• Nancy Mendelson

How to Work Smarter...Not Harder!

Truth be told, I quite literally thought I had coined the phrase “work smarter, not harder.”

Work Smarter Not Harder

Like a bolt from the blue, the concept had rushed into my mind as I was writing my remarks for a national meeting presentation, and remember thinking to myself, “that’s pretty good stuff!” Not long after giving that speech several years ago, I began to see and hear it with increased regularity…and for a split second, I felt great pride of authorship, until I quickly realized that I had simply tapped into an idea whose time had come, or rather, resurfaced.

Turns out, the term “work smarter… not harder” originated in the 1930s. Allen F. Morgenstern, an industrial engineer, the creator of the work simplification program, coined the term. The program’s intent was to increase the ability of people to produce more with less effort. This was later picked up by the cartoon character Scrooge McDuck, created in 1947 by Carl Banks. Scrooge McDuck always told his three nephews, Hewey, Dewey, and Louis, “Work smarter than the smarties and tougher than the toughies.

Scrooge McDuck, Work Smarter, Not Harder!
Scrooge McDuck in 1947

Perhaps, as a result of my childhood obsession with Disney cartoons, the concept had subliminally worked its way into my psyche…who knows. No matter how it got into my head, once I grasped the implications of smarter-not-harder, I realized I had gotten it all wrong and enthusiastically embraced it as a viable work strategy.

Prior to my big “aha moment”, I thought it was weak or irresponsible to ask for help, so I overloaded myself with work to show how smart and capable I was, and in the process, little things would fall through the cracks; I would become forgetful, irritable, stressed out, joyless until I burned myself out…but hey, I got it done. Although at what cost?

It was through listening to a colleague and friend vent about the stress of her own “wash, rinse, spin, repeat” work cycle that I understood how counterproductive it was to take on more than you can bear, and how irresponsible it was to not ask for help. That realization was so liberating it inspired me to think about a smarter way to work. Happily, much of what I came up with back in the pre-Google day is highlighted in the pieces below. So check out tips from Forbes, Inc., and Indeed and work as smart as you can as soon as you can!

Further reading:

Forbes, 10 Tips To Work Smarter Not Harder

Inc., Work Smarter, Not Harder: 10 Ways to Be More Effective at Work

From Indeed, 12 Tips to Work Smarter Not Harder