5 Ways To Work Smarter, Not Harder

By | November 5, 2016

Do you and your organization want to work smarter, not harder? Let me showworksmarternotharder you 5 Ways To Work Smarter, Not Harder…it’s all about doing the “right” work instead of “busy” work!

1. Emotional Intelligence

What’s the big deal with Emotional Intelligence (EQ)? Research indicates that emotional competencies such as self-confidence, empathy, listening, and initiative are better predictors of success than intelligence. According to Forbes magazine, businesses should focus their recruitment efforts more on EQ than on IQ. People with higher EQ are often more even tempered, better listeners, and ultimately, make better decisions as they are better able to recognize their emotions and understand their impact on thinking and behaviour.

“People drive performance – but, make no mistake – emotions drive people.” 6seconds.org

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Organizations look for leaders who have a better understanding of those emotions. These leaders have higher competencies to navigate the complexities of personality, business relations, and policy.

2. Digital Management

Surprising results are achieved when we put the right tools in the right hands. Online networking platforms, virtual forums, and social publishing tools are transforming business. We should be reminded that these tools do not necessarily mean it’s easier to manage today’s workforce. In fact, these tools will never replace the foundations of face-to-face interaction even with the millennial workforce.


Emerging social and technological platforms are absolutely a must to communicate and collaborate in today’s global market with diverse teams, geography, and time zones…another tool in the toolbox to complement face-to-face interaction.

Stay ahead in the fast-changing digital and social media communications landscape.

3. Mindfulness

Have you noticed that modern work-life is now characterised by interruptions and competing demands, increasingly so as ever more information is hurled at us from an array of tablets and smartphones? Studies show that three minutes is about how long the average office worker concentrates on their job before they get interrupted. It can take workers up to 23 minutes to get back to the task they were working on.


According to Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, these interruptions are sapping morale and affecting employee productivity. Solution…we work “harder” and this generally means managing multiple tasks at once – “not smarter!” While multitasking can often seem efficient, there is growing evidence to suggest it is actually a poor coping mechanism.

Although multitasking may help you feel like you’re ticking things off the list, Rasmus Hougaard points to recent studies that show that it makes us less productive and more stressed. Citing research showing the human mind wanders in 47 per cent of our waking hours, Hougaard says multitasking comes at the expense of long-term planning and decision-making abilities. “When we’re constantly distracted we lose the capacity for visionary and creative thinking. We become addicted to action and reaction”…working harder, not smarter!

The Solution!

According to Hougaard, the most powerful antidote to the habit of distractions is mindfulness. “The mind is like a muscle; it can be strengthened and toned and make us more present. The mind can be trained to more effectively engage in everyday work activities to be more productive, efficient, collaborative and creative.

“Mindfulness is a mental discipline that helps keep the mind on the single task at hand. It’s basically about learning how to manage our attention,” he adds.

While 10 minutes of formal meditation practice a day is encouraged, Hougaard’s Corporate-Based Mindfulness Training program often starts with tangible goals such as curbing email checks. “Email is the biggest issue for workers now, with 60,000 surveyed Australian employees saying emails were detrimental to their performance,” he says.

Instead of responding to emails first thing in the morning, Hougaard recommends tackling a focus-oriented goal during the first two hours of the day. Email should be scheduled: three periods of one hour a day, for example.

“If we want to work smarter rather than harder, we make clear priorities and focus on one thing at a time,” he explains.

“My teacher says if you have two minutes a day, make sure they matter. It is not selfish; it is important and will benefit all beings.” – Eve Ekman

4. Wellness

Companies need to invest more in wellness programs and creative benefits that engage employees and lead to higher productivity.

Amelia Wilcox suggests the myth that we only use 10% of our brains has been largely debunked. If that would be true, just imagine the outcome if we increased our mental capacities at work.

But for many organizations, “trying” to be smarter about work revolves around burning the midnight oil, working longer hours, coming in earlier, plowing through lunch, etc. Does it work? Usually not. Ramping up our input doesn’t always mean increasing our output. When it comes to really moving the needle, increasing brainpower at work often takes a different approach. And the results go beyond production—they create happier, mentally healthier employees.


Hitting the gym is great for your brain. While studies have long documented the benefits of exercise on the heart and muscles, new research suggested that staying in shape is doing wonders for the way we think and process information.

Your brain is no different than rest of the muscles in your body–you either use it or you lose it. You utilize the gym to stimulate the growth of muscle cells, just as you use a brain fitness program to increase connections in your brain. The benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have positive effects on brain function on multiple fronts, ranging from the molecular to behavioral level.

