Working Smart versus Working Hard and the Comfort of Habit
If you asked three people, “Do you work smart?” they would
probably say, “Yes”, or something equivalent, perhaps in a
watered down format. Working smart is a positive attribute
most all of us would like to attribute to ourselves.
Asking for a definition might produce an interesting comment.
Let’s say for the sake of this blog that we use Ben (who I know)
at Scratch Media’s working definition:
“Working smart means choosing the most efficient use of your time
and energy before you act. (… “Think-then-do”.)”
If you continued to ask, “How do you know you’re working smart?” I bet
you would hear a very interesting flip. Beyond noticing that people
dance a bit on that question, if you are like me, you would hear
them flip or switch from talking about working smart, to talking
about working hard.
Why? Are we confusing the two?
Actually, if you ask people to “work smarter,” you will find the
mental translation from working smart to working hard to be even
In fact if you ask people to work smarter, and/or purchase
software to help them work smart, what you will likely hear
back is not only a flip between working smart and working hard,
but also a bit of a push back that will sound like either:
1. I don’t have time… “I’m already working as fast as I can… I don’t
have time to add one more thing…” (you know like working smarter).
2. I don’t have capacity… “I’m already working as hard and long as I
can, I can’t stay longer or add one more task/requirement to my work load.”
In both situations, working smarter, when it comes to managing information,
looks like an additional task to an over burdened schedule – not a
way to reduce the work load.
This is important. Working smarter looks like an intrusion upon
our current work habits, and God love us, we are creatures of habit…
we like our habits. We may even buy software to help us work smarter,
but it doesn’t mean we use it (read change our habits)… because that
would feel like more work. Changing habits is tough work.
I don’t know if this is just true in the US, but in the US when it comes
to managing information we struggle at working smart, it feels like
low value drudgery to many… but we are good at working hard.
Interestingly, what comes back to the prompt to work smarter is usually a
push back, not a “Sure, help me, or teach me how.” Think about that for a
moment. How did we get to the point where working smart is not
something we have time or capacity for?
Most of us struggle with, if not resist the challenge, the prod, the invitation,
to work smarter… although we wouldn’t admit it to others and certainly not
to ourselves. We don’t work smarter for all sorts of reasons, even though we
live and work in the information age.
Why? I think in part because it involves changing habits which provide
some level of comfort. We get comfortable with our habits, our way of
working, and then we defend against changing them.
If you think about it, sticking with old information management habits,
as fast as things change, is probably the opposite of working smart.
Most of us manage information in all sorts of ways that are personally
comfortable, but a long way from working smart. And in so doing make
work harder for ourselves.
But before I finish, let me leave you with perhaps the biggest secret to
beginning to work smarter. No, it doesn’t have to do with buying our
ManagePro software. Here’s a hint, it involves no work, just changing
what’s between the ears. Well actually that is work, but not on the timecard.
The biggest secret to working smarter, is to stop assuming (defending)
that you already do work smart, and embrace the need, the opportunity to
continually improve at working smarter. That’s it. That’s the shift.
Today; give yourself a break. Stop defending that you’re already doing
everything possible, and start looking for opportunities to learn to work
smarter, and I’ll share some tips for managing information that will help
you get a step up in the next blog.