When you start your career, lots of people tell you tons of things. The majority of it is good, some of it is pure crap, but then a small percentage, about five percent, is solid gold.
This is about the four words, one sentence, that one of my first managers had ever given me as advice – and I gotta tell you – it’s been the basis for almost my entire career.
“Work Smarter, Not Harder”
These four words changed the way I worked ever since hearing them. It’s not some marvelous revelation that’s never been thought of before, but it made me reflect on how I had been working, and made me think about how others around me had been working.
It was a way for me to set myself apart from everyone around me, which, in today’s employment climate – you need to know how to do.
With the amount of technology at our disposal, it is so much harder and time consuming to do things the “hard” way.
Because of this advice, I became more efficient than anyone around me – sometimes, to a fault. (Seriously, wasting time is a huge pet-peeve of mine)
When I first started my career, the majority of people used desktop computers at their cubicles – laptops were reserved for executives who traveled. People’s desktops had no more than 4 GB of RAM, and I think everyone was running Windows XP.
Aside from the technological advancements made since then, nobody at the time worked from home, and WiFi wasn’t really a “thing”. People still printed out everything, and although this may reveal my elder-ness, iPhones were a long ways off. So. There’s that. I’m old…
It was at this time where I began to look at how I could use technology to accomplish two things – 1 How to eliminate tasks I couldn’t stand doing and 2 Showing everyone who would pay attention that I wasn’t accepting of the time-wasting, money-wasting, non-agile behavior.
Repetition is the Mother of Learning
Yeah, yeah, I know, there are tons of old quotes from many people smarter than me who claim that repetition is the cornerstone for everything holy that lies on this earth.
Do you know what else repetition is? An immense waste of time and money.
If you are repeating something on a constant basis without thinking about how to fix that problem, you either don’t know how(which is bad, but fixable), or don’t care(which is so much worse, and usually, pretty permanent).
The easiest target application to make your life better is through repetitive tasks. Is there something in your day-to-day that you repeat constantly? It could be a task, addressing a repetitive problem, or something you constantly need to do for your job – like pulling data, checking on something, or sending an email.
If you’re a programmer like me, some of these tasks are easy to automate yourself. But even if you’re not, there are a ton of apps, programs, and even Office 365 applications(Microsoft Flow) available to you to automate almost anything in your life. There are even companies out there dedicated to identifying where you waste your time(Scout).
The easiest way to integrate some automation into your work-life is through Microsoft Excel. Most people don’t realize that you can record macros very easily, and you could perform some pretty elaborate processes.
Everything from creating data, downloading data, formatting and manipulating data, refreshing tables and updating reports, all the way down to emailing it off to a distribution list. These are things that can be completely automated – and save yourself a ton of time in the process.
The moral of the story is – think of ways to work smarter and not harder. Give yourself some credit, you’re smarter than you think, and you deserve to show people how smart you are – by focusing your attention on the things that matter, and cutting out the things that’s don’t.