Work Smarter, Not Harder: Leveraging Your Experience and Knowledge
Have you ever noticed how many of our work-related clichés are OLD? “Put your nose to the grindstone, your shoulder to the wheel.” “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Even the relatively new saying, “work smarter, not harder” has been around since the 1930s. It can make you wonder if these old platitudes have anything to do with the modern world today.
Adam Savage, one of the former co-stars on the long-running series Mythbusters, has a YouTube channel called ‘Tested’ that demonstrates some value of the “work smarter, not harder” ethic in practically every video. To the uninitiated, Adam Savage is your average, run-of-the-mill nerd who delights in making movie props and costumes for fan conventions. His channel features many “One Day Builds” where he has decided to recreate a movie prop or build something or other, giving himself a deadline of one day. There are many lessons to learn by watching his shows:
Be prepared. Savage has a dream workshop. His guests can inquire if he has a certain tool or material and lo and behold, there it is. True, it can cost a fortune to have that much at hand, but he will often explain how he purchased a large lot years ago, or how a sponsor provided him with something. Savage is also a list-maker, knowing that it is smart to plan ahead for any contingency.
Set deadlines. By choosing to make something in one day, Savage has set what he believes to be a deadline that is realistic for the project he has chosen. If something does take longer, for example he has to wait longer for a glue to set, he is upfront that it took longer and makes note of the fact that if he uses this glue again, to figure the actual drying time into his calculations.
Avoid distractions. Sometimes, rather than tackle a typical project, Savage will do something in his workshop that has been bothering him—reorganize his materials, hang proper shelves in his bathroom, add a window to his office door, etc. We can all relate to how it can take us longer to complete a project because we can’t find something or are just plain unhappy with our environment. Savage recognizes this and uses these opportunities to take care of distractions so he can save time on the real work later.
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Savage also knows that, despite his experience in building, he doesn’t know everything. There are many instances in his videos where he has contacted a guest to help him, or bought a pre-made item to save him time. In our own work, it’s important for us to know what we are capable of doing and being able to ask for extra help when we need it, even if it’s just automating replies to our emails when we don’t have time.
Maybe the biggest lesson to be found in the work smarter adage is that if you look around you will always find something new to learn, even in a half-hour entertaining video.