Why do some people work better than others? This question is the basis of a five-year research, supported by an unprecedented statistical analysis, carried out on over 5,000 managers and employees chosen from a wide range of jobs, functions and sectors.
The answer overturns a widespread belief that to obtain great results it is necessary to have an innate talent, a lot of luck and above all to work harder; this research has shown, on the contrary, that top performers don’t work more, but they work smarter.
The result of the research led to the identification of seven fundamental practices that explain the achievement of high performance.
The 7 factors that determine a way of working smarter
Working smarter means applying these seven fundamental factors:
- Select a small set of priorities and make huge efforts in those areas you choose (narrow and deepen the scope of work).
- Focus on creating value , not just on achieving immediate goals (targeting).
- Avoid meaningless repetitions in favor of better training of skills (quality learning).
- Look for roles that bring together your passion with the sense of purpose (inner motivation).
- Implement tactics to influence others and thus obtain their support ( advocacy ).
- Eliminate unnecessary meetings and make sure that those actually needed provide intense and fruitful discussions (rigorous teamwork).
- Carefully choose which intersectoral projects to get involved in and reject the less productive ones (disciplined collaboration).
How to put the “Do less then obsess” principle into practice
It is a common opinion to think that those who work more, those who take on more responsibilities get better performances.
Instead, this research has shown that the most powerful practice for obtaining great results and producing exceptional quality is to focus on a few areas and obsessively delve into them. The people who chose this strategy scored an average of 25 percentage points more in their performance than those who pursued many priorities.
Dedicating too many activities means not being able to devote enough attention to each of them, moreover the energy required to manage the interrelationship between the various tasks leads people to waste time and to perform each task in a mediocre way.
To implement the principle of Do less then obsess follow these three strategies:
- Use the razor: eliminate unnecessary tasks, priorities, commissions, steps, metrics and procedures. Channel all your efforts to excel in the remaining businesses.
- Tied to the tree: set clear rules in advance to repel temptations and distractions. A trivial but effective rule may be, for example, not checking email for an hour.
- Say “no” to your boss: explain to your boss that adding more tasks to your to-do list will harm your performance. The path to greatness is not to please your boss in all circumstances, but to be able to refuse certain tasks so that you can apply more effort to excel in a few selected areas.
Redesigning one’s work in a work smarter perspective
The conventional idea of the work harder believes that the more hours you work the better your performance will be. The new perspective of the work smarter claims that if you already work 50 hours a week, adding more will not improve your performance, on the contrary it will worsen it.
To achieve great results, redesign your work, change the status quo and create new tasks, new goals and new metrics that maximize the value of your work.
Statistical analyzes carried out on 5,000 managers and employees have shown that under 50 hours per week, performance improves as you add hours, but, over 50, the advantage decreases, while over 65 hours, the addition of additional hours leads to a drop in performance. Working too many hours is not a smart strategy.
Those who are good at redesigning work adopt an outside-in vision (from outside to inside) that defines the objectives, tasks and metrics in order to produce more “value”, understood as the benefits that work activities bring to the others. Producing great value at work means creating outputs that are of great benefit to others , made efficiently and with high quality .
There are five ways to redesign work and create value:
- eliminate existing activities of little value;
- increase existing high-value activities;
- create new high-value activities;
- improve the quality of existing things;
- perform existing tasks more efficiently.
The “how” you learn can make a difference
The new perspective of the work smarter belies the belief that 10,000 working hours are sufficient to master a working competence. It is not repetition that will make you perfect but the “how” you learn.
It is that how to make the difference. Those who get the best performance at work implement the learning cycle by focusing on the quality of each repetition and not on the quantity. It is that type of exercise to improve one’s skills which has been defined – in reference to athletes and musicians – as “deliberate practice”.
The learning cycle is an approach in which you learn while doing your normal daily work: try a new approach in small things (for example, how to ask a question during a meeting) then measure the result, get quick feedback and then change your approach based on the feedback received (for example, ask the question in a different way).
Whoever learns effectively is able to divide a complex skill into micro behaviors, that is, small concrete actions that you do daily to improve a skill. The action must not last more than 15 minutes to be performed and corrected and must have a clear impact on the development of that ability.
How to connect your passion to a purpose
The traditional vision urges you to follow your passion at any cost, no matter how hard you have to work. If you do what you love success will come, while if you ignore your passion you are preparing yourself for a shabby, unsatisfactory and full of fatigue career.