Imagine this. You are onboard a sinking ship. Everyone is busy draining the water out. But the water is filling in the ship faster than people can drain it out. The ship is still sinking.
Now, you have a magic glue (probably invented by 3M) that can plug all leaks effectively.
There’s just one catch.
Others must stop throwing water out, and instead help you apply this glue.
What will hard workers do? They will ignore your option and continue siphoning water out of the ship.
Eventually, exhaustion will set in. Their limbs will fail them. And the ship will sink.
But smart workers know the importance of short term pains for long term gains. More water will fill the ship while they apply the glue. But they get their act together anyway. After the plugs are leaked, they (and you) will drain the remaining water out. The ship stabilizes and reaches its destination. Everyone is happy, and more importantly, alive.
We mistake hard both aspects as contrasting options. In reality though, working hard is a part of working smart.
Working hard is important. But working hard on the right things and ignoring what doesn’t matter – that is smart work.
When a plane takes off the ground, it does so at 110 percent thrust. Once it reaches an altitude of twenty five thousand feet, it cruises at 60 percent thrust. To be a smart worker, you must work hard in the beginning.
You can work on ten ideas which have already flooded the marketplace. Or you can conduct in depth research, and conceive an idea which plugs a glaring gap that nobody has addressed.
You can refer to the same sources of information as everyone for your presentation. Or you can mine alternate knowledge resources to create a presentation that leaves your audience spellbound.
You can jump headlong into every task you take up. Or you can visualize the preferred outcome, work backwards and plan each step accordingly. Then, you can work on what you planned.
You can try learning a new language by working hard to memorize everything. Or, you can prioritize your tasks and learn contextually to enjoy long-lasting benefits.
In each case, the former is an example of conventional hard work, while the latter is of smart work.
Don’t ask yourself whether something can be done better. The answer is always an emphatic “Yes!” Instead, ask yourself, “how can I make this better?”, and work on it.
Hard work lets you stay in the comfort zone. Smart work demands that you step out of it.
Hard work demands that you do everything. Smart work lets you focus only on tasks which bring you closer to your goal.
Hard work offers short term results. Smart work may offer dismal or slow results in the near future, but offers astronomical results in the long run.
Hard work makes you follow conventional techniques. Smart work stokes your creativity.
Hard work exhausts you. Smart work makes you feel productive and happier.
Hard work promises you stability and security. Smart work promises progress.
There always are better ways of doing things. They may not be written in a textbook. That’s okay. You can write your own book, and become renowned for it.
Don’t just be a warrior. Look to become a general too. Don’t fall prey to the “it’s-always-been-done-like-this” syndrome.
Like life, smart work is fluid. It is not something you master after doing once. It remains a game of “You’re getting hot, you’re getting cold.” But it’s worth every moment.
Imagine yourself doing what you enjoy, spending more time with people you love, and doing things that nurture yourself. Isn’t that incentive enough to start working smarter today?
Vishal is a business process consultant who helps entrepreneurs grow their startups using proven techniques. He also is a productivity geek and loves writing about his experiments and learning. For weekly insights on leading a happier and more productive life, you can subscribe to his newsletter here. Vishal holds an MBA in Marketing & Advertising from Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Management Studies & Research.