Work smarter…not harder.

~Allan H. Mogensen, the father of flowcharts, ca. 1930


For knowledge workers, “hard” work is often measured by time spent – an eight-hour day becoming a ten-hour one, for example.  Hard workers put in extra hours, check their work email consistently at nights and on weekends, and keep the pace even when they are tired.


Hard workers are motivated, well-intentioned people who want to do a good job.


Depending on their stamina and life demands, hard workers can maintain their pace for months, years, or even an entire career.


Working “smarter” involves a different mindset.  Hard workers value action and forward momentum.  Smart workers recognize the power of pauses.  Smart workers seek to increase their mental bandwidth, not to fill it up with more activity, but to allow for space and freedom to think, plan, and innovate.


Working smarter is the pursuit of productivity coupled with a respect for downtime and rest.


J.K. Rowling agrees…


The funny part, at least for me, is that I was prominently quoted in the article to which Ms. Rowling was reacting.  For the record, I said nada about waking up at 4 a.m.  I cannot be functional that early and know few clients who can.


The article, written by Marcel Schwantes, was actually about morning rituals to boost your productivity.  Those three little words by J.K. Rowling, boosted the article to viral proportions, though.


People get really passionate about the definition of “hard” work.


But, is it realistic (or accurate) to only strive for one of the two?  Are we either hard workers OR smart workers?


One of my clients has the following personal motto…


I can outwork anybody!

~A hard-working, but exhausted client.


In the book, Peak Performance, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness posit that the following equation is central to our success:


Stress + Rest = Growth


Working harder is the stress part of the equation, but not in the avoid-at-all-costs definition of stress.  In the book, stress is synonymous with effort and intense periods of work.


Working smarter involves respecting the “rest” piece of this equation.  Working smarter requires that we strive for focus, not just effort.


As I have written before, I strive to balance this equation with meditation.


So, working smarter is an incomplete picture of performance.  We must also work hard.


Like most things in life, it’s about balance.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.