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Work Smarter


Techniques Willpower > Work Smarter

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Working smart means having self-discipline to make efficient use of the time you have. Forcing yourself to work smart hence uses willpower and is an effective way of getting deliberate practice as well as being useful for getting things done.

Here are just a few of the things you can do:

  • Do not read emails or other messages throughout the day. Have fixed times at which you process such inputs.
  • Use a 'touch it, do it' philosophy, for example when you open a letter, then respond to it immediately.
  • Get in to work early each day to prepare and plan before you have to interact with others.
  • Go home on time. Beware of burning the candle too often and wrecking your life in doing so.
  • Prioritize your work, ensuring you do the important things well and on time.
  • Keep a tidy ship. Save things in a structured set of folders. Do regular housekeeping, weeding and restructuring as appropriate. Use a 'clean desk' approach.
  • Keep learning. Have a regular schedule of reading, study and gaining new qualifications.
  • Discuss work with colleagues. Seek ways to make it more effective, efficient and enjoyable. Watch out for tripwires between people, such as asymmetric power and confused handovers.
  • Map out work processes. Look for improvements such as reducing delays, decreasing repetition and making things simpler.
  • Watch for failure. Learn from it and change things to reduce the chance of future failure.


A person seems to be getting less done. Examining their day, they seem to be reacting to every interruption, whether it is by phone, email, text or people arriving in person and wanting immediate attention. They revise their day to have protected work periods during which they ignore all interruptions. It is difficult doing this at first, but with determination they succeed.

A student gets good grades by treating each assignment as a project, ensuring they know requirements, planning out the timeline, researching in the right places and ensuring time for several drafts, each of which they get others to read and criticize. With persistence they get a good qualification.


Working smarter is usually better than just working harder, although doing both is not only good for developing willpower, it also will get you the best career results.

Smart working and changing work habits may also require that you teach others about your new ways. If you reduce interruptions, then you should explain this to others in case they still try to interrupt you and think badly of you when you refuse their requests.

See also

Work Harder


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