We’ve all seen people who run work hard but never seem to get anywhere. Perhaps you have even said, “I work my fingers to the bone, but I can never seem to get ahead.” You may have even noticed people who are successful, who have a nicer house than you, a nicer car, and nicer clothes, but don’t seem to work a nearly as hard as you do. Perhaps you’ve seen people doing better than you are who aren’t as intelligent as you are. So if it isn’t how hard you work, and it isn’t how smart you are, what makes the difference? What is the element that makes people successful? In a word, goals. In a few more words, having a goal and being dedicate to it, making sure everything you do is bringing you closer to it.
You’ve heard it said, “Work smarter, not harder.” That’s great advice, but if you don’t know what “working smarter” means it isn’t going to do you a lot of good. Working smarter simply means evaluating what you are doing and seeing if it is bringing you any closer to your goals. If it isn’t, you should either change what you are doing, or change how you are doing it.
Of course if you are doing something that obviously isn’t going to get you where you want to be, you should look into changing what you are doing. Sometimes, though, it isn’t what you are doing but how you are doing it that needs adjustment.
Imagine walking into a kitchen and seeing a chef take some eggs, break them, then dump the contents into the trash and drop the shells into a mixing bowl. He adds some sugar and vinegar and then sets it aside, forgetting about it. Then he mixes up the ingredients for a cake correctly, puts it in the oven, but then immediately pulls it back out again. He pours milk into a bowl and then pours it down the sink. He continues to mix random ingredients, put things in the wrong place, and either pull things out of the oven immediately or leave them in and forget about them. When you ask him what he is trying to make, he simply replies, “Food.” When you press him for further details about exactly what sort of food, he seems confused and says, “Well, I never really thought about it.”
Each of his individual actions, in of them themselves, were correct as far as they went. But without an overall plan, without knowing exactly what he was trying to accomplish, he would never get anything meaningful accomplished except by accident. That is sort of a silly example, but if you compare the actions of a person with a specific goal to those of someone without one, you will see some similarities.
Just like planning a trip, goals and objectives give us our destination. Then we work backwards to see how we are going to get there. By minimizing detours and side trips we establish a direct route between where we are and where we want to be, allowing each piece of work to have greater effect while at the same time reducing the overall amount of work we have to do. That’s how you work smarter, not harder!