At one point or another, I’m certain that everyone has been given the same, impossibly vapid advice: “Don’t work hard, work smart."
Far too often, interpretation of that phrase gets so twisted and mangled, that people wind up working hard at figuring out how to work smart. With hopes that they will somehow transform a bad process into a good one through the mastering of minutiae, many people dive into the mechanics of what they already do. Unfortunately, the result is typically just a better understanding of how to poorly go about doing something.
Ever hear of Hercules, that mythical half-god with incredible strength? The fifth thing on his To Do list was to clean the Augean stables.
This assignment [was intended to be] both as humiliating (rather than impressive, like the previous labours) and as impossible, since the livestock were divinely healthy (immortal) and therefore produced an enormous quantity of dung. These stables had not been cleaned in over 30 years, and 3,000 cattle lived there. However, Hercules succeeded by rerouting the rivers Alpheus and Peneus to wash out the filth.
Sure, he could have picked up a shovel and gone to work- he definitely had the strength for it. Instead, he was smart enough to realize that using the rivers would be a much better solution.
What most folks do, by stark contrast, equates to trying to use two shovels.
Let me give you an example of something I encountered over and over and over and over in prior jobs. After I would write and submit detailed documentation, a reviewer would inevitably accuse me of leaving out some necessary topic. I would then have to refer them to the Table of Contents, as well as the content that they told me did not exist.
So, what the Hell?
In implementing the ‘work smart’ idea, their thinking went something like this:
Reading is hard.
Reading takes time.
If I have to read a lot of things, it will be hard and take time.
To work smart, I need to find a way to not read!
What the reviewers were doing was performing a search for some exact phrase. If there was not a perfect one-for-one match on the precise wording they searched for, then the entire topic must not be there.
See how easy that was? Fast, too!
In the end, it took more time for them to ‘work smart’ than to just read something in the first place, because they would need to perform their same task of reviewing several times over.
Not so smart, and definitely harder.
Working smart means finding a better way, or even a totally different approach; looking at your objective, not your process. Once you have figured out what it is you actually intend to accomplish, you can start to think about the best way to do so.
Trust me, a bigger shovel is not what you need.