Working Smart: You have probably heard the saying – work smart, not hard. And it looks like a very wise saying. Something you will hear and exclaim, ‘Word!’. But on a more careful examination, you may want to think twice before making that exclamation. What does it really mean to work smart?
Let’s illustrate with a meme I saw a while ago.
A couple of laborers are pushing stone cubes for a construction project. Of course, this is hard work. Then comes our ‘smart’ guy, who has been taught to work ‘smart, not hard’. He gets a hammer and chisel, and chips away at his stone until it becomes a sphere. Much easier to push. So of course he pushes faster than the rest of them and gets to the destination first. And then, wonder of wonders! We see him being flogged because it is a pyramid being built, and our smart guy has just wasted good material in the name of working smart.
What does it really mean to work smart?
At first glance, one would assume our guy here was working smart. Was he being efficient? Yes. Absolutely.
But was he being effective? Well… no. He did his work faster, but it didn’t actually get the job done. That is the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Should you try to be efficient? Yes, but never at the expense of effectiveness. So how could our guy have worked efficiently and effectively? He could have gotten wooden slabs or planks, then put that on round logs as a makeshift wheel, then used that to push his stone cube. He would have worked faster, and still gotten the job done.
What does it mean to work smart?
Many people assume that working smart means you find a way to work faster, so you can work for less time.
But that is not usually the case. Working smart does not mean you should work less. It means, find a way to do the work in less time, then do more work in the original time. So for example, let’s say a clerk has to type 50 pages of documents every day, and he has to do that in 5 hours. He may assume that working smart means he should find ways to do the work faster (maybe remove certain parts of the documents deemed ‘unnecessary’), then finish the work in 4 hours and go home.
But the truly successful person knows that the way to go is to find a way to do the work in four hours, then do more work in five hours. So, he will be typing 70 pages in 5 hours, instead of 50 in 4 hours and going home. See, that you should work smart does not mean you shouldn’t work hard. The saying should have been, ‘work smart AND hard’. Look at any field across the world, usually the top people are those who work harder than everybody else. They put in more hours of practice every day, stay awake longer, wake up earlier, etc.
Smart work should not make you lazy. You should work smarter, harder. That’s the way to the top in your field. That is how you make your place among the kings and queens.