Working harder or working smarter? Which moves your business forward most effectively?
It’s a challenging question, because it’s kind of a trick question. In fact, in part, it’s really about both. With all due respect to Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek fame, there is a certain amount of effort involved in achieving success in what you do.
And while I’ve seen many businesses move forward by embracing “lean methodologies” in their marketing by trying to build “minimum viable products,”, I’ve seen many put too much emphasis on the “minimum,” while putting too little on the “viable” (or “product,” for that matter).
So, in practice, you’ve got to work both smart and hard.
But how can you accomplish that? Well, here are 4 ironclad laws of working smarter to help focus you when you work harder, too:
- Set clear goals for you, your team, and your vendors. I’ve talked about goals a lot over the years. No, seriously, like a lot. Here and here and here and here. Why so often? Because almost nothing matters more. You’ve got to have clear, articulated goals that help you, your team, and your business partners understand where you’re trying to go and why that matters to your business. Once people understand what you’re trying to accomplish, they’ll often find inventive ways to help you get there (so will your subconscious, if it’s just you). Ever try putting together a jigsaw puzzle without looking at the image on the box? It’s a nightmare. Give your team (and yourself) that image to work from instead.
- Focus on what you, and only you, can do best. Delegate or defer the rest. You can’t do everything (more on this in a minute). And as you move forward in your career, it’s often comforting to continue doing the things you enjoy instead of the things that move your business forward. Instead, ask yourself the following question: “What needs doing that no one can do but me?” Focus your efforts there and let others on your team do the things they’re best at.
- Track where you spend your time. I love the old quote, “what gets measured gets done.” And I’m often surprised by how many people I work with don’t actually know where their time goes. Use a simple time-tracking tool to see where your time goes. Then restructure your efforts around the areas of greatest importance (see items #1 and #2 for which ones those are).
- Commit, commit, commit. Or don’t. But don’t try to do both. Many people struggle to deliver on promises because they’ve “over-committed,” saying they’re going to do things that they never really intend to do. If you’re one of those people, stop. Now. Seriously. Try a Start, Stop, Continue exercise to see what’s really worth doing, then focus only on those items. Learn to say “no” on everything else that doesn’t move you towards your/your business’s goals. You’ll find you’re more able to deliver on your commitments and more able to focus on the areas of actual value for you and your customers.
Working smart and working hard aren’t necessarily an “either/or” proposition. Like many things, it’s finding the right balance for your business. But following the laws outlined above can help you put the right focus in the right areas. And doing that can help you accomplish both at the same time.
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