According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. Exercise increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain.

Healthy Body…Healthy Mind = Wellness

5. Lifelong Learning

According to Dr. Norman Doidge, in “The Brain That Changes Itself,” lifelong learning stimulates certain areas of the brain that aren’t usually stimulated in adulthood. Through middle age, most of our time is spent repeating tasks we are familiar with. Learning something new challenges our brain to open and explore new pathways, in order to absorb, retain, and then put new information to use.


Valuable Organizational Attribute!

Whether for professional development, career growth, long-term cognitive health, lifelong learning is a valuable organizational attribute…it is one of the ways to effect change in our brains and continue to grow.


Please share and let me know if you have any questions or would like to leave a comment. I would love to hear what you think.

Best regards,




12 thoughts on “5 Ways To Work Smarter, Not Harder

  1. Joshua Thomas

    Thanks for this Miles, it reflects many of the principles I struggle to keep up with on a daily basis. I believe particularly in mindfulness because it is so easy to become distracted by everything else. In university, that was a really troublesome issue–I tried learning everything rather than simply focusing one thing, mastering it and moving on. I took that silly habit into the working world and quickly realised that life’s pressures constrained my single most valuable resource: time! I’m still a work in progress but my time management and focus now are far better than they were before. This was both great encouragement and a timely reminder, thanks again.

    1. admin

      Joshua, I’m so pleased that you found this post encouraging and a timely reminder. It’s awesome to share information people find helpful in their life journey.

      All the best!


  2. Mark

    Interesting take on how we all deal with everyday life, I never really looked at how I deal with my daily routine and how out of sync I might just be. Some very interesting and useful ideas here that just might change how I do things. Cheers!

    1. Miles Post author

      Mark, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I would be thrilled to hear about any changes you contemplate making to your daily routine to shift the focus to work smarter!

      All the best,


  3. Chris Cotter

    Great article and some really useful tips, especially the mindfulness section.

    I’m reminded of a quote by Bill Gates — ‘I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.’

    It’s a great example of EQ being used in a leadership capacity.

    Keep up the good work

  4. James

    I love that quote by Bill Gates, too, Chris.

    I’m the laziest of the lazy, often times I think about how to do something for 90% of the time, to find an easier way to do it.

    for example, instead of mopping a floor with a mop, why not wrap a couple of old towels round your feet and walk around the room a couple of times to clean the floor. Seems like it’s easier work.

    Great post, Miles.


    1. Miles Post author

      James, I love your example of easier work. Laziness is not necessarily a bad thing and thanks very much pointing that out…I agree!!


  5. Mike

    Thank you for the article! You are spot-on on every point. We need more EQ in our workplaces than IQ. Not a knock on highly educated people, but I used to work with a PhD who couldn’t reason his way out of a wet paper bag!

    Using tools for what they are – tools – has to be be our focus. Too many times I see couples sitting across the table from one another… texting. Why not engage in the highest form of intimacy – an intelligent conversation?

    Mindfulness and the things that facilitate it, like maintaining our well-being, both physically and mentally, get tossed aside too quickly to make room for busy-work.

    And making a habit of life-long learning keeps us sharp and up-to-date. I know I would be lost if I didn’t try to stay current on what I do!

    Thanks again, Miles! The world needs to see more of what you wrote. Kudos!

    1. Miles Post author

      Mike, I really appreciate your comments and encouragement. Emotional Intelligence has the potential for positive influence in our personal and work lives. You’re absolutely right in suggesting that the world needs to be more of emotional intelligence.

      Thank you!


  6. Rab

    The phrase ‘Healthy Body, Healthy Mind’ reminds me that I should start paying attention to my health. I have always been neglecting my health and prioritizing my work over it and I should work smarter, not harder! However, it can be hard some times as I get carried away while doing my work yet still tolerating my aching pain of sitting at the computer desk for hours. Regardless, this is a very useful article that I can always refer back to every now and then.

    1. Miles Post author

      Hi there and thanks, so much, for taking the time to comment. I agree with you completely that it can be hard to set aside time to make your health a priority. I have a passion for helping people discover new possibilities and pursue their own solutions and I provide professional and personal coaching to help people achieve their goals by:

      Discovering, clarifying and aligning with what you want to achieve.
      Encouraging self-discovery.
      Eliciting client-generated solutions and strategies.
      Holding the client responsible and accountable.

      I would love the opportunity to help you!

      All the best,



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