Work smarter, not harder

Like clockwork

You know this person, right? Whenever you see her she’s always “so crazy.” Whenever you ask how she’s doing, her reply is always about how “hectic” it all is, how much work she has to do, how she’s so busy, busy, busy. This is the person you could put in a room with nothing but an apple and when you check in on her two hours later she’ll tell you that she’s “incredibly busy.”

Some people, no matter what, will always give the impression that they’re working hard. It’s a defense mechanism — a way to prove their value and usefulness to the organization. They make a living. But these are usually not the successful people I know.

The successful people I know are typically not so “crazy busy.”

They’re spending time with their families; they have time to speak, to golf, to relax. It’s not that they’re not working hard. It’s just that they’re working smarter. Want to be like them? Here’s some advice.

Focus on the important stuff.  

Some people have to make sure that everything is perfect. Successful people I meet know that the world is imperfect. They keep close to the issues that matter and leave the rest to their employees to handle. Everything doesn’t have to be 100-percent correct. Things have a pecking order.

For example, successful sales managers don’t scrutinize the activities of their strong salespeople; they only focus on the activities of those not making quotas. A successful warehouse manager only wants alerts when item quantities fall below a certain level. A successful banker wants to stay on top of his problem accounts because the good accounts don’t need as much attention. By focusing on the 20 percent of things that really need your attention, you leave time to do other things.


When a successful person encounters a problem, her first question isn’t, “How am I going to do this?” Instead, she asks, “Who’s going to do this for me?” People who make lots of money do it by managing other people. Those same people usually have more available time because they know that by giving other people the authority to get things done on their behalf, they can focus on other priorities. So delegate.

Look at your list of things to do today and ask yourself whether you’re so incredibly important that you can’t have others do some of them for you. Believe me, you can and they can.  You’re not so important. In fact, others might do a better job than you if you just give them the chance. Sure, they’ll make some mistakes. Your job is just to make sure they can’t make a catastrophic mistake. Everything else is a learning experience. And how can you grow if you don’t give your people the same chance?

Use technology.  

But only if it makes you more productive. Don’t just get a gadget because it looks neat and then spend the next three days obsessing over it and not getting anything else done.

Technology should allow you to access information that you need wherever you are so you’re not tied down to the office.

Cloud-based technologies like Microsoft® Office 365 from GoDaddy enable you to reach and be reachable to anyone, anywhere. Technology should give you information that will help you make smarter, faster decisions. It should incorporate automatic workflows to alert you to problems before they happen (like a big customer invoice is about to go overdue). The successful business people I know view technology only as a means for improving their lives, not controlling it.

Be selfish.  

If you go home at 5:30 p.m. instead of 6:30 p.m. today, the world will continue to turn. What’s important is your family, your personal life, your sanity. You are not helping your company in the long run if you make yourself so “busy” that you lose the balance between your professional life and relaxation. So be selfish. Say no. Have rules. Be consistent. Put your mental health and your family’s well-being first.

Work to live, not the other way around.

Business owners and managers who strike this right balance in their lives are almost always the best managers – because they work smarter, not harder, they’re just more normal. And in the end, don’t we all want to be as normal as possible? And don’t we want to work for a normal person, not a maniac?

Yeah, she’s so incredibly busy. She works so hard. But is that really so necessary all the time? No. It’s not. Because 100 years from now she’ll be in the same place as the rest of us. No matter what kind of crazy schedule she’s keeping.

Image by: Curious Expeditions via Compfight cc

Gene Marks
Gene Marks writes a daily column for the Washington Post on business and public policy. He also writes weekly for Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, and periodically for The Huffington Post and Gene also regularly appears on Fox News, MSNBC, Sirius XM Radio and ABC radio. His work reaches hundreds of thousands of business owners and executives each week. Gene is a Certified Public Accountant and runs the Marks Group PC - a 10-person technology and management consulting firm located near Philadelphia. He spent nine years with the international firm KPMG, most recently as Senior Manager. Gene speaks frequently to business groups so they can better understand the trends affecting their businesses and - most importantly - the actions they should take to continue to grow and profit.