Working hard vs working smart

Working hard sucks. Turns out, it's pretty hard. I'll be working smart from now on. (Image credit:


I’m ditching my motto this year. It’s a motto I’ve believed in for a long time. But I don’t believe it anymore.

There is always someone willing to work harder than you. Someone who isn’t taking breaks. Someone who will do whatever it takes to succeed. Be that someone.

Let me clarify. I do believe there is always someone willing to work harder than you. What I don’t believe is that working your ass off without taking any breaks unequivocally leads to success. Just because you get to the office earlier, stay later, write longer blog posts, work more weekend hours, spend your evenings on Facebook and Twitter commenting on as many posts as you can…does not necessarily mean that you are more likely to succeed. That’s why I’m adopting a new motto this year.

Work just as smart as you work hard. It’s not how much you do that defines success, but what you do. 

I didn’t like how much time I spent working last year at times. But more importantly, I spent too much time doing “work” I didn’t need to be doing at times I didn’t need to be doing it.

I am as big a fan of social media as you’ll find anywhere. But in 2012, where you won’t find is me Facebooking and tweeting aimlessly at night or during the day when I could be knocking out client work or spending time with my family.

I am a huge fan of going the extra mile for clients. But you can go the extra mile between 9-5 or whatever night and weekend hours you decide to put in. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s natural to get competitive about how much time we give to our jobs. But how much are we getting in return? And how is it affecting our health and happiness?

So, old motto out. New motto in. And I’m starting here. With a less-than-400-word blog post (Thanks for the advice, Shelly Kramer!). Who was I trying to impress with those 800-word novels anyway? Not very smart. Not very smart at all.

Have any good examples of “working smart” vs “working hard?”

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LauraScholz 13 pts

Preach on, Justin! I had the same revelation on vacation. Especially since I have now added Pilates teacher training (700 hours of certification) to my regular PR job, AND I don't have to sit in an office or have a boss breathing down my neck, I have to be so careful about my time. I like being social, but there's no point half-tweeting and half-working until 1am and waking up tired the next day to show for it. That, and my husband and I are both workaholics AND he travels twice a month (at least), and we were barely talking to each other in the same house! Yesterday, I set boundaries around work--finished my to do list by 5pm, made dinner from scratch and was in bed by 10pm. I'm going to bookmark this post to re-read weekly!

JGoldsborough 233 pts moderator

LauraScholz Awesome. That's the idea. I have literally caught myself sitting right next to my wife in the past year and looking at Twitter at 11 p.m. at night saying to myself: "I have to respond to one more tweet. I have to get one more @ reply."

That's the definition of working hard, but not smart. And the value just isn't there in the end. I'm tired of getting burnt out because of my inability not to work smart. New motto time!

My latest conversation: Brands that won't need to file a social media lawsuit anytime soon...sorry, Phonedog

MattLaCasse 103 pts

Absolutely agree, Justin. I've always said that my life between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. will ALWAYS be more important to me than the hours between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. That's not to say I don't work hard, do what needs to be done, or put in extra hours when I need to. Just that my wife and other interests will always come before anything at the office.

JGoldsborough 233 pts moderator

MattLaCasse Good point. Facebook and Twitter will be there tomorrow. And often times, so will the work. It doesn't all have to get done today. Trying to reinforce that to myself.

ElizabethSkeens1 6 pts

Love this! I adopted a "work more efficiently" motto a couple of years ago, after burning the midnight oil for far too long. I fully believe that maintaining work/life balance makes us better employees. And better people.

There's something wrong with our corporate culture when we think that the person working at 8pm is a harder working person than the one that left at 6pm. Couldn't it just be that the person that left at 6 worked smarter and therefore completed his or her projects for the day on time? I'd like to think so.

JGoldsborough 233 pts moderator

ElizabethSkeens1 Yes, you are right. It absolutely could. I can think of one colleague I have in particular who arrives at 9 every day and leaves about 5:30. But this person works smarter than anyone I have ever worked with and I guarantee you gets more done than I do on most of my 12 hour days. Time spent DNE success.

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AmandaOleson Thanks, I'm totally in for it too. Tired of working the ridiculous hours and then missing out on other stuff.


jgoldsborough Word. :)