Work Smarter Not Harder! Really?


There are some catchy phrases (Tag Lines) that have entered into the "Common Wisdom" of our day. Unfortunately, just because something is common and even accepted as wisdom, doesn't mean it is.

You've heard one of those catchy Tag Lines many times. It goes like this: Work Smarter, Not Harder. Really!?! Who came up with that piece of advice? What is the research to show that it really generates results. Here is the problem. In many, if not most cases, we create these popular EITHER-OR dualisms that are really unhelpful. In this case it is the EITHER-OR of smarter or harder. Smarter and harder are set in contrast, in opposition to each other. That is the mistake right from the beginning. It is a FALSE dualism that is simply not true. 

Instead - the truth is that Good Work requires you to work smarter AND work harder. 

Hard work tends to get a bad rap and I am not sure why. In some cases hard work is disappearing as a value. We want to work fewer hours than ever. Work productivity is hitting some pretty low levels. It is a real mistake to confuse being busy with being productive. I think it is safe to say that BUSY work is neither SMART work or HARD work.  By the Way: It is also clear that there is a group of people with an incredible work ethic, who often are working so hard to make up for the minimal efforts of others around them.

To work SMARTER means you use the best knowledge, models, methodologies and practices available in the field in which you are working.

Hard work without smart work will produce mistakes, dead-ends, inefficiency, and low levels of results.

Smart work without hard work is actually not smart at all. For you don't become smart without hard work, lots of practice, lots of effort, lots of time and paying the price needed to "Get Smart." To do just a little smart work means you get very little results and that your smart work never becomes natural and a habit of the heart. It is simply a terrible mistake to think smart happens without hard. (See the Dilbert Cartoon below.)

It is a worse mistake to think that long term, sustained, high levels of productive, fruitful, satisfying work will happen without lots of SMART and lots of HARD.

The way forward is simple. This week - work your hardest, work your smartest and you'll see good things happen.


Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International

BrianRice@lcileaders.org