3 research-backed ways to work smarter, not harder


There seems to be a lot of talk about working smarter, not harder nowadays – but no one seems to be able to tell us how to do that. Luckily, there are now some answers. Morten Hansen, a professor at UC Berkeley, has conducted one of the most in-depth studies on “working smarter, not harder,” and built a legitimate framework. If you want to be one of those people who can work fewer hours in a day, but gets everything done, then you’re going to want to follow Morten Hansen’s findings.

The learning loop

Have you ever heard the theory that it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become an expert? Many people think that this means they can sail through their job, hit the 10,000-hour mark, and suddenly become an expert. However, that isn’t the case at all. According to Morten Hansen, you need to ensure that you’re deliberately practicing your craft before you can become an expert in it. This may be a lot easier to do with a hobby (like chess) but how do you put this into practice at work? Hansen’s top tip is to put it on a learning loop.

Pick one skill at a time to work on.

Dedicate 15 minutes every day to evaluate what you’re doing and how you could do it better.
Break it down into micro-behaviors.
At the end, ask for feedback on how you could improve.
Repeat the learning loop until you’ve hit that 10,000 hours of deliberately practicing your craft and you’ll become an expert.

Do less and then obsess

Some people might tell you not to put all of your eggs in one basket, but that isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to working smarter, not harder. Often we can try to spread ourselves too thin, which leads to a lot of open projects and nothing getting finished. Many experts have now said we need to focus on one thing at a time, but Morten Hansen’s advice goes one step further. He found that those who were successful at working smarter tended to truly obsess over their goals. Cut down on the number of things you try to achieve every day and then focus on your priority list with a newfound intensity.

Feel the passion

Finally, there was one more factor in Morten Hansen’s findings to work smarter and not harder. Passion and purpose. Those who over-performed in his study weren’t just following their passion blindly; they felt a purpose behind it too. The more passion and purpose they had behind them, the more their energy and effort levels increased. It can be difficult to work out whether you’re truly passionate about your job, as there are so many different types of passion. Do you get excited about certain elements of your job? Do you love talking to the people around you? Are you passionate about learning something new every day? Work out what your passion type is and then use that to find your purpose. Working with passion and purpose will ensure you never work ‘hard’ but will definitely work ‘smart.’

We would all love to be able to work smarter, not harder, and it seems as though this study will definitely help us be able to achieve that dream. Instead of slogging 12-hour days, try putting some of these findings into practice and see if you can decrease your workload but increase your output.