Last week, I posted about pushing through and doing things even when we don’t want to. There is a trap that can happen in hard work. The busyness and effort become the end. Like running on a treadmill; it takes great effort and wears you out, but you don’t go anywhere.
I was raised in a rural environment. All around our home were farms. My first job was on a horse farm across the highway from our house. This was fitting since my grandfather was a rancher in Montana. After the horse farm, I worked construction for several years before going full time as a pastor. Once I became a pastor, I carried that ethic of hard work over and carried it on. I almost burned out because hard work became the metric and badge of honor more than being effective and accomplishing purpose.
There are many people who have that ethic of hard work in all professions. First in, last out. Constantly busy. Ever working. But, maybe not accomplishing much that matters.
We have heard the expression, “Work smarter, not harder.” The push back is always that it still takes hard work to do anything worthwhile.
I tend to believe that either way can be a trap or a cop-out. The work hard crowd can focus on the time and the effort and miss the purpose and never really evaluate the results. The work smarter crowd can get bogged down in the processes and systems and miss the work or never get started because of the time it takes to set up.
I think it is both. To experience success, we need to work hard and work smart. Hard work with no direction accomplishes nothing. A good plan with no execution is worthless. It takes a good, smart plan combined with hard work to accomplish something significant.
In whatever our context, it is our responsibility to find what are the right things we need to be doing and then work hard at those things.
We know what are the right things through
- asking good questions
- setting the purpose and reasons “why”
- establishing goals with metrics
- looking at the team and resources around us and making the most of each
- setting a “do not do” list
- asking more questions
- evaluating some more
By carrying out a cycle of this type of pattern we can know what the right things for us to do to accomplish our goals and then do them. We can be focused and intentional. We can work hard and be effective. That will lead us to success faster than just hard work and much faster than trying to figure out smarter but never actually working.
To be successful we need to work hard at the right things.