The adage, “Work smarter, not harder,” is so ubiquitous in professional development materials that it now seems nothing more than a cliché. However, all clichés are rooted in truth, and it turns out this one can do as much for your popularity as it can for your productivity.
Why we like smart workers
You see them in every field: people who move gracefully through their tasks, ticking every box without drama or panic. They aren’t only doing all the things; they seem to be doing the right things. Regardless of whether they’re working behind a reception desk or making their way through an international tour, just watching them work makes us calm. Yes, they impress us, but they also make us, dare we say, happy.
We live in a complicated, crazy-making world, my friends. Being around people who know how to navigate that world and have their stuff together brings us a sense of security and optimism. When we see people who know where they are going and how they are going to get there, we suddenly feel as if everything is going to be okay. Who doesn’t want more of that?
Working Smarter is Still Hard Work
Working smart doesn’t mean hardly working. It means working hard on the right things – the high-leverage actions that give the most bang for your buck.
1. Define your destination
To decide which tasks move you most quickly towards your goal, you obviously have to have a goal in mind.
A clearly defined target makes it much easier to say yes to the right things and no to things that miss the mark. The question is no longer, is this a good opportunity? (let’s be honest, as a professional musician, any performance opportunity can seem like a good opportunity), but instead, does this opportunity get me closer to where I’m headed?
You can’t do everything. A large part of working smart is learning to say no. If it doesn’t relate to the goal, no matter how lovely it is, it’s off the table.
2. Let your actions multi-task
Once you’ve got a goal, look for high-leverage actions. These are the things that check several boxes at once. If there’s a non-negotiable task you have to do, look for ways to do it that bring a secondary benefit. For example, if you have to hang posters to promote a performance, use that opportunity to introduce yourself to potential venues in person.
Clearly, killing five birds with one stone is efficient. However, it’s only working smart if all of those outcomes get you closer to your ultimate goal. It’s better to do something that delivers one goal-related outcome than something that delivers five results, none of which are moving you further down the path.
3. Preplan (a little)
Figuring out your goal and determining which actions will get you there fastest requires planning. This is the “work” part of working smarter. Before things can run smoothly down the track, you have to build the track.
However, a little preplanning goes a long way. Too much preplanning goes nowhere. Don’t get lured into the idea that you have to know everything to make something happen. Yes, you need to know where to start, but then, you need to make something happen. You can figure out what to fix as you go along.
In the business world, this is called frequent iteration. Basically, it means you take action as quickly as possible, examine the results, adjust course if necessary, and immediately take another action.
It’s Okay to be a Virgin
As classical musicians, we tend to be perfectionists. We want to get it right the first time. But the absolute best way to learn to do something is to do it.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records (and a slew of other businesses), knew nothing about airlines when he founded Virgin Air. He was stuck in an airport with a crowd of people who all needed to get home. He chartered a plane and wandered the terminal hocking tickets to anyone who wanted a ride. Thus Virgin Air was born. He had no experience, but he was comfortable with that – it’s the reason he named his company Virgin, after all.
So, set a goal. Look for actions that move you quickly towards that target, and make a little plan.
Then try, fail, learn. Again and again.
Soon you will be one of those calm, collected and successful people we all want to be around.
This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to ClassicJabber.com now.
If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.