Hard Work vs Smart Work

By Sudeshini Fernando on February 1, 2016


Freud pointed out that work and love give meaning to our lives. The average person spends the bulk of their waking hours working to achieve certain goals. But not everyone achieves their goals and not everyone experiences the sense of purpose that work is meant to provide us with. To some, work merely remains a burden.

What is the secret? Why are some people successful and happy in their work and others not? There are too many variables involved to answer this question, but there are some guidelines for working smart, which is likely to improve one’s chances of goal achievement.

Hard work

One cannot get away from putting in effort. Hard work has been described as a method by which a person translates a vision and ideas into results. This requires persistence and determination. As the inventor Thomas Edison said: “Success is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. Many people who give up on their goals were just a step away from achieving success. But hard work by itself might not be enough. The key is to maximise the impact of that effort by working smart.

Smart work

Smart work is about focusing on relevant issues, having a clear and flexible goal and going about in a planful manner. It also involves a disciplined approach.

In order to cut through the usual clutter which obscures most problem solving situations, and to identify the key issues involved in any challenge, one needs knowledge and a thorough understanding of the situation. To obtain this, the situation needs to be explored without getting side-tracked or flooding one’s own mind with irrelevant detail. Proper understanding may also require analysis by pulling a situation apart to identify the factors involved and their interrelationships. It is important though, not to get knotted up in analysis paralysis. The information one obtains through analysis then needs to be ordered and structured in such a way as to be meaningful and coherent. The best way is to draw pictures to represent the information in terms of certain goals. Things that do not make sense, cannot be addressed properly. Once we have a proper understanding of what is involved, given both our personal goals and the contextual requirements, we can creatively come up with a smart and innovative way to achieve those goal.

“People who work hard and people who work smart, have different measures of success.” Jacob Morgan.

Hard work and smart work go hand in hand. It is not a case of “either-or”, but a case of “and-but”. In our fast moving world, where many things compete for our time, smart work has become an imperative.

The key to smart work is awareness: of our goals, our thinking processes, our behaviour and our context. In psychology, this aspect is referred to as “metacognition”. It is about self-awareness and self-monitoring, which involves asking ourselves critical questions, or by applying “metacognitive criteria”. Self-awareness and the use of the right questions, is bound to result in greater efficiency, focus, creativity, and appropriateness. This is important as creativity and innovation are critical prerequisite for a person to adapt to fast changing business environments. Over time it also results in optimising one’s intuitive insights, learning potential and an appreciation of the big picture.

To find out more about how you capitalise on your metacognition, and whether you work smart, contact Cognadev to find out more about the Learning Orientation Index (LOI) designed for Millennials and Generation Y. Cognadev also offers the Cognitive Process Profile (CPP) to assess the cognitive effectiveness of adults in the work environment. Both these tools are computerised simulation exercises that measure information processing preferences and skills.

And don’t forget to work hard at working smart.

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