisation until I had to work in a full service law firm with 7 partners and over 50 associates. Being a junior associate then, I had instructions thrown at me from different people, all to be delivered within a particular deadline. It was not fun at all. Because I didn’t prioritise, I ended up trying to do so much at the same time. This plan backfired, as is to be expected. I ended up missing deadlines, sending in shoddy work, working late and getting up so early to start the cycle again.
With this experience, I’ve come to learn that before you plunge into something headfirst, you need to apply wisdom. Take your time to critically analyse the job and go over ways to accomplish it faster and efficiently. Make notes, and if possible, create an outline of how to tackle the job.
Do the very important ones first. Have a to-do list, and learn not to over-schedule yourself.
Everything we do has an objective. The question you need to ask yourself is, what is the end objective of this particular task? When you know the objective, you are more focused and can cut straight to the chase. While you’re at it, try not to be a perfectionist.
We are perfectionists, but sometimes, being a perfectionist is not all that great. It makes you less efficient and effective. In a bid to dot your i’s and cross your t’s, you end up spending more time and fussing over unfounded problems.
I know so many people who do not know how to delegate. They want to do everything, no matter how mundane the task is. My colleague’s excuse for not delegating is that she’ll still end up reviewing the work done by the delegate, so why not just do it herself.
By delegating the lesser tasks, you free up time for you to tackle the more important issues. Delegation also helps you to improve your supervisory skills as well as also help the delegate to learn.
I have a colleague who would rather make mistakes than ask for help. I’ve tried to understand the logic behind some of her actions, and I’m still searching till today.
Being a full service law firm, there are so many practice areas, in my place of work, that it is quite impossible for you to know it all. As a result of this, lawyers are moved into select practice areas such as maritime, banking and finance, energy, tax, intellectual property, capital markets, dispute resolution etc., based on their strengths and weaknesses.
So, what happens is, when you receive instructions from clients on a practice area different from your specialty, you send it to that practice group to handle. This colleague of mine is in maritime and dispute resolution practice groups, but when she receives instructions from client on other practice areas, she tries to do it herself without asking for assistance. On so many occasions, she ended up advising the clients wrongly, or by the time she asks for help, the damage has already been done. It got so bad at a point that we all feared the firm would terminate her employment.
The point of my rather long story is that, asking for help does not mean that you are a dullard, or that you are incompetent. Asking for help means that you need help to solve a particular problem. And most times, people are genuinely happy to help!
In my post on 6 Really Good Reasons To Quit Your Job, I talked about health being the most important factor. No matter how hard you work, if you do not get adequate rest, your body will start wearing down and you begin to make mistakes at work. Health is wealth as we all know, so you have to know when to stop and take a break.
In secondary school, I never liked economics. But there was a particular topic that I remember being fascinated with (I guess it was the analogy the teacher used that made it stick), and it was the principle of “diminishing returns“. This basically means that the satisfaction you derive from doing a particular thing will increase to a particular point (the peak), and then it starts reducing till it gets to zero. In this context, the zeal/energy you give to your work will diminish significantly if you do not take a time out.
In addition to all the tips mentioned above, it is also important to regularly review your tasks from the past week, and the results achieved. This will help you to keep track of your work and your efficiency in carrying out tasks. Remember, it is very beneficial to work hard and smart.
Do you have other ways of working smart? Are there things/traits you wish you could learn that will assist you in carrying out your tasks? Let me know in the comment section.