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Today it’s all about hacks: organization hacks, time hacks, work hacks. But if you’re always focused on how find a shortcut, the only thing you’re cheating is yourself.
To achieve your goals, you should take a balanced approach that includes BOTH working hard and working smart. Without hard work—a little elbow grease and some late nights—you might never achieve your full potential. Adversely, if you’re not working smart, you could be wasting valuable time and energy.
Here’s how and why you need to work smart and hard constantly to improve and maximize potential.
Work Smart and Hard: Working Hard
If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.
It’s not supposed to be easy. Goals are something you reach for — by nature, they’re not easily attainable. Instead of trying to find ways to work around the problem at hand, you should be figuring out ways to solve it.
Not only that, but you should be looking for ways to turn the “problem” into an opportunity for you or your company.
On that note: Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an opportunity. When problems arise, you need to tackle them as opportunities—not setbacks. This problem might have caused x, y, and z, but now it’s an opportunity to prove yourself, or to change it to a, b, and c.
It’s not easy to have this kind of outlook—it comes from a lot of self-discipline. It is something you need to work on everyday. Unless you’re willing to put the hard work into it, you’re never going to yield the positive results of turning your attitude around.
Inspiration can only get you so far. Some days you just don’t feel motivated, so instead you need to rely on the work habits you’ve formed for yourself. These are the routines that are going to keep you going, whether they’re an outlook in life, like looking at setbacks as opportunities, or ways to work more productively.
Work Smart and Hard: Working Smart
Just a quick Google search on “working smart” is going to yield contrasting results: some websites tell you to always get emails out of the way first, others suggest you to ignore emails altogether and leave them until later.
So, what does that mean for you? Well, it means working smart is about understanding yourself and how you work most effectively, identifying the goals that are most important.
Measure results—not time
Take a long, hard look at the results you yield. Are you checking off top priority projects? Are you hitting the goals you set for yourself, or that management set for you? By evaluating the results of your work—either on a daily basis or a weekly timeline—you can better assess your efforts and aspects of your productivity that might need adjusting.
The thing is, how much time you take to complete a task isn’t always equal to how productive, or unproductive, you were during that time. Understanding how you work is much more important than figuring out how much time certain tasks take you.
Identify the 20 in the 80/20 rule.
It was only a matter of time before this popped up. If you’re unfamiliar with this term (check out Richard Koch’s book if you haven’t already), here’s how it works: the rule states that 80 percent of your results come from just 20 percent of your efforts. Essentially, just 20 percent of the work you do accounts for 80 percent of the results.
So, to maximize your efforts, you need to focus on the 20 percent that’s driving the results. For example: If 80 percent of the work your company has is coming from just 20 percent of the clients it has, focus in on those clients. Or, if 80 percent of the commission you make comes from just 20 percent of the products you sell, focus on those products.
The trick to the 80/20 rule is identifying the 20 percent that’s most important. Once you do that, you’re working smarter.
Bringing It All Together
To work smart and hard shouldn’t be separated; they should be combined to help you constantly improve and maximize your potential.
All of these strategies play off of one another. If you identify the 20 in the 80/20 rule, and you’ve formed work habits that help your productivity soar, you’re going to yield good results where it matters.
If you measure results instead of time, and you’re always reminding yourself to look at ordeals as opportunities, you’ve developed self-discipline that helps you work better and be more self-aware of what you prefer.
In the end, to work smart and hard is about understanding how you work most productively. For example, if you form good work habits—like taking walks every hour, or keeping a to-do list—but you haven’t been able to train your mind to see problems as opportunities, to create something new or prove yourself, well those productivity tips don’t really help you get further—do they?
So next time you’re feeling stuck, unproductive, or unmotivated, think about how you can change your mindset, your actions, and your environment to improve and maximize your potential. Work smart AND hard.