We could all learn from Priscilla. Priscilla is a Visayan warty pig that lives in Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden and zoo in Paris, France. Most Visayan warty pigs use their snout to hollow out a nest hours before giving birth, but Priscilla does things differently. She uses a piece of bark to make digging easier and faster. Priscilla works smarter, not harder, than other pigs.
You probably didn't expect that as an intro to a serious article about the importance of working smarter. It does, however, highlight (in an admittedly left-field way) the advantages that can be gained by working smarter rather than harder.
It also shows that just because things have always been done a particular way doesn't mean they should continue being done that way. Figuring out how to work smarter is usually the better option, especially if you run a company, so face significant pressures on your time, energy, and brainpower.
By working smarter, you will get more done in less time, increasing your productivity. You will also have more energy and clarity for mission-critical tasks and decisions, and better motivation to keep going when things get tough.
Crucially, your value to the organization will increase. This point can be challenging for some CEOs and other C-Suite executives, as they feel they already contribute massive value to the company by working hard. By working smarter, you can contribute even more.
The following questions can help you determine whether you are working harder or smarter.
Do You Default to DIY and Other Cost-Cutting Measures to Save Money?
One of the approaches that companies use to save money is to bring things in-house, using in-house resources rather than third-party providers. In some circumstances, this is not only a prudent approach, but it is also the best approach, especially if you have other reasons for doing so in addition to cost-saving.
That said, there are many, many occasions when the do-it-yourself approach will cost you more, especially when you take into account the value of your in-house resources in relation to time.
However, this article isn't about the running of your company. It is about you personally and whether you work harder or smarter. So, the issue comes down to the value of your time.
You could put a simple monetary value on your time based on your remuneration to get a per-hour number. That is only a baseline, though, as most CEOs and C-Suite executives often contribute more to their companies than their remuneration would indicate, particularly if you have built the company from the ground up.
Now we have an indication of the value of your time, we can look at some examples of how efforts to save money can actually cost you more. One we have experience with here at Amoeba is an engineer committed to saving money. One of the ways the engineer achieved this was by taking the cheapest (and most time-consuming) method of transport to get to client sites. When you run a calculation on the value of the engineer's time compared to the cost saving of using the cheap transport, this approach actually costs us more.
We can use another example directly related to the services we provide. If customers need new hardware, we provide them with a quote. That quote will include a small margin for us, as you would expect. However, there are some CEOs or senior executives who will spend their valuable time shopping around to double-check the price. They might find a slightly cheaper quote from a different distributor that doesn't include the MSP's margin, but have they really saved anything? In almost every case, the small saving found in the cost of the hardware is significantly outweighed by the cost of the effort used to find it.
A final example is again from our direct experience, where customers remove machines from their remote monitoring and management contracts to shave off a bit of the cost. In the medium to long term, this almost always ends up costing more because the short-term saving doesn’t equate to the increased level of risk.
In summary, efforts to save money, including doing it yourself, result in you working harder. In many cases, you won’t save the money you intended, and you might even end up spending more. This is not working smarter.
Delegating is a crucial skill that all CEOs and C-Suite executives need. That said, there are many situations where there are insufficient levels of delegation. The reasons will be familiar, even if you don’t experience them yourself. They include not delegating enough because you want to retain control, or you want things done in a very specific way.
These are examples of working hard but not smart. Even putting aside the benefits of empowering and trusting your team, there are direct benefits to you of delegating. By delegating more, you will have more time to spend on higher-value tasks. You will also have more energy, helping to improve decision-making.
We’ll stay with examples we are familiar with – IT. If you don’t have a reliable MSP, your staff might come to you when they encounter an issue. This could be a small IT hurdle or a larger problem that requires research so an investment decision can be made. Wouldn’t it be better to delegate this to an MSP who could do it better anyway, while leaving to get on with the things that will drive business growth?
Are You Automating Enough?
If you personally take responsibility for completing repetitive, manual tasks, you are wasting your time. That is a blunt statement, but in the modern world of business, it is a fact.
An example is analyzing reports and data, as machines can do this faster, more comprehensively, and more accurately than people. By automating this process, you will have more time to spend on higher-value tasks, such as making decisions based on the analysis you receive.
Multitasking is a myth. Even when you think you are doing it, what you are actually doing is working slower and less effectively. According to neuropsychologists, instead of multitasking, you are actually doing individual things in rapid succession. This makes us less efficient and increases the chances of making a mistake.
You might be thinking you can easily listen to a podcast and go for a run. It’s all about scale and context, however. When doing tasks important to your business, the high-value tasks that have been mentioned throughout this article, attempting to multitask will reduce your performance.
Focus on Results, Not Time or Effort
There are lots of other specific examples that could be included here to highlight the differences between working harder and working smarter. Spending too much time in meetings is a good example.
This can all be summarized as switching focus to results rather than time or effort. In everything you do, your aim should be to get the best possible result. This means working smarter, not harder, and being more like Priscilla.
In IT, that can mean hiring an experienced MSP so you can spend more time working on value-adding tasks. Get in touch with us at Amoeba today.