The difference between working hard and working smart

In my experience of running companies for the past 15 years, I’ve known really great workers that are able to over-perform within a reasonable amount of working hours. I have also known amazing performers who work themselves to death. It can be a hard thing for people who expect a lot of themselves to know when to turn off their working brains and relax, knowing that the work will be there tomorrow.

One thing that I try to make sure I do is prioritize my time with my family over anything else. I make sure, unless I have an event that night, that I leave around 5 o’clock to make sure that I’m home for dinner with my young family. Some people may look at that and think that I’m not working as hard as those that stay until 8 or 9 o’clock every night. I would argue that, while I certainly work later at night some nights and always get up early in the morning, it helps me to prioritize my work responsibilities by having time to focus on things other than business. In fact, this was a big discussion point between my wife and I when we were talking about starting Dragon Army. Her biggest concern was that I could possibly be sucked in to the business the way that I was with my first business when I was 21. It was important to both of us that I was able to keep that in check with this new venture.

When I was younger I might have thought that was a weakness not to always be focused on the business. However, I now understand that the brain needs time to decompress a little. It’s extremely important to be able to see the forest through the trees and if your brain is always “working” then it becomes very hard to see the strategic progress of the business.

To be successful today, execution is everything. You can have the greatest idea or the greatest team, but if you aren’t great at executing then you will not be successful. Some people believe that means out-working everybody else in terms of hours. You do not have to work harder, you have to be more disciplined and work smarter.

Bonus: Johnson Cook, one of my favorite Atlanta entrepreneurs, talked about this topic on his blog recently. 

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