Is working ‘smarter’ actually causing us to get less done?

I like information, okay?

How do things work? How do people think? What’s the best way to do a thing?

Only so much time

There’s only twenty-four hours in a day, after all. One hundred, sixty-eight hours in a week. In some strange twist of creation, I have to sleep around a third of those hours to function the other two-thirds.

Fifty-six hours is a lot of time to lay down in the dark and practice death every single week. Just saying. Plus I have to calculate in eating, and siblings jumping on me, and my part-time job, and learning Spanish.

No one ever told writing projects what efficiency means either so, eventually, I focused all my time-saving ideas on marketing.

Marketing is just a bunch of numbers, right? There’s all these tips and people and tactics that talk about growing newsletters and finding keywords and saving time. So I figured I’d learn. I’d use the ‘proven and true tactics’ that seemed to work so well for other people to sell books, market my works, and do it in the minimum time.

Doing all the things

It didn’t work quite as I planned.

See, we humans like to talk. Or, in my case, like to think. We like to plan and figure out how things work. And then, since they should work, it ought to be smooth running from there.


Of course right.

Except it’s wrong.

I mean, I did some things. Once I planned out my action steps, I followed through on them.

Oh, sure, the people I followed said that changes didn’t happen overnight. These weren’t ‘get rich quick’ schemes. They were logical and sensible.

But they were (in my mind) tactics that took the least amount of time for the largest result. Which meant (again in my mind) that I should be able to just put a little time in and get decent results.

Instead of focusing on what I could do at that moment to grow my marketing platform, I focused on what was the quickest, smartest way to get things done.

I thought. I planned. I got busy and thought some more. Every now and then I’d do a thing.

The results?


So there’s this truth about life.

If you want something, you have to work for it. Not pretend you’re working for it. Not plan it out and put in just enough effort to reach the next step. You need to work.

This was one of the things I discovered about myself over the summer. I was lazy.

I mean, I knew that already, deep down. I like having a plan, accomplishing that plan, then expecting whatever the results I’d planned on to happen, regardless of the quality of work I put in.

Most, if not all, of the marketing teachers I followed, pitched themselves with ‘this took me ten years and thousands of hours to figure out; let me teach you this in a week.’

Sounds sweet. It is, but…

They worked ten years and thousands of hours.

They didn’t wait until they knew something was the best way to do a thing. They experimented. They learned. They worked hard.

I don’t mean they worked hard at a special tactic for half an hour then called it quits on marketing for the day. They spent time on this.

Yes, their training is good. But unless we’re willing to work like that too—unless we’re willing to try new things and put forth the effort, day in and day out (not just when we have ‘time’)—we’re not going to get very far.

They worked hard to get where they are. They got smart doing it, but just because we can learn from them and work smart doesn’t mean we always work less.

Actually getting things done

I love using tools for marketing. But just because I have a tool that claims it can help find popular keywords on Amazon or is an ideal lead page for promoting a book—it’s not going to do me any good unless I put the time and effort into using them properly.

Tools are just that. Tools.

A sewing machine makes sewing easier but you still have to sit down and sew.

In my case, I sat down, planned out what I needed to do in marketing (hey, plans are still good. I’m not saying that) then resolved to dedicate time each day to work.

If I have a networking goal, I’m not going to jot down a few people to contact and spend five minutes per person doing it over the course of the month. Instead, I’ll sit down for an hour each week, work, communicate with people, plan—do something, even if it’s not on my ‘so this is the ideal way to contact the ideal people’ list.

Working smarter is nice.

It sounds easy and cool and fun. There’s nothing wrong with learning. There are great products out there. There are even plenty of things that do save time.

But until you actually do something, whatever it is you’re working on is going to produce disappointedly small results.

Remember, it’s not about smartness versus work. Learn as you’re able to, but don’t ever stop working just because there might be a faster way to do it. Yes, feel free to experiment. But don’t stop.

Life is not about working smarter and accomplishing more than anyone else in a faster time-frame. It’s about working hard. And it’s about accomplishing what matters.


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  1. Very true! A fantastic reminder! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Ooooh! Thanks for this post. Definitely the truth and encouraging to hear.

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