We live in a culture where working yourself to your absolute limit is valued above all else. It sounds great until that intense work ethic develops into extreme burnout. As good as hustle can be, the real way to be productive in the long-term will always be to work smarter, not harder.
It’s an easy thing to say, but so much harder to do. Working smarter and not harder is generally described simply as eeking out every little efficiency you can. In other words, putting input toward what gets the most output. But the truth is there’s much more to it than that.
As much as working smart is about identifying and prioritizing the tasks that matter most, it’s just as important to acknowledge your own emotional, physical, and mental well-being. Working past your limit and burning out can be far more destructive to your long-term productivity than a few inefficiencies here and there.
What often leads to the most problems is our skewed perception of the “work” that we should be spending most of our time on. It’s not always as simple as putting nose to grindstone and doing all the mundane tasks that we’re told are important.
Part of the answer is to think critically about what work genuinely stands a chance of impacting your personal success or the success of the startup you are working with. But it’s just as important to understand that success is about much more than the work you do in the traditional sense.
Let’s take spending time with your friends for example. If we’re accepting the conventional wisdom on hustle as gospel then time with friends is one of the first things to get axed. But the truth is that making those relationships a priority is absolutely essential to your emotional and mental well-being. The value of that cannot be understated when it comes to your continued productivity.
The same goes for the relationships you cultivate at work. There’s nothing more debilitating to your productivity than a negative environment at the workplace. Taking the time to build a positive rapport with your teammates makes everything else you do so much easier. It can also improve collaboration and lead to a higher quality of work in general.
Not to mention the limitless potential of every genuine connection you build with another person. We like to talk a lot about how it’s not what you know, but who you know. You can’t cultivate those kinds of valuable contacts if you spend all your time buried in a computer. Not only is relationship-building good for your emotional health, but it may open the door to the next big step you’re hoping to take in your career.
If your startup is experiencing high levels of turnover, it may be worth considering if you and your team are getting the opportunity to do more than the pure travails of day to day work. Sometimes the best work takes shape when you have nothing active on your plate. When you get a moment to take a breath and start think why you are doing what you are doing. You may be surprised what you can uncover about how to do your job better.
If your startup can afford it, it’s worth budgeting time for reflection and creative thinking. Not only will it help keep yourself and your team happy, but it may be all that’s needed to discover that game-changing idea to make your business all the more successful.
Working smarter is about giving yourself time to recover when you know you’re approaching your limit. More than that, it’s about giving yourself time to think.
Change only happens when we let ourselves escape the loop of work and truly imagine how things could be better. Give yourself abundant opportunity to do just that.