I have been told in my professional career to “work smarter, not harder”. While scratching my head I’m wondering, how to do that? I felt like that little hamster on the spinning wheel going a mile a minute and getting tired.

Most successful people spend more time working to achieve their goals than others, there are many people who work hard, but don’t accomplish the success they want.

How can someone who doesn’t work hard succeed? Is that possible? Can you work smarter, not harder and still enjoy the rewards of success?

People who succeed generally like, or even love, their work. I have always been passionate about my work in the Engineered Wood Product industry and I often put more hours into accomplishing results and it doesn’t even feel like work. It feels like I am doing what I really want to be doing. It has always been a reward for me to go to a jobsite and see the products installed how I designed them to be placed.

So you begin being smarter by choosing “work” you enjoy. Choose something that gives you lots of satisfaction in return for your actions. Being happy doing what you’re doing makes you more productive.

The next smart move is to base your time management on priorities. Choose your priorities on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. By doing so, the smarter you will be and the faster you can produce results.

We all know people who are constantly spinning their hamster wheels. They work hard and they’re very busy, but they never seem to get anywhere. Sometimes these people even like their work, but they somehow just don’t seem to get much pay-off for all the effort they put into it. This is caused by poor time management and the lack of setting valid priorities.

How do you improve your ability to set good priorities? It takes practice.  You must have clear goals and your goals must be prioritized. I do this by setting “mini” goals to achieve the “big” goals. Apply the “mini” goals in order of what is most important to you to get to the end results. This is a constant process, because your priorities can change.

Once you have prioritized your goals, you must choose the actions you’re going to take to reach those goals. So the second step is to make a list of things to do. You’ll need to do this every week, every day and whenever you’re feeling confused about what to do next.

Step number three is to prioritize your actions. When you do this, keep the 80/20 rule in mind. The 80/20 rule shows you how, out of a list of ten actions, only approximately 20% (two out of ten) will be of major importance to accomplishing your goal. 80%, or eight of the ten things on your list, will only give you 20% of the value, whereas just 20%, or two things out of the list of ten, will provide a whopping 80% of the value.

Choosing priorities is essential to working smarter. Often your top priority actions will be the most confronting. If you neglect to prioritize your list, your tendency will be to avoid the most important actions you need to take in order to reach your goal. You naturally avoid these because they’re the most difficult. But that’s not smart. Avoiding your priority activities causes you to have to work harder and longer to achieve the results. Thus, spinning your wheel and getting tired.

Choosing good priorities takes practice. So you’ll want to follow these three steps on a daily basis. Each time you do it, you’ll get better and better at the art of setting priorities. Setting good, obtainable priorities is the best way for all of us to become more successful faster. It’s the way to work smarter, not harder.

This little hamster got smart and finally got off the wheel.

Renaldo Montenegro

Engineered Wood Products Designer

Gould Design Inc.