Work Smart, Not Hard

In today’s world, the successful ones work smart, not hard.

I dislike people who work until 11 pm in the office because they “work hard,” only to find out the next day that their output seems remote from what’s expected from “working hard.” So many corporate folks and students are guilty of this (including me) and I only hope we can delete this culture, and start living a little more by working smart.

What is working hard and not smart?

It’s when you insist to use “old school” tricks when there are shorter, safer and faster ways of doing the same task that saves you more time and effort to enjoy the better things in life. It’s when you decide to line up at 6 am to apply for a driver’s license or passport (and wrongfully bragging the “patience” you put into it) when there’s easily an online registration system to finish everything in two hours. It’s when you buy a new phone and painstakingly copy each contact number when there’s a mobile app to transfer those contacts automatically.

I honestly can’t blame people if they’re not tech-savvy to do things the “smarter way,” but I will judge people who don’t even dare try out new things because they’re scared or lazy to embrace change. I judge people’s resistance to change as a sign of mediocrity and, as they say, mediocrity is the ally of poverty.

Having previously worked in the ultra-fast (and enslaving) telecommunications industry, I realized that life is so short that if you can grab the chance to spend it on things that matter more, then grab it and never let go.

Spend time with your friends, families, laughter, love and anything you’re passionate about—rather than wither and sulk in front of the laptop.

How do you make time for things outside work?

Unless you really love your job and are addicted to it, you need to spend less time on work by working smart. There’s one memorable tool I used in my “Apprentice Asia” journey that demonstrates the reward of working smart and not hard: my trusty steam iron.

As you may have seen in episodes of “Apprentice Asia,” the candidates lived together in an apartment and did chores on their own. We cooked our own food, kept our rooms clean, did our own laundry and ironed our own clothes. While these were obligations of each contestant, I made sure that these were the least things to worry about because I’d rather focus my energy on winning the tasks.

Of course, all of us took care of our suits and wardrobe seriously (after all, the corporate world is always biased towards beautiful packaging, hence looking good is mission-critical). Unfortunately, in a house with one washing machine and one ironing board for sharing, you can imagine how everyone struggled to manage his or her clothes when we were all subjected to a pitiful 5 am call time to start a task.

Every morning, the candidates crammed. We crammed our showers, our breakfasts—we crammed everything, including the ironing of our clothes.

This was not the case for me. I skipped the queue and breathed easier, thanks to my portable steam iron which I brought with me anytime, anywhere.

How did I attain peace through iron(-ing)?

My trick was that I ironed my clothes during the dead times of the day when we had to sit and wait for the next instructions of the producers, or because there were camera or light issues that paused the task.

When it was waiting time and you needed to look for Jonathan, you’d find him happily ironing his clothes away and making the most of his idle time.

The rest opted to use the traditional flat iron only when they got back home (and no, we never got back home early).

So imagine this scene every morning: everyone rushes to get dressed and fixed up, and fight to use the flat iron first. Meanwhile, I am sitting at the kitchen, sipping my hot mug of coffee and silently strategizing on how to kick out Andrea or Alex in the next boardroom session.

Alternatively, I use the extra time to sleep—an extra 10- or 15-minute shut-eye is always priceless.

But wait, there’s more!

Thanks to my steam iron, I got to bond with the candidates easier. When the guys discovered my magical steam iron and approached me to borrow it, I initiated small talk and bonded with them better. Bonding breeds teamwork, and teamwork breeds speed of trust when you execute a task.

People knew me as the “steam iron guy” who was street smart and took every second of his time wisely. The candidates weren’t necessarily intimidated, but I’m sure they got the message that I was a serious contestant to watch out for. It was a small victory that felt good.

Way back in university where I finished an economics degree, I was trained to see that everything in this world had a cost, and that winning life was all about doing things at the least cost possible (i.e. efficiency).

Who feels great when he’s cost-efficient? I always do.

So here’s a simple toast to my trusty steam iron that helped me win a critical race in my life.

Here’s a toast to working smart and not hard in an ever-bustling, ever-changing modern world that’s now defined by hashtags.

I wish that you find your own form of “steam iron” (in whatever form it may be), and that you be able to straighten out every crease and wrinkle that life brings.

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