Six simple techniques I use to work smarter, not harder

21 thoughts on “Six simple techniques I use to work smarter, not harder”

  1. Ahhh, this is just what I needed Steve. I’ve been feeling some burnout lately and this really helps. The points you make are excellent. I think slowing down and taking your time will lead to a much happier work-life balance. One thing we all need to be aware of is those that work around you. I know you probably don’t experience this as much, but at the office I have a ton of people who are workaholics. They work from 7 to 7, then go home and log on to work more. My dad was kind of like this – he worked a ton of hours. And guess what? He’s in his late 60s and still working. It didn’t give him a leg up on retirement. So I’ve tried to remember that, but it’s not always easy when people who are your peers work through their lunches and stay late to kiss some ass. I guess the lesson is that in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a job. It’s nothing more than a means to reach retirement early. Thanks for the Monday morning inspiration, Steve.

  2. Accepting ambiguous tasks… this is where I struggle. So much of my job as a researcher is ambiguous tasks… we need to know everything we can on _____. I struggle with the transition time I have to take to turn that vague demand into a concrete task where I know what I’m doing and I can just do it. This is where I struggle with productivity. I need to figure out how to turn the ambiguous into the concrete much more quickly! But thanks for all the other tips. Managing expectations is important as well!

    1. Hi Maggie! Yup, ambiguous tasks was one of the tougher areas for me to manage as well. I was just tired of managers telling me that I didn’t do the task right, or that I left something out, or that it “wasn’t what they were looking for” when they didn’t bother to tell me what they were looking for.

      Wasted work. That ain’t smart!

      As always, thanks for reading!

  3. Steve we seem to have the same work mindset – minus the naps. They are kind of hard to do at the office. At work I’m a big picture guy, and make sure to have a clear picture on the goals of each project while not sweating the small stuff. I also like to take breaks which can be walks outside, getting coffee, etc.

    PS – Didn’t know you had a sleeve of tats 😉

    1. Hey Fervent! Yeah, napping in the office is a big tougher. I used to just stare into the monitor with my hand on the mouse (because my back was to the hallway) back when I worked in an office. While I never actually “slept”, just the ability to rest my eyes a bit actually did wonders to my productivity as the afternoon dragged on. 🙂

  4. I’m in the same mode work-wise. I find that when I get assigned a task I want to know what the expectations are, possible timelines, and manage accordingly. In my new position my project keeps morphing and growing just about every week or so. While I reaffirm the new expectations based on the new scope of the project, it can get frustrating while trying to organize. Fortunately, I got a minion, um mentee, to help with the increased project scope. 🙂
    Lastly, I recently went from a window office to an interior office, so I don’t have a window to gaze out of and ponder larger problems. I found that helps work out a solution when I get stuck. Now, I have a calendar reminder set for an empty appointment that reminds me to get outside. When it goes off, I head outside and walk for 20 minutes or so. It helps distress, refocus, and solve problems like the window gazing did, especially when I’m solo.

    1. Hey Mr. SSC – yup, stepping out of the office was always my way to escape the madness when I worked in an office. It’s easy. It’s effective. And sometimes, it’s the only thing that you can actually do for a break.

      And scope creep – the name of the game in corporate America. 🙂

  5. I use several of these techniques. I’m usually fairly productive over a couple spurts in the morning and maybe one short one in the afternoon. On most days, I head to the gym around 11 which really helps me focus and breaks up the monotony of the day. Then, I may do more social things like networking in the afternoon when I don’t feel like thinking too hard.

    1. You and me both! I find that I am, as a whole, more productive in the morning as well. The afternoons are hit or miss, though a nap can definitely help me to summon the courage to continue thinking at least for a little while longer. 🙂

  6. I realized that the people I work with who work hard often are the people who are feeling under appreciated and often burn out quickly and look for a new job. The work environment doesn’t reward hard work always like it should. Two places I noticed that working hard and working smart go hand in hand are at the gym and when you are working for yourself.


    1. I definitely agree – working smart, rather than working hard, is a concept that works wonderfully in the gym as well as in the office. I used to suffer from the burn out phenomenon as well…until I realized exactly what I was doing to myself. 🙂

  7. i found a direct correlation with lifting properly and working properly. When I first started lifting, I was just focused on the reps and counting them up to my target. As I go older, I realized it was the quality of each rep and not the number of reps. This translates to work too, kind of like your “rush to do it and fix it if someone saw something broken.” The goal wasn’t completing as much work as possible, but doing it right the first time and doing good work.

    1. As an avid gym-goer, quality over quantity is definitely a philosophy that I now subscribe to. I used to go into the gym and lift as heavy as I possibly could, but I wasn’t making the progress that I expected, and I wound up screwing up a couple of my joints in the process. Since I found out how to work smart, I don’t have any joint pain what-so-ever and feel better than ever, pretty much every day. It’s wonderful.

  8. So many great lessons in this post, Steve! I’m feeling super inspired. I have got to change my mindset around naps — the few times I’ve taken one during a workday, I’ve felt pretty guilty about it. But of course you’re right that it’s great for the mind and for creativity to get some rest between tasks. And I think my favorite point of all is about not worrying about things you can’t control. I’m bad at that, in a big way. In truth, I’m not a worrier, but I am a planner. I like to think through a million contingencies and be prepared for every eventuality, and it’s totally overkill. It’s not in my nature to back off entirely, and say, “Eh, who cares?” but I can for sure work on thinking about most things less. 🙂

    1. My wife is the exact same way, in fact. She is the one who prefers to plan as much as possible, which is awesome because I am much more of a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of guy. But luckily, as I’m sure it’s the same in your guy’s case, we have a nice balance between spontaneity and deliberate planning. And I like that arrangement. 🙂

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