Working Smarter: 3 Keys to Your Success

For some, it’s all about productivity or efficiency through technology: the latest app on one’s phone or Nike’s FuelBand on one’s wrist. For others, it’s all about one’s network — that none of us is as smart as all of us. Still others believe it’s about having the right information at the right time, in the right way.

It is all of that…and more. But above all, I have found that working smarter is about the choices we make once we have gathered all that information, or crowdsourced an idea, or crunched the data, or read the tea leaves. It almost always comes down to the 80/20 Rule: Even though what we remember most vividly is the Aha moment — that’s just the spark…. The “work” part of working smarter is 80% about making a choice, then being true to it on many different levels. (e.g., see Doubling Productivity: It Ain’t the Tools)

Unpacking that: There are three crucial dimensions that determine one’s success or failure rate with those choices…

1. How Fast / How Well You Learn
Many of our choices will lead to mistakes or failures. Working smarter is all about how well (or poorly) we leverage that learning opportunity. Full disclosure: Sometimes I feel like my ability to learn is no better than a flip of a coin! Screwed up one relationship…Worked another one fantastically. Some clients thinks I walk on water…But not all of them! Arrgh: Wish there was a magic wand for this learning thing!

Those who succeed most often, most quickly, process failure and adjust faster or better than most of us. The good news is the process is the same for masters and novices alike — baby steps. Usually the adjustments we need to make are not life-altering, but minor course-corrections.

For a great and profound tour of personal life-lessons, you’ve got to watch John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown on HBO. An amazing tour of life’s ups and downs, joys and heartache…A must-see!

Want to learn from someone who “wasted a truly incredible amount of time in that lazy space that exists between kinda working and kinda screwing around.”? Nate Green’s “How To Do Work: 8 strategies to follow when you need to get your shit together and actually accomplish something” is short and powerful!

2. Get Right Back on the Bike!
We’ve all skinned our knees when we first learned how to ride a bike. Many of us jumped right back on, no matter how many tries it took. Your personal drive to jump back into the fray — even when your choices don’t go as you’d hoped — is another crucial dimension to working smarter.

Dan Pink unpacked the motivation behind this in one of his TEDTalks. Your passion, your drive behind working smarter is likely derived from one of these needs…

Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives
 Mastery: The desire to get better and better at something that matters to you

 Purpose: The yearning to be in service of something larger than ourselves

In another TEDTalk, Angela Lee Duckworth says the key to success is grit — once you’ve called upon one of the three needs above to work smarter, sticking to it again and again and again.

3. Know the Difference Being You and Being Smart
Over and over, we’re told that if we’re going to succeed (and work smarter, not harder), we need to be true to ourselves, we need to be who we were born to be. Susan Cain wants all introverts to feel free to be that way. Sheryl Sandberg wants all women to lean in. Drew Dudley wants all of us to call upon what makes us human and make a difference, every day, in someone’s life

Yes. BE YOU!! Boldly. Without apology. Without hesitation. Go for it!!!

But being smart (working smarter) is ALSO knowing when/how to adjust that slightly for different situations. Is your personal style “in your face”? Toning that down (sometimes a lot) is sometimes the best way to work smarter. And visa versa: If your personal style is to never “rock the boat,” sometimes that is exactly what is called for if you wish to cut through the status quo and work smarter.

NEVER compromise who you are! Never. But know that we all depend on each other. That means you’ll need to know when it’s OK to ramp up or tone down your you-ness.

And the best way to pay attention to the difference between being you and being smart: Ask for feedback. Constantly. Honor it, heed it. Then adjust accordingly.

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