79% of Hard Work or Smart Work Does Not Matter. Try This Instead!

On a daily basis, I receive at least 20+ CVs in my inbox of people looking for jobs. I try to help them in any way I could.

One glaring similarity among all the CVs is that, 90% mention that they are ‘hard workers.’ Nothing wrong with this. Good on you if you are a hard worker or for that matter smart worker. It’s become a cliche these days to mention these buzzwords in CVs. It’s kind of trend I’d say.

In a day to day working life you may have come across many colleagues who call themselves as hard workers or smart worker. Every company deserves smart workers or hard workers.

But ONE THING matters more than your smart work or hard work or your effort!


You may be the hardest worker of them all and if your effectiveness in a project is low, then you are not worth it. You may be smartest among your colleagues, but your effectiveness is not shown in the work you do, what worth are you. You may be all effort. But effectiveness is so low that it does not matter how much effort you have put in.

Let’s suppose you and your colleague are given a similar task – driving traffic to your company website. The way you both approach a task would be entirely different.

You believe in advertisements to drive traffic, hiring influencers to speak about your brand and such other efforts.

On the other hand, your colleagues adopts the strategy of writing blog posts about your company products, writing reviews about the product, creating videos and so on.

The results come in after 1 year! Yes, your way has created good amount of business, but spent a large budget on third party platforms to advertise, paying ‘influencers’ and so on. Your colleague spent time building organic traffic to the site on a minimal budget. Both of you brought in the similar amount of revenues.

Who is more effective?

Decide for yourself.

This was just an arbitrary example.

Having said that, here are ways in which I have become more effective in what I do:

#1. Follow 80/20 Principle – Pareto Principle

Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.

dale carnegie

Pareto Principle says that 20% of the tasks yield 80% of the results. I seriously doubted this when I initially read this. And then I started assessing my own life.

  • Only 20% (or less) of what I learnt in school / college is used ever used in my professional life.
  • 20% of my top stock portfolio, give 80% of my returns.
  • 20% of my articles are read more than 80% of the time.

The list goes on an on.

This also means, 80% of the tasks I did, yielded less than 20% of the results. In short word, I am better off eliminating most of the 80% of my tasks.

80 20 principle

Look around for your daily tasks. Which of these create maximum results for you? Can you concentrate more on them? Can you eliminate or delegate the non essential work?

Effectiveness comes from doing the most important tasks and eliminating the not so important tasks.

To put it in a simple way, know you PRIORITY and stick to deliver them..

#2. Do Not Multitask

Multi-tasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time. 

gary w keller
photo of woman smiling while sitting by the table with her child
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I see this daily in most of the job ads going around.

‘Looking for a multitasker.’

This word is thrown around so much that, it has lost its meaning, if ever there was a meaning to it.

I would say this with greatest conviction that, there is nothing called multitasking. Humans are not meant for this. We can do one thing at a time. Multitasking is not only ineffective, it is also inefficient.

I was proud once that I was a multitasker and literally boasted to everyone about my unique qualities and why companies should hire me. To the point that this was on my CV right towards the top. I also believe all the businessmen and entrepreneurs had to have this quality to be successful.

According to American Psychological association, multitasking is not really worth it. The cost of switching between activities takes real toll on your productivity.

If you believe you are a multitasker, I would say that you come out of this myth and be a realist. No multitasker is effective. You may be efficient, but not effective.

What to do then?

Move over to single-tasking. Focus on one activity, one project at one time. There are temptations to get into your old habits.

Still today, I have the tendency to get into the habit of multitasking. But the results are not worth it. To be an effective team member, be single-tasker at a time.

#3. Have Clear Goals and End Results

It’s important to set your own goals and work hard to achieve them.

Yuichiro Miura
black and white dartboard
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I can not stress enough how important this point is. Have a clear goal is a sure shot way to increase your effectiveness. If you do not have a goal or an objective of a project, do not even start. Get clarity on what are you there to achieve and then get to work.

In the early part of my career, I did not know what I wanted to do in life. I thought everyone worked and I too have to do the same. I took up a career path that came along without giving much thought to where I was going. I thought, life would take me to awesome destinations.

But that was all wrong, I realized it many years later.

Once I realized my short comings through my mentors, I kept a strict rule to myself. Every task I do, every project I take up, I have clear goals. This made sure, I used my time and resources effectively. The more focussed I was on my goals, resulted in higher effectiveness in that area; be it relationships, finance, learning etc.

#4. Batch Your Work

Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.

Earl Nightingale
photo of woman using her laptop
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I wrote this article in a single sitting and within 50 minutes. I had a clear goal that I have to finish this article today. I set aside 45 minutes to complete this. And I am able to do this. I am half way through, but I know, I will get this done. I decided to write about topic last night.

Batching has saved me analysis paralysis so many number of times. There is a similar approach called Pomodoro technique, I believe. Under this technique, you set aside 25 minutes to do a task. There is so much literature about this. Look up for yourself.

Even at my work these days, I use a technique called, 40-10-10. In a given hour, I would do a task continuously and with focus for 40 minutes, take a break for 10 minutes and 10 more minutes to reflect on the task and think of ways to do better next time. This has also improved my effectiveness to a new high.

This approach has improved the quality of my work beyond my expectations. If you are working from home these days, it matters more. Don’t slouch yourself into your chair indefinitely. Take breaks at least every 40 minutes.

#5. Ask For Feedback

We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.

bill gates
flirty young lady asking to keep secret sitting in office
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If you work in a team, most probably your manager would be giving you regular feedback. If he/she is not giving you feedback, don’t wait for them to come to you. Ask for a feedback.

To complete a task or a project, it is of epitome importance to seek feedback. This improves your effectiveness in the project. The feedback you receive should determine your next step in the project. Imaging if you do not get feedback on your project progress and your responsibilities! Your effectiveness will not be at the same level as you’d expect.

Get a pair of extra eyes on your work. Ask a colleague to review your work. Constantly seek advice from your superiors and ever juniors. Many times, our egos come in between to seek advice or feedback.

I know a close friend of mine who is a CEO of an organization. He surrounds himself with young and people more talented than him. Why? He believes in looking at the new generation and learning from them about the new age economy. By surrounding himself with smart, young people, he has made sure that he stays ahead of the competition to market his own products better.

Ingenious! He has become more effective by seeking feedback from his juniors and colleagues.

Hard work matters. Smart work matters. But, not as much as being Effective. Effectiveness matters much more above these two traits. Efforts matter only if they are effective. Hard work matters only if it is effective. Smart work matters only if it is effective.

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