You have probably heard the saying: "Work smarter, not harder".
I remember my former boss, Richard Pennington, telling me this when I worked at a propane company. He was over 70 and I was 22. My tendency was to try to fix problems by working harder; using strength, stamina, and a "get 'er done" attitude. I quickly learned that this doesn't always work and/or I got hurt. He taught me to slow down, use my head, and think of smarter ways to do the task. I remember one occasion when we were replacing some old, heavy-duty, six-inch pipes that had rusted together. Our oversized pipe wrench wouldn’t budge the pipes. So we worked smarter. We built a contraption of 6-foot breaker bars, a come-along tool, straps, copious amounts of PB Blaster (like WD40) . . . and a tractor. The project was completed with no injuries or loss of limb, and I learned some transferable principles. Working smarter meant using tools, pacing yourself, and focusing on the right things.
There is a lot of truth to the saying: "Work smarter, not harder". However, sometimes the saying gets misapplied. Some people use it as an excuse to be lazy and not do hard work. Because of this, I like a tweaked version better: "Work smarter, and harder."
We need to do both, but the priority is working smarter.
We need to work with all our strength, but we first need to be strategic and use our heads. There are a few key reasons.
1. We have limited time.
Just saying "work harder" doesn't take our limited resource of time into account. We could work very hard but run out of time before accomplishing our goal. By working smarter we use our time more efficiently. We focus on the most important things and eliminate unnecessary steps.
2. We have limited energy.
If we focus on the wrong tasks we may become exhausted, overwhelmed, or burnt out. We have a limited capacity of mental and physical energy. Working smarter and harder involves using both our brain and body. As the saying goes: "You can do anything, but not everything." Working smarter means stewarding our energy so we can invest it better.
3. We have limited ability.
Working smarter means using tools that have a multiplication effect. If you need to move a pile of rocks, would you carry them one at a time? Use a wheelbarrow. Tools multiply your ability. I don’t move piles of rocks for work, but I look for tools to multiply my ability. We cannot eliminate all problems in life, leadership, and ministry. However, we can change how we face problems. Working smarter means finding or creating tools that enable you to do more and overcome problems. It takes an investment of time, but it multiplies your ability.
Simply working harder without evaluating how to invest our limited time, energy, and ability is neither efficient nor effective.
What is the difference between being efficient and effective? Consider the illustration of climbing a ladder. Efficiency asks, "How can I climb the ladder as fast and as high as possible?" Effectiveness asks, "Is the ladder leaned up against the right wall?" We could be highly efficient but ineffective if we go in the wrong direction. We need to be both efficient and effective.
This is especially true if you lead in some way.
Smart work IS hard work.
Smart work IS hard work. Carefully thinking through the best way to accomplish a task is hard mental work. Conversely, we could be working very hard physically while being mentally lazy. Before going into "get 'er done" mode, think.
Remember what Jethro told to Moses? "What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you." Exodus 18:17, 18 Many things we do as leaders may get the job done, but at the high cost of wearing ourselves out. If we wear out, who will lead?
Jethro challenged Moses to work smarter. Our world has dramatically changed in the last decade. We now have the potential of being constantly on our devices. If you are not careful as a leader, "you will certainly wear yourselves out".
Let's heed Jethro's advice. Moses had to create boundaries so that work didn't consume him. We need to do the same thing. Because our world has changed so much, we need find additional tactics to create boundaries so we don't wear out. That is what the rest of this blog series is all about.
This blog series will dive into different ways you can work smarter. Some of the topics we will explore are how to automate, delegate, eliminate, collaborate, concentrate, and many more. We will also consider how to overcome the mental challenges that come with facing problems, making decisions, and overcoming decision fatigue. I will share many of the ways that I have found helpful over the years to work smarter and accomplish more.
Think hard. Work hard.
Once we have worked smarter by considering the best way to work, we then need to do the hard work!
The apostle Paul reminds us: "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23, 24
In my book Overflowing, I shared that "who we are is more important than what we do because what we do flows out of who we are". I want my work, ministry, and leadership to flow from my heart.
Who we are (our heart) is our priority, but also God expects us to work hard for His glory. Why? Because working hard is evidence that our heart is committed to God. "Work heartily, as for the Lord…you are serving the Lord Christ". Even when no one else is watching, God is.
Hard work is our best work. It is not holding back, being lazy, or procrastinating. It is giving our best for our King. Yes, we need to pace ourselves, but we must give our best selves in all we do.
We need to do the heart work, head work (work smarter), and hard work!
Questions to consider:
1. What is one way you started working smarter last year?
2. What part(s) of work or leadership is wearing you out?
3. What could you do to work smarter?
4. Is there an area you are not giving your best and need to work harder?
Who else could you encourage today?
More to follow...
This blog is part of a series that will unpack how to work smarter and do more in your work or ministry. It will help you be more effective and efficient in life and leadership.
FIRST POST IN SERIES:
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Thanks for your involvement in the ministry!