Work Smarter, Not Harder: Learning Faster

There’s never enough time.

If you're like me, you know that there's always more things to learn. More stuff to master. Our jobs don't get easier they get more expansive. And while it's a wonderful thing if you're ready for it, most of us aren't ready for it.

Remember when you were excited to just master that one skill you had? Whether it was guitar playing or writing some code, just learning to do it right was awesome. But as you stepped into things, you discovered this weird truth. The more you learned, the more you knew you didn't know. Right?

That part was enlightening and frustrating all at the same time. And the first challenge you hit as you tried to develop more skill, greater mastery, was that there was no time left in your days. Never enough time.

That's when you hear people say, work smarter, not harder. If you're like me, you initially felt like saying, “thanks, now piss off.” But I'm guessing your more polite.

We have tons of free time

It turns out we have a ton of time, but it’s often allocated to places that are less useful.

Clay Shirky, the author of Cognitive Surplus, sums our free time. He says if we took all the collective time that we spend creating Wikipedia—every page, every edit—it comes up to about 100 million hours (at the time he wrote about it). He then explains that the amount of time we watch TV in one year represents 2,000 Wikipedias. We watch two hundred billion hours of television every year.

It's kind of hard to put your brain around those kind of numbers. After all, Wikipedia took decades to build. And he's saying that we could build 2,000 of them every year—if we didn't want TV.

Maybe you don’t watch television. But maybe you play video games—a lot. Or maybe you spend a lot of time doing something else. I don't know what it is, but I bet if you did a time audit on your days, you might discover that you have a lot more free time than you thought you did.

Just think about it this way—what if Netflix, Facebook, Slack, Twitter and Instagram just broke, all at once. Would you have free time then?

In the end, the myth of “never having enough time” is simply that. It’s a myth.

What do we mean when we say “work smarter, not harder”?

I hear the phrase a lot. So much so that I went on my own little journey to figure out what it meant. I ended up spending a lot of time researching high performers. I decided, a few years ago, to go back to grad school and just focus on leadership, people development and the concept of high performers.

And a funny thing happened. I started to get a handle on what “working smarter” meant—simply by learning about these smart people. What they had learned better than others was how to learn. I know, very meta.

They learned how to develop better habits, manage their time better, and all for one goal—to develop better mastery of new skills faster (and better) than others.

High performers are high performers not just because they're born with some genetic code that gives them all the options and you no chance. Instead, they've channeled their focus and habits around learning.

In the end, I created a five part email course, a free course, on how to learn better. How to develop mastery. And it's not specific to a particular skill, so I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it.

Did I mention it's free? Check it out and see if you don't learn what it means to work smarter, not harder.