Working Hard, Working Smart and Not Working

We’ve all heard about the importance of working hard and how it manifests into a strong work ethic.  We’ve also been advised to use technology to help us work smart by prioritizing and multitasking our activities.  This focus on work is what creates success.  But we’ve never been told to stop working.

In the American workplace, working long hours is a badge of honor – even though many of us are cranky, burned out and (if we’re honest with ourselves) not really living up to our full potential.  Yet we continue because the Puritan work ethic on which our country was founded persistently pervades our ideas about what it means to be a “good” worker.

Asian spiritualities advise that hard work (or forceful determination) should be balanced with not working (or surrendering) in order to recoup our energies.  Why do we continue to ignore this healthier approach to life and work?

Like many people, even when I wasn’t technically working, I continued to think about work and strategies, clients and marketing, profits and expenses.  Because I never really stopped thinking about work, I never really permitted myself the joy and rejuvenating power of totally letting work go.  Isn’t that what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

When I was forced into quiet reflection due to the surgeries and recovery for a detached retina, I really started to question the silent but pervasive nagging that success requires a 24/7 commitment to working hard and working smart.  This tunnel vision mislabeled as “focus” was (or so I had been told) the path to success.

I know now that instead this can be the path to dissatisfaction, unhappiness, lack of clarity, and physical and psychological dis-ease.

In response to these insights, I made a concentrated effort to be mindful and present in each moment.

But this commitment was no small task!

I gave up attempts to multitask – not only do I now find it to be rude, but I also believe that it actually reduces efficiency and efficacy.

I’ve also learned to no longer finish a task without a “mini-celebration” (a “woo hoo!” moment of recognition) before I move on to the next project.

I am learning to ignore the autocratic demands of the hardened task master of my thoughts that constantly pushed me to do more.

The results have been remarkable.  Working less hours, I am accomplishing more.  Taking time each day for myself without guilt, I have unleashed a new sense of joy in whatever I am doing.  I am more creative, more focused,…and a lot less stressed.

The 1980’s mantra of “work hard, play hard” needs to be replaced with “work hard, work smart,…then don’t work!”

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to

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