Work Smart, Not Hard

Most successful people don't work "hard" at all.

They work smart.

The statement might seem pretty self-explanatory but I've found that too many people are overworked as a result of bad work habits. This problem has a simple solution which can be found by knowing ourselves and how we operate best.

Some people have great amounts of stamina when it comes to working, some people need breaks often, but the number of hours put into work is not what dictates if someone is working hard or not. It's the amount of effort exerted that defines it.

Why working hard isn't working

Working hard is exemplary, don't get me wrong, but there's a fine line between working hard and becoming overworked. On top of that, this line is hard to find. You often won't be able to tell if you're overworked until the effects start to show.

The problem with overworking is that it's simply not sustainable. And as with anything else that's unsustainable, its effects will start to show in other aspects of life. Too much work leads to stress, fatigue, and even chronic health and mental conditions. Eventually, productivity will drop off to levels below your average. Not good.

Working smart

Working smart, on the other hand, is the... well the smart thing to do. But it's hard to grasp what it means. See, many people start wanting to "work smart" but then end up doing a lot of research, spending too much time looking for ways to be smart, and end up with less time on the work and then having to rush in the end and working hard instead.

So here's a little framework that I found works best to minimize effort and maximize productivity. Note that this framework isn't a step-by-step process to "working smart", but rather three things you should know and do before you start, which will allow you to create effective plans for your schedule. You can skip to the end for a summarized recap.

1. Know what resources you have at your disposal

Before even starting your tasks, make sure you know all the resources you have at your disposal. That means your budget, what information you have, what tools you can use to find information i.e. libraries, google, social media groups, people, etc.

Make sure you know these resources, what they're good for, and when and how you can use them. And most importantly, make sure you don't forget! Make a list if you must and keep it on you. This is important because in almost anything you are planning to do, finding out everything alone is just too much, whereas learning from other people's experience and knowledge ensures everything goes faster and smoother.

For finite resources, this is especially important because the last thing you'd want to do is use more than what's available to you and stumble upon unforeseen expenses.

Knowing where you can go is crucial to maximizing time at your disposal and ensuring that an outlined and reliable plan can be put in place.

2. Match your workflow to your energy levels

Probably the most important thing you should know is how you work, and what amount of stamina you have regarding work. As I said earlier, some people can stay focused for hours, while some for less than one. Regardless of which category you fall into, there is no good or bad, as long as you know what it is. It's also important to understand that ones' energy levels vary daily. Sometimes you might be more eager and excited to work, other times you might be tired and sluggish. A good tactic is to adapt to these variations.

So, when energy is high and you can focus for long periods of time then do that. However, when feeling sluggish, it's not just okay, but almost necessary, to take more frequent breaks. For example, on a good day, I generally work for three hours, then rest for 20-30 minutes, and repeat. On slow days, that sometimes goes down to 30 minutes of work, and 10 minutes of break. The average work-break recommendation is usually 10 minutes break every hour. Don't worry, these variations will even out with time.

So going off of these plans I've made a ratio of break/work time which ensures one doesn't that overworked regardless of energy levels. This ratio is as follows:

- Slow days: 1/3 Break-to-work time ratio.

- Normal days: 1/6 Break-to-work time ratio.

- High-energy days: 1/9 Break-to-work time ratio.

So on normal days, for example, that would be 10 minutes breaks every 60 minutes. 1/6.

3. Know how much work and time is needed to complete the task

The previous two tips are irrelevant if you don't know how much time is required to complete the task you're working on. Without a proper idea of the time frame, you'll be looking at, you can't know how to plan so that you can make the work easy.

The best way is to go off of previous experiences you had with similar types of tasks. If you have no previous experience, it never hurts to ask someone who might. That someone could even be your boss, he'll be glad you asked.

Once you become good at estimating timing you can start to account for your skill improvements which makes the workflow much faster, making it easier to plan ahead. However, this isn't essential as it's better to give yourself extra time than risk getting yourself less than required.


Working hard isn't good, and many times actually leads to less productivity overall, but a lot of people have a hard time understanding what working smart looks like, and eventually end up working hard anyway. So I made a three-part framework to help you plan effectively.

1. Know what resources are at your disposal (budget, tools, people, libraries, etc.)

2. Match your workflow to your energy levels

  • Slow days: 1/3 break to work ratio

  • Normal days: 1/6 break to work ratio

  • High-energy days: 1/9 break to work ratio

3. Know how much work and time is needed to complete the task

. . .

Working hard is easy, all you have to do is not stop. But it's not a sustainable way to work, and will eventually lead to less productivity. However, working smart will ensure that productivity levels remain constant and maximized over time. Planning ahead and making work as stress-free as possible makes it possible to complete many tasks without needing to take breaks between them. This is why highly successful people don't work hard, they work smart and never get burnt out while being incredibly high achievers.


Hi, I'm Matthew, my mission is to spread knowledge about motivation, productivity, and enabling people to achieve the best that they can be! I have a vast background in psychology and a passion for self-improvement. I literally can't remember a time when I didn't have a psychology book in my hands. On top of that, I've traveled around the world from a very young age, and seen many different courses of life, forming friendships with highly successful people, as well as people who are willing to do anything to make ends meet. My own life took me down a roller coaster of highs and lows, and I'm forever grateful that I've been able to overcome everything it threw at me. Now I want to take the opportunity to give back, and help others learn tools and methods for becoming who they were born to be!


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