Hard Work, Hacks, and 8 Ways to Keep a Balanced Approach

A lot of people believe that hard work is the only way to succeed. Yet another set laughs at the hard workers and are forever looking for hacks.

Hard work is seen as the old fashioned way of doing things that’s not relevant in today’s fast paced world. Meanwhile, smart work is often misunderstood to be cheating or using shortcuts.

What we need is a balanced approach. Overworking yourself using inefficient methods won’t get you anywhere. Similarly, an undue dependence on hacks will only waste your time.

How to find that balance? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. When you are starting out — Don’t look for hacks:

Everything is hard when you are starting out. In these situations it is easy to be tempted by hacks that promise an easier way.

But the thing with hacks is, they are only effective when you know what you are doing. Not every trick you hear of is as magical or useful as you assume.

Hacks aren’t shortcuts. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work involved. You should have some knowledge of the task at hand before you attempt more efficient ways to do it.

Don’t waste your time chasing hacks when you start. Do it the way it’s supposed to. Look for smarter ways only after you have grasped the basics.

2. Don’t get obsessed with hacks:

Sometimes, you get so carried away trying to find better methods that you forget actually doing the work.

If, at any point, you are fuzzy about what you did, and the only thing you remember is all the cool tricks you discovered, it means you need to stop and re-prioritize.

Don’t make a habit of finding new hacks. Make a habit of showing up and doing the work.

Your success is measured by what you achieve, not by how many hacks you find.

3. Consistent habits demand hard work:

A lot of goals require you to take huge steps or complete one time tasks. However, there are other goals, such as building a habit, where the work itself isn’t too hard. It’s the way you have to keep doing it regularly that’s daunting.

Using a few techniques makes it much easier to stick around. You can use keystone habits. You can tie your new habit to an existing one. You can do some advance preparation so you aren’t as likely to procrastinate.

But no matter how many hacks you try, a habit still means the same: doing it every day, without fail.

Hacks don’t reduce the effort involved. Nor do they enable you to build a habit in 10 days instead of 30.

Don’t break the chain. Keep going, and eventually, you’ll have a long chain and an unbreakable habit.

4. Not everything comes quick or easy:

For those used to working smart (that includes me), working hard in anything for any situation seems counter productive. Why do it the hard, boring way when an easier, funner one exists?

There is no problem with this type of thinking. The problem occurs when the fun way becomes the only way in which you want to work. When you want everything to come easy or quick.

What we need to realize is you can only optimize your work so much. Stop getting frustrated if something isn’t fun to do. Stop expecting everything to be faster or easier. Buckle up and get it done.

5. The best way to get unstuck — Try something new:

Hard work and consistency are very important for your success. But sometimes, you end up working too hard, without seeing results.

You’ve reached a limit. Your progress has stalled, and any extra effort on your part only sinks you deeper into exhaustion and burn out.

If you’ve never tried anything else, you’d want to keep going the way you have. Success will find you. Hard work is never wasted, right?

But what if a better way exists? Instead of doubling your efforts, pause and consider new ideas of doing it.

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. — Will Rogers

6. Change your perspective:

Sometimes, old problems warrant new solutions. Especially when you’ve been stuck on the said problem for too long.

But new solutions aren’t always found in ready made hacks just waiting to be discovered. You have to be a lot more creative. You have to invent your own hacks.

How to set about doing this? The key here is to change your perspective. Stop trying to do things the way you’ve been. Stop looking at your problems in the same old way.

Think outside the box. Experiment with unconventional methods. Do your own thing.

7. Copy others’ success:

When you are unsure where to start, try learning from others’ successes.

Read books and articles. Learn more about the successful or highly skilled people in your field.

How did they do it? Pay special attention to the methods they used. Keep note of the well known advises they ignored. What were the things they did differently? Which rules did they break?

While you cannot mimic their exact success by simply following what they did, you’ll have a lot more direction in what to try first.

8. Study your own work:

Experience is the best teacher. Though you can learn a lot from others’ experiences, there’s nothing quite like learning from your own.

Begin viewing all your efforts, whether successful or not, as one huge experiment to learn from.

Evaluate all the things you did, and the results they gained. What’s working, and what’s not? Which steps could you do away with? Is there a single factor that drives most of your successes (or failures)?

Make a habit of analyzing your results. With time, you’ll find patterns that bring you success. You will get over initially impossible obstacles. You will be able to ignore rules that don’t work for you, and create your own instead.


Hard work and smart work are two sides of the same coin. Just like there isn’t a single path to success, there can’t be a single approach to work. You have to learn your strengths and weaknesses to know when to work hard, and when to look for hacks.

Do you have a strong leaning towards either hard or smart work? How do you decide which approach to use?

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I use my curiosity to learn and improve in every area of life. If you are a life-long learner, you’d dig my newsletter: The Thoughtful Muse. In it I share ideas, insights, as well as helpful links and resources. Sounds good? Get on the pre-launch list here.

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