Why Working “Smarter Not Harder” Is Stupid

Is it better to work smarter or harder?

Is it better to work smarter or harder?

This is probably an unpopular opinion, but it’s better to work harder.

Smarter – or more efficient?

The “work smarter” theory implies you’ll be more productive, in less time. But that’s not being smarter – that’s being more efficient.

The idea behind working “smarter’ is you plan your strategy before you start and find ways to improve time management. As I said – efficiency, not smarts. And on top of that, it takes time to strategise, to learn how to utilise your time, and to keep consistently planning. Time that could be spent actually working.

When it comes down to it, getting the work done is the end goal. You might as well get on and do it, rather than waste time researching and implementing fancy ways to make it appear like you’re doing it better.

Done is done. Makes no difference how you get there.

Effort is always under your control

The “work smarter not harder” motto also directly contradicts the “talent will only get you so far” saying. Everyone has a cap on how smart they can be. No one is capped on how hard they can work. Effort is always and completely under our control.

The person working harder will always beat out the person giving minimal effort – which is essentially what you’re teaching you’re brain by telling yourself you can do more in less time.

Remember the definition of “work”

People fixate on the “harder” or “smarter” part of that saying, but forget the key constant: work. Work is work – it’s meant to be hard. It’s meant to take effort. Thinking you can negate some of that by working “smarter” sets you up to either:

  1. Produce lesser results, or
  2. Do less work.

If you want to get results, you need to do the work. 

You’ll feel frustrated

As I’ve said, the work you need to do will generally take the time it needs to do it. If you think you should be able to do it faster, or better, by working “smarter”, you’re only going to get frustrated with yourself when you can’t.

But it’s not your fault – work takes time. No amount of time efficiency can reduce the actual amount of time it takes for something to be done. That’s just physics.

Everyone has different a level of “smarts”. Thinking you’re “stupid” or “less disciplined” than someone else, because you can’t seem to work “smarter” than them, doesn’t improve your work. It’s just going to make you feel bad.

Working smarter encourages laziness

Working smarter not harder introduces a mindset that, by extension, you should be working less. And I’m not saying everyone should work 24/7 – resting is important. And time management is also important – it isn’t smart to waste hours on social media if you have a lot of work to do.

But the whole “work smarter not harder” has an underlying subtext that is telling your brain it’s a bad idea to “work harder”. Whether you’re working smarter or not, whenever anything gets hard your brain will think it’s okay to take a break because it shouldn’t be “working harder”. Whenever anything requires more effort, your brain will convince you to stop because surely there’s a “smarter” way to do it.

And hey, maybe there is. But if you don’t immediately know what that is (or can learn incredibly quickly), and you can still get the job done by working hard, just get on and do it.

Just because you could, theoretically, do something smarter, doesn’t mean you should. Especially if it’s going to take more time.

Working hard shouldn’t be something to shy away from. It should be the default option.

There are no shortcuts

People will say “working smarter” will get you to the result easier and faster than simply working hard. I disagree.

Yes, you can do all the “work smarter” suggestions like implement time saving techniques and make a plan and ask yourself questions to get the most out of your work. But none of that changes the work that actually needs to be done.

If I need to write 1,000 words for this blog post, I need to write 1,000 words. I can turn my phone off, I can plot the structure out, I can break it into twenty-minute work chunks. But they don’t reduce the work that needs to be done. They can’t make me think or write any quicker.

I still need to write 1,000 words, and that will take as long as it takes. It will take a 1,000 word effort, regardless of how I get there.

And in fact, strategising and planning will actually add time and effort to those overall 1,000 words. So, technically, “working smarter” just cost me more.

The end goal is what counts

When working, the mindset should be to get to the end goal – not how you get there.

We’ve become a society afraid of working hard, always looking for the “easy way” under the guise that that’s the “smart way”.

When working, “smart” shouldn’t come into it. There’s been enough kids failing school, who then manage to get top marks by working hard, to prove it.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do things the best way we can, or try to learn ways to do them better. But that’s an improvement we can work on separately. It shouldn’t be a part of the work process itself.

When we’re working, we want the results. And the best way to get those is to work hard.

The amount of effort you put in is the amount of effort you’ll get out.

“Work smarter not harder” is just a procrastination technique. It’s an attempt to cut corners.

Hard work is irrefutable. It’s admirable. It’s what will ultimately yield any results.

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