Work Smarter Not Harder

Everyone has heard the expression work smarter not harder, but what does that actually mean? To some the phrase is just a platitude and for others the saying may mean avoiding hard work or pushing work onto someone else. Regardless, although hard work is a virtue, inefficient hard work without results is as bad as doing nothing. Some examples of smarter work to me involve developing a more complete plan to get from start to finish (so the plan doesn’t have to be reworked in-between), prioritizing the most important and impactful activities so time isn’t wasted on small achievements that have marginal benefit, and reducing, automating, or delegating steps in a process. Let’s explore some ideas to work incrementally smarter. 

A question that may not get asked often is ‘why work smarter?’. Working smarter allows for more done in less time with less individual effort at a lower cost which results in maximizing benefit to all those involved.  

There are a few types of tasks:

(1) Physical: Tasks that involves objects in our shared observable physical space. 

(2) Mental: Tasks in the mind. 

(2) Digital: Tasks done on a screen usually involving a computer or a tv.  

The ideas that I want to explore may apply to all or one of these three. 


  1. Set a Clear Goal – Not knowing what you want means someone will probably tell you and you’ll be working for what they want. Additionally, not knowing what you want means that you don’t know what to prioritize which may mean you spreading yourself too thin and possibly not achieve anything at all. Therefore, setting a clear goal that is achievable (meaning there is a clear path from start to finish), time bound (there is a due date), and measurable / quantifiable is the first step. Once you have achieved a goal then you can figure out how to shorten the time horizon and effort to get more of what you want and less of what you don’t.  
  2. Slow Down at the Start . . . So You Can Speed Up Later in Execution. Define and document all necessary detail and steps initially while planning. Don’t take short cuts and just rush to start. Spending more time upfront ultimately saves time during execution as you are less likely to stop midway through and reevaluate the plan because a risk or issue wasn’t anticipated. Also, listing all steps at a low level means that you don’t need to think while executing; a consequence that also means you can delegate tasks or come back to an activity without having to figure everything out again. Once you have a good plan that achieves your goal then you have a template that can be reused and refined overtime through subsequent iterations.
  3. Keep a ‘Master Life’ To-Do List – Create an overarching goal and to do list of all the possible action items that you do in your life. You’d be surprised how easy it is to put this together. You’ll find that most of these tasks are reoccurring so instead of figuring out what to do each time and wasting time creating another list you can just create a routine within this to do list.  Once you figure out which tasks are a priority for you to focus on hire someone or automate the rest to save yourself time. 
  4. Track Task Duration – Track how long you focus on a task and the outputs achieved relative to the input cost (time, energy, money). Tracking this data will help you prioritize and have a better sense of what is required to achieve something. Ideally automate time tracking to keep yourself honest or ask someone to track it for you. If you must track it yourself then list all steps to achieve a goal and put a date time stamp next to each when completed. As you get a better sense of how long tasks take you can better plan and evaluate which steps more effectively and efficiently achieve your goals. 
  5. Prioritize – Sometimes in an effort to maximize value we over do it and do much more than what is required and in some ways more than what anyone really wants. What can make this even worse in my experience is doing more than what anyone wants and feeling resentful as a direct consequence. Therefore, I found it best to figure out what really matters in an outcome to all parties involved and limit the scope of an effort to that. In doing so you may maximize your return and feel more fulfilled as well as maybe even having more time!
  6. Reduce Steps – Once you have documented steps to accomplish a task and know approximately how long each takes assess if there is a way to simplify the plan by eliminating steps. Sometimes eliminating task switching, distractions, or thinking in between steps also helps increase throughput. 
  7. Consolidate Thoughts – generally working on reducing the number of words thinking increases overall throughput to accomplish any general critical thinking task. Additionally, practicing thought consolidation improves verbal and written communication clarity and efficiency. 
  8. Automate – Although there will always be some element of human interaction, competing in today’s business landscape without some form of automation is impossible. 
    1. Home Automation
      1. Smart lights can allow to group lights by room and control by smartphone. Also you can schedule them so when you wake up your lights will be automatically on. 
      2. Program your computer to wake up
      3. Chrome bookmark tabs and save to groups. You can select the folder on your bookmarks bar. Groups allow you to minimize a group of tabs and even close an entire group at once.  
      4. Chrome allows you to have tabs open at startup. So, if you start with the same websites continuously such as drive folders, to do list, email, and calendar Chrome allows you to have those webpages automatically open when you open the browser. 
    2. Robots – robots can interact with objects in the physical world to accomplish activities like take out trash or possibly cook a meal. 
    3. Bots
      1. PyAutoGui module in Python allows you to write scripts that take keyboard or mouse commands to interact with applications and web pages. Although it may take a little while sometimes initially to develop, once you have a working script you can focus on other priority tasks while the automation works. 
      2. Web Scraping – develop applications or scripts that retrieve data from webpages so you don’t have to search and copy / paste the aggregate
      3. API – develop integrations between apps so you don’t have to navigate between them
  9. Remove Distractions – You’d be surprised how much time is wasted on unnecessary things.  
    1. Declutter
      1. Unsubscribe and spam to promotional emails
      2. Block spam phone calls
    2. Avoid Social Media
    3. Avoid negative people, overly emotional people that constantly create drama, or people that throw you off your goals
  10. Automate Shipments Schedules
    1. Amazon Subscriptions – Automating shipments through Amazon subscriptions saves time from going to the store. Additionally, you can save 5% to 15% on each item depending on how many delivery subscriptions you setup. 
    2. Food Delivery Services – Food delivery services such as Hello Fresh are a good way to save time from shopping
  11. Document Best Practices – Once you have found the best way to achieve something be sure to share it with others. In return others will share their thoughts and processes with you. You’d be surprised about how many people have already solved a challenge that you have been stuck on for years and vice versa. Ultimately, there is no one person who has all the answers and we need to work together as with our combined insight we can solve any problem.
  12. Seek Out and Learn From Others – Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel seek out experts and gain their knowledge. It may have taken some a lifetime to learn a skill and although you may not be an expert completely after just a conversation you’ll get closer a little faster. Find a person who has achieved the specific thing you want to do. 
  13. Hire People and Delegate – hire people to support personal tasks like cooking and cleaning. This will free you up to work on your business or other projects.
  14. Stop Drinking and/or Doing Drugs – This is sort of an obvious one but it is difficult for most to stop. If you really want to get the highest results you have to do it. Some can work hard and play hard but most can’t do it for long. So, stop and you’ll see your results increase in whatever you are doing almost immediately because you’ll be more coherent and alert the 40% of the time plus that you weren’t before. 

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