Age-old advice tells us that through dedication and hard work, we can accomplish anything. All it takes is rolling up our sleeves and getting down to business. We have all sorts of sayings about putting our backs into it, burning the midnight oil, and elbow grease.
Hard work is at the heart of the American narrative. But really, is hard work at the heart of success?
Certainly, I don’t want to minimize the value of hard work. I think all of us who have achieved any measure of success know that hard work plays a massive role in getting there. At the same time, however, working hard on its own is not all that it takes to make it in the business world.
...At least, not working hard in the traditional sense.
Hard work is not long hours and skipped lunches. It’s time to revolutionize what we think about when we consider what it means to work hard. If you do, you’ll find yourself with more success than you know what to do with.
3 Ways to Redefine “Hard Work” for Success in Business
We live in a culture where “busy” is a badge of honor. If we’re not busy, we think something is inherently wrong with us. As a result, we’ve grown to think about working all wrong. Working hard is seen as merely being busy. If we’re occupied, we’re working hard. Long hours are synonymous with hard work regardless of the actual work accomplished. This is where we start to fail!
Success is far less about the hours spent working and more about what you actually do. It’s the classic dichotomy between quality and quantity.
1) Hard Work as Productivity
Hard work is best measured by what we are actually able to accomplish. Rather than looking back at the hours spent on the clock, if you can look back on a few hours and see that you have accomplished a great many things on your list, you know that you’ve been working hard! It’s about pushing through, breaking down walls, and perseverance even when it gets challenging.
The problem is that it’s a lot simpler to look and say “I worked x number of hours this week” and to feel validated by that number.
There are intangibles we have to consider, though. If you’re not at the top of your game, eventually your boss (if you’re not the boss) is going to realize that maybe you’re not the most efficient worker and maybe you’re wasting his time and his dime because you’re working and working but not really getting as much done as you should. Hard work should be about producing results, not about how much time you spend in the office.
You have to stop and consider if the work you produce is actually valuable. Are you really producing something worthwhile, or is your “hard work” just a waste of time?
2) Hard Work as Efficiency
There’s an old saying that says “why work hard when you can work smart,” and I find that there’s a lot of truth to that. Efficiency happens when we stop doing things the way we’ve always done them and actually take a moment to re-examine the system long enough to look for room for improvement.
Efficient systems and methods mean that you shouldn’t have to work so hard to see results. It might mean new technology to help facilitate progress, organization, and communication. It’s stopping to course-correct when something just feels slow or cumbersome. Part of the work is making sure that these things are smooth. The foundation upon which you work is as valuable as anything. In fact, it’s crucial to success.
3) Hard Work as Problem-Solving
Have you ever wasted time on the job? Or been billed for something that seemed really vague? One of those “filler” tasks that just didn’t seem like it was real work at all?
When it comes to success and hard work, there’s something we all have to keep in mind: we’re always here to solve problems. We might be solving our own problems in terms of revenue and efficiency, products and sales, or marketing and inventory. We might be solving problems for clients. Regardless of what it is, the work always comes down to problem-solving for someone. Problem-solving takes focus. If you know what it is you’re trying to solve, you can zero in on it and solve it. Then you’re done! You don’t have to keep your nose on the grindstone.
The issue that many of us have when we lack success in life is not a lack of hard work. It’s a lack of vision. A lack of focus. We don’t understand what problems we’re trying to solve.
So ask yourself what the focus of your work needs to be. Ask yourself what you need to be doing so you can focus and be purposeful. No more wasting time. No vague tasks.
That way, when you work, you’ll know that not a moment was wasted on your path to success